Jarid Ryan emerged as an effective cornerback for Navy football his sophomore season.
Ryan played in all 14 games and started the last five – posting solid statistics with 27 tackles, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
The Severn School graduate was looking forward to capitalizing on that experience to take his game to another level as a junior. However, Ryan was switched to safety out of necessity and it was almost like starting over.
By his own admission, it was an up and down season for Ryan. The Glen Burnie resident played in all 13 games with eight starts at free safety, but was not thrilled with his performance.
“I was kind of upset because I didn’t play as well as I thought I should have last season,” he said.
Most of 2017 was a learning experience for Ryan, who had played cornerback throughout his entire football career and felt most comfortable on the outside. Moving inside to play safety required a change in thinking and approach.
“Safety provides a different perspective out on the field. There are a lot more checks you need to know. Essentially, you have to know everything about the defense,” Ryan said. “You have to get the linebackers set and coverage-wise you’re set up differently. Open field tackling is different as far as pursuit and angles.”
Ryan performed fairly well in run support, ranking sixth on the team with 43 tackles. However, the 5-foot-11, 198-pounder felt he could have done better in pass coverage after recording three pass breakups and making no interceptions.
“It was a humbling experience and I’m grateful because it taught me so much,” Ryan said of playing safety.
Ryan returned to cornerback beginning with spring practice and quickly discovered he was a better player as a result of the time spent at safety.
“Now that I’ve moved back to corner it’s eye-opening. I know so much more about the defense as a whole and that’s going to make me better at my job,” he said. “I just feel more comfortable at corner. I love the challenge of being in man coverage. You’re out there on the island by yourself and I just love that one-on-one competition with the wide receiver.”
Navy lost both starting cornerbacks to graduation and had very little returning experience since Tyris Wooten and Elijah Merchant took almost all the game repetitions. Noruwa Obanor started one game in place of Wooten and appeared in 12 others as a backup. However, the 6-foot-1, 194-pound junior missed all of spring practice after undergoing off-season surgery and was not even on the depth chart to start August training camp.
Senior Khaylan Williams and sophomore Micah Farrar also saw some action at corner coming off the bench. Needless to say, cornerbacks coach Robert Green welcomed the experience of Ryan, who has 27 career games under his belt.
“Jarid has really stepped up as a leader of the group. He’s been fantastic this summer and has come out and set the standard for the room,” Green said. “Jarid was at safety last season and that was an emergency move based off need. Cornerback has always been his best position and now we have him back home.”
Green, a three-year starter at cornerback for Navy from 1995-97, bestowed the nickname of “Silk” on Ryan.
“That’s because he’s smooth as silk. Just so smooth as a runner, smooth with his backpedal,” Green said. “Jarid probably has the greatest feet of any corner we have. He just plays the position so well and with so much confidence.”
Green watched Ryan grow up big-time while seeing significant action at cornerback as a sophomore. He remembers the youngster helped clinch the huge victory over Houston by breaking up a pass on the final play.
Ryan put forth perhaps his best performance against Louisiana Tech in the Armed Forces Bowl, recording a career-high six tackles to go along with a forced fumble.
“As a young sophomore, Jarid was an outstanding corner for us. Now we get him back two years later with another level of confidence,” Green said. “I think playing safety helped him a whole bunch because he learned the entire backfield structure. Jarid understands the entirety of the defense and what everyone else is doing.”
Green said Ryan has been playing “lights out” during August training camp and has also been impressed by the way he is mentoring the younger players at the position. Farrar and fellow sophomore Cameron Kinley are currently on the depth chart while several freshmen are pushing to get into the mix.
“We have a bunch of talented youngsters in the room, but they need a leader. Jarid has done that starting with the spring and all through summer workouts,” Green said. “He’s come into preseason camp with a renewed confidence and is providing a lot of direction for the young guys. I think Jarid is going to do tremendous things for the team this season.”
Ryan was a three-sport standout at Severn School, earning All-County honors in both football and basketball while capturing the MIAA B Conference high jump championship in track and field. As a senior in 2013-2014, Ryan was named Anne Arundel County Male Athlete of the Year by Capital Gazette Newspapers.
Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper started recruiting Ryan after attending an Archbishop Spalding-Severn School basketball game. Jasper was there to see his son Jaylen play, but took note of the overall athleticism displayed by Ryan.
After attending the Naval Academy Prep School, Ryan arrived in Annapolis and did not see any varsity action as a plebe. Those difficult days at the prep school in Newport, Rhode Island, and toiling on the scout team as a lowly plebe seem so far away, yet just like yesterday.
“It’s kind of crazy coming out here this summer and knowing it’s my last season. It kind of went by slow, but at the same time it went by fast,” Ryan said. “This is the last go around so there are a lot of emotions. I’m so excited and ready to get after it. I’ve got a lot of experience and I’m hoping to do some big things this season.”
Ryan welcomes the role of senior leader within the cornerback meeting room and out on the practice field. He has been spotted giving instructions to the sophomores and freshmen during breaks between drills this month and is vocal in providing encouragement.
“My focus isn’t just for me to get better, but for the whole corner room to get better. We have so much talent in there. Not a lot of experience, but so much talent,” Ryan said. “I’m trying to teach them the culture of Navy football and the mindset you need out on the field. I think we’re going to be a pretty special group back there.”
Last season, Wooten was considered the shutdown cornerback for Navy and got the assignment against such standouts as Courtland Sutton (SMU, Denver Broncos), Anthony Miller (Memphis, Chicago Bears) and Tre’Quan Smith (Central Florida, New Orleans Saints), all of whom were selected in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.
Now Ryan will be asked to line up against the likes of Justin Hobbs (Tulsa), Damonte Coxie (Memphis) and Terren Encalade (Tulane).
“Every game is a challenge in this league. There’s never a week off,” Ryan said. “We play in a passing conference and teams are going to come after us. We’re seeing the best of the best in the country. We know we can play with those types of guys. We don’t let it interfere with our confidence.”
Attending the Naval Academy has been a dream come true for Ryan, who is majoring in quantitative economics. Jeffrey and Sharrone Ryan only need to drive about a half hour to see their son play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium while countless relatives join them in the stands.
At Navy Media Day earlier this month, Ryan got to spend time and take pictures with his mother, uncle and girlfriend.
“It’s a crazy feeling to grow up watching Navy games then be able to play for Navy,” Ryan said.
“A whole community has helped me get to where I am now and it’s just a blessing. I’m so grateful.”