- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — Navy linebacker Jordan Drake earned his first career sack Saturday against VMI. He’s started the Midshipmen’s first three games. He wants to make some sort of difference on defense. 

That doesn’t shield him from scrutiny, especially from himself.

“I’m really hard on myself,” Drake said. “I am my worst critic. I beat myself up a lot. [Defensive coordinator Buddy] Green even tries to get me out of that. I feel like I want to do my best, and I just want to be the best I can be.”

The sophomore is working toward that for the Mids (1-2), who play host to San Jose State (3-1) on Saturday. He’s certainly part of Navy’s unusual cycle of outside linebackers over the past five months, rapid turnover even by the position’s standards of frequent changes in recent years.

Drake entered spring practice as the starter, but a wrist injury slowed him and left him in a backup role entering the preseason.

Josh Tate took his place atop the depth chart over the summer, but a failed conditioning test forced the Mids to search again for a starter.

Sophomore Chris Johnson emerged with a stellar camp, only to see his season end with a torn left knee ligament in mid-August.

And so it was Drake’s turn again, though with a far greater dose of modesty than vexation toward the twists of the previous six months.

“I knew Chris and Tate would contribute, I think a lot more than me,” Drake said. “It wasn’t frustration. It just made me want to compete more.”

His eagerness to do so helped earn him a place on special teams as a plebe, and he pounced on a fumble in the fourth quarter against Army to help the Mids secure their 10th straight victory in the series.

While his first three starts weren’t perfect, he is providing Navy with precisely what it expected from him when he first arrived.

“That was the No. 1 thing when we recruited him — watching effort level, he stood out,” outside linebackers coach Tony Grantham said. “You could tell that he really enjoys playing, and he’s a guy that is never going to quit on a play. You never have to get on him on efforts or anything like that.”

It could be the key to Drake remaining on the field. Grantham said that while Drake might commit errors, he rarely does the same thing wrong repeatedly.

“He’s making mistakes, but he’s playing fast. He’s just young, and he’s still learning,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “I’m just grateful for his attitude. He’s a kid who always wants to learn, and he’s hard on himself. We have to get him to relax a little bit and not be so hard on himself.”

That might take a while even though Drake acknowledges he can be his own worst enemy.

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