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Focusing in on Isaiah Dunn

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest focusing in article. We’ve already touched on a number of players and you can read those by clicking the names below:

Tristen Hoge. Kenny Yeboah. Jason Pinnock. Hamsah Nasirildeen. Jamien Sherwood. Chris Naggar

The draft was barely finished when we heard the news that the Jets were signing UDFA Isaiah Dunn to the biggest contract for a UDFA corner in NFL history. According to reports, Dunn signed a contract with a full guaranteed base salary of $160,000 with a $25,000 signings bonus. Obviously, the Jets have high hopes for Dunn, and when you watch him it's not hard to see why.

First, let's rewind a little bit. Born in Oakland, California, Dunn attended Antioch High School along with former Alabama star running back Najee Harris, a first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While in high school the 6 foot, 195lb Dunn played both receiver and cornerback, as is so often the case for highly athletic fast players. Dunn was timed at 4.36 in the forty before the draft, so you know he has plenty of pace. Dunn flashed plenty of talent on both sides of the ball as a Senior, which included 8 touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball. He was ranked as the 24th best corner in the west region and the 21st best in California.

Dunn received plenty of interest and a fair few offers as well. Had things worked out differently, he could have played with Zach Wilson at BYU, as the cougars offered Dunn a full scholarship. Although he fielded offers from the likes of Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State, and Utah, he committed to Oregon State while on an official visit. When asked why he chose Oregon State he simply said he wanted to be part of an up-and-coming program.

Known as a physical man cover corner with excellent speed, Dunn showed excellent agility and plenty of burst. Expectations were high as he enrolled at Oregon State with his high school coach going to bat for him:

“Isaiah is a very competitive player. He is the best man cover corner I have ever coached. He has a high ceiling and is very physical. He has state-caliber track speed. Isaiah will be a great player for Oregon State"

Dunn joined up with the Beavers in 2017 under head coach Gary Anderson and defensive coordinator Kevin Clune. Although he didn't start the season as a starter, Dunn quickly made a name for himself on the scout team, and after the Beavers struggled to start the season, Clune decided to turn to the Freshman when injuries hit the secondary. In total Dunn played in 7 games including 5 starts his freshman campaign. He picked up 28 tackles and 1 pass break-up as Oregon State struggled on both sides of the ball. The Beavers would finish up 1-11, including a disappointing 0-9 record in Pac-12 play.

Unsurprisingly the play of the team in 2017 cost Gary Anderson his job. In came Jonathan Smith and a new defensive coordinator in Tim Tibesar. Expectations for the new staff were low, it wasn't that fans didn't believe in Anderson and his staff, it was just the realism that the roster lacked severe talent. Over the next two seasons the Beavers went about fixing that through recruiting, not just from high school but from the Junior College ranks as well.

The 2018 season was only marginally better for the Beavers as they again struggled to a record of 2-10, including a 1-8 record in the Pac-12. However Dunn started to flash that speed that made him a hot recruit and although he started just 5 games due an injury, he improved his numbers across the board. He finished with 32 tackles, 1 for a loss and 6 passes defended. He was looking more confident, reading the game quicker and making faster breaks on the ball.

In 2019 Dunn made the step up to a starting role. It was the 2nd year in the system and the comfort level was higher. Heading into the 2019 season the expectations on Dunn were high, if only he could stay healthy. He had proven to be a physical cover corner, but he was yet to turn his talent into momentum shifting turnovers. He finished the year with 42 tackles, 8 passes defended but failed to record an interception for the 3rd straight year. The Beavers went 5-7 on the season and finally showed some signs of life after being the whipping boys of the Pac-12 for the last two years.

Dunn had flashed pretty much everything apart from the ability to force takeaways. It was a subject that was often brought up during media sessions before the 2020 season. Tim Tibesar his defensive coordinator often tried to play it down just saying that he hoped it would change, but it wasn't something Dunn was focused on heading into his final year...

“I never try to focus on it too much throughout my career, because if you focus on something too much during a game or practice, it’ll get in the way of what you have to get done,” Dunn said

The 2020 shortened season saw Dunn record just 13 tackles and 3 passes broken up in 7 games (4 starts). He finishes his career at Oregon State without recording a single interception and his lack of playmaking forced his stock to fall when it came to the 2021 NFL draft.

Dunn had experience in college playing both man and zone and showed a good feel for the position. His speed and burst were evident on tape and it's not hard to see why so many people like him. I don't think it was a shock that he went undrafted, his lack of playmaking and a tendency to lunge instead of wrap up ball tacklers mean he's a project that needs some time to develop at the next level. However, he does have a ton of talent. He's a natural at the position and he keeps his eyes on the QB in zone, showcasing good anticipation and break on the ball.

At the moment the Jets CB room is pretty light, so Dunn certainly has a chance to stick. He'll be hoping that both he and former Beaver teammate Hamilcar Rashed Jr make the final cut for the Jets.