Kobee Minor had to grow up fast on the football field.
The new Indiana cornerback started playing at seven years old in a local rec league, and from the beginning, he competed against nine and 10 year olds. He was naturally intimidated at first; it’s hard not to be. Kobee was the smallest and youngest on the field.
His twin brother, Darryl — who transferred to IU at linebacker around the same time as Kobee — was also playing up an age group, and he talked to Kobee and reassured him. And while it wasn’t completely smooth for Kobee from there, he eventually settled in and improved after that first season.
Growing up the youngest of eight siblings, including four older brothers, prepared him to play up a level.
“I’d always been roughed up by them and stuff like that. So it really wasn’t nothing new to me, playing up with the older kids,” Kobee said. “I was already prepared for that, whenever I was in the house growing up with older siblings.”
That began an upward trajectory for Kobee that continued through a travel league, Lake Dallas (Texas) High School, Texas Tech, and now has him at Indiana.
He joined a cornerback room in Bloomington that was in transition this offseason. After last season, the Hoosiers saw four-year starters Tiawan Mullen and Jaylin Williams graduate, and top reserve options Chris Keys and Brylan Lanier entered the transfer portal.
IU had to be aggressive in the portal this offseason across the entire roster, but particularly at cornerback. The result formed a room filled with transfer veterans and underclassmen. So there was a clear lack of player leadership among the corners, at the beginning of an important offseason with so many new faces coming together.
Minor is a quieter person, typically leading by example. He did that at IU early, and it didn’t take him long to earn his teammates’ respect.
“I think he’s a guy that he’s going to do the job he’s asked to do,” cornerbacks coach Brandon Shelby said. “He’ll step up when he needs to do it. But then also too, he’s also a guy that’s going to put his hands around (his teammates) — the guys have got to be family too. On the flip side, when he’s not where he’s supposed to be, he can take criticism as well.”
Minor made a real effort to build connections with his new teammates upon arriving in Bloomington. And he made good first impressions. He took young players under his wing, and they began to trust him.
Program veteran Noah Pierre was quickly drawn to Minor’s work ethic and personality.
“Kobee is a very hard worker. One of the hardest working guys that I’ve met, especially on his team,” Pierre said. “He also brings that leadership aspect in the corner room. He’s one of the older guys in the corner room. He’s experienced, he’s played. It wasn’t hard for him to earn respect.”
Minor was a three-star recruit coming out of Lake Dallas High, and saw the field in 22 games over the last two seasons at Texas Tech. But he came to IU in January in search of a bigger role against top competition. Shelby sold him on the opportunity he’d have to be a real impact player for the Hoosiers.
The cornerback picture entering week one remains muddy, with as many as six players who could see significant game action for IU. The Hoosiers will rotate defensive players more this year than they have the past several years, but it’s still unclear who the preferred options will be.
But Minor looks like a strong candidate, based on his role in the room and his strong fall camp. He came in with confidence in the work he’s put in, and impressed the IU staff with his play.
“He’s a talented player, he’s got length to him, he’s got some good size to him and he can run,” head coach Tom Allen said. “When he came here, I had that expectation. We felt like he was a guy that had a chance to really come here and do some great things.”
As the coaches saw him succeed on the field, they encouraged him to step up as a leader off it. Minor, with a slight nudge from Shelby, organized a cornerbacks meeting early in the week on the team’s off day for film study. He saw veteran players do that at Texas Tech and knew it was important for someone to do at IU.
He still isn’t a naturally vocal leader, but that’s something he’s worked on throughout the offseason. Minor called it one of his pet peeves, that he doesn’t speak up enough.
And yet, IU may not need him to.
The Hoosiers just needed some players to step up and lead a relatively inexperienced cornerback group. And Minor, the way he already is, has checked that box.
“He doesn’t have to say a lot,” co-defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri said. “It’s his work ethic, it’s the way that he prepares every single day. He’s been a professional from that standpoint. So I think people respect the way that he carries himself and the mentality he brings, which I think from a corner perspective, mentality is the No. 1 thing.”
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