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.
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.”
“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.
Then again, Drake figures his relentlessness isn’t going to change, either.
“I know I can control that,” Drake said. “I know I’m going to have a million mental busts and this, that and the other, but I feel like if I go hard, I should be fine.”
Wev’s career finished
Cornerback Jonathan Wev’s career is over after he suffered his third concussion since the start of preseason camp.
The junior sustained concussions during camp and in games against Notre Dame and VMI.
“Enough or close enough where it’s not worth it,” Niumatalolo said. “I didn’t need to talk to the doctors. You could see. There’s things — your knee might get hurt and you get surgery, but you don’t want to mess with anybody’s brain.”
Freshman Quincy Adams, who started in place of Wev against Penn State, likely will take over as the full-time starter.
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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