After much of the country had called it a night yesterday, Ty Xanders of Inside Lacrosse reported that one of the most coveted graduate transfers in the portal – All-American Yale attackman Jackson Morrill – had made his decision on where to play for his final year of eligibility. Xanders reported that Morrill had defied the predictions and decided to come west to play at Denver. In Morrill, the Pioneers add not only the 2nd-best transfer in the portal – 2020 Tewaaraton frontrunner Michael Sowers was #1 and he chose Duke – but they gain the 2nd-ranked scorer in Yale history (220 points on 113 goals).
Morrill’s transfer was made possible in part by the NCAA and its decision to grant an extra year of eligibility to every spring sport student-athlete whose season ended prematurely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it was the Ivy League’s controversial decision to not waive its rule that graduate students are not allowed to compete in athletics that essentially forced Morrill, Sowers, and other Ivy seniors to look elsewhere for their fifth year of eligibility.
Until Xanders’ report, the consensus was that Johns Hopkins was the frontrunner to land Morrill’s services. He’s from the Baltimore area and his dad, grandfather, and great-grandfather had tremendous success as players and a coach there, combining for six national titles between the three of them.
— Paul Carcaterra (@paulcarcaterra) May 6, 2020
The good news for DU didn’t stop there, though, as it was also reported by Xanders that star attackman Ethan Walker is expected to return to Denver for his own fifth year of eligibility which should help to make Morrill’s transition to the Mile High City at least a little bit easier. Between Morrill and Walker, Matt Brown, DU’s offensive coordinator, offensive mastermind, and Bill Tierney heir-apparent, now has as potent an attack at his disposal as he’s had in recent memory. While DU has not officially confirmed either decision, 2021 is already shaping up to be one of the best years since the program’s run to the 2015 national title.
To kind of bring that comparison to life for you:
Alec Stathakis – Trevor Baptiste
Jack Hannah – Tyler Pace
Jackson Morrill – Connor Cannizzaro
Ethan Walker – Wes Berg
— LetsGoDU (@LetsGoDU) May 6, 2020
While it’s not advisable to assume that because the 2021 squad is being built the same way the 2015 one was, DU is going to win its second national championship next year, it is very advisable to get excited about next season. There are still more questions than answers on defense for the 2021 Pioneers but by the time the season was canceled, DU’s defense had started to find its stride and Jack Thompson emerged as the leading candidate for starting goalie stringing together a few strong games at the end. With another year under their belt, Bill Tierney’s young defensive core should provide a solid foundation at the back for what will be one of the country’s best attacks.
You may be asking yourself why 2015 is such an apt comparison. That team was loaded with talent from goalie to midfield to attack. That team was so perfectly balanced and constructed for success in that lacrosse landscape. In 2015, Denver had FOGO Trevor Baptiste, M Tyler Pace, A Zach Miller, A Connor Cannizzaro, and, of course, A Wes Berg. In 2021, though, Denver will feature FOGO Alec Stathakis, M Jack Hannah, A Jackson Morrill, and A Ethan Walker. With the glaring exception of Miller – there is some potential there in JJ Sillstrop who had 10 goals in six games as a freshman – the 2021 team has a direct comparison to 2015’s vaunted offensive attack that led DU to its first national title.
Before adding Morrill, it wasn’t like Denver was going to be struggling to find success in 2021. The Pios were going to be a solid team, especially if Walker was going to return. What the addition of Morrill does is put the Pioneers over the top. The Pioneers desperately needed a yin to Walker’s yang and that’s exactly what they got in Morrill. Remember the absolute joy you experienced watching Cannizzaro and Berg slice and dice defenses five years ago? Now, replace Cannizzaro with Morrill and Berg with Walker. Yeah, 2021 is still a year off but that image and the hope that it inspires should be enough to get you through the coming long, arduous months.
May 7, 8:30 AM Update:
Xanders broke another piece of great news last night as he reported that Midfielder Lucas Cotler, Morrill’s teammate at Yale and the #8 graduate transfer according to Inside Lacrosse, will transfer to Denver as well. In his four years at Yale, Cotler tallied 79 points on 55 goals. Cotler figures to add more firepower and offensive punch to an already dangerous attack. With Hannah and now Cotler anchoring the midfield for Bill Tierney, 2021’s ceiling just keeps getting pushed higher and higher.
.@YaleLacrosse senior Lucas Cotler has confirmed that he's set on @DU_MLAX for his 5th year in '21, joining teammate Jackson Morrill. Racking up 79 career points as a mainstay on the Bulldogs' offense, he checked in at No. 8 in IL's Grad Transfer Rankings: https://t.co/l8RxfmrODe
— Ty Xanders (@tyxanders) May 7, 2020
Featured photo credit: Michael Dwyer/AP