The key to Troy’s pass rush, which is one of the best in the country, is that the Trojans share the wealth. It’s not a matter of one or two players padding the stats, while the others stand around and watch.
Sophomore defensive end T.J. Jackson has 5.5 sacks, which is tied for seventh-best in the country, and junior bandit Richard Jubinor has four sacks. Eight other Troy players have at least a half-sack in the first six games. Add all of it together and the Trojans have 22 sacks, which is tied for fifth in the country. The sacks have caused 145 lost yards for the opposing offense.
Troy has had a sack in every game except the season-opening loss to Ole Miss. The Trojans had just one sack in the team’s other loss at Appalachian State. In the four wins, Troy has a combined 21 sacks with a season-high seven sacks against Marshall. The Trojans had five sacks against a Western Kentucky team that throws the ball 43 times a game and only allowed three sacks total in its other five games. Troy had five sacks last Saturday against Southern Miss and four against Alabama A&M.
“I think, in terms of our scheme, our coaches have done an amazing job putting us in position to make plays,” said junior defensive tackle AJ Pierce. “They’re letting us ball. That’s all you can chalk it up to. I don’t think it’s anything really different, they’re just putting us in position to make plays.”
One of the biggest surprises is the 6-foot-1, 270-pound Jackson. He had 21.5 sacks in his final two high school seasons at Stanhope Elmore but didn’t have a college sack coming into this season. He was injured during camp as a true freshman and had 12 tackles and a tackle for loss in 10 games last season. This season, he’s had at least one sack in four games with 1.5 sacks against Alabama A&M, Marshall and Southern Miss.
“He’s got a lot of twitch, explosion, fairly loose in the hips, easy mover,” said Troy head coach Jon Sumrall. “I’m most proud of his technique development. Game 1, we watched the video for Ole Miss, he made some plays, I thought his technique was not very clean. I thought he needed to get into a better stance, get into some better linear movements to allow himself to play with better movement and more explosion. He's improved in that area, each week. I love the way he’s playing the game.”
Sumrall did get a hint of Jackson’s ability soon after becoming the program’s head coach in December.
“In my time since being here, he’s been active,” said Sumrall. “He does some things really naturally in pass rush, some of them very small and subtle. One of them, I call matching the hand, you’re rushing the passer, don’t jump and leave your feet, just match your hand to kind of block the quarterback’s view and maybe deter him from throwing the ball. In the spring, when I got here, I was teaching the guys match the hand. He was maybe the only guy in the D-line who already did it.”
His emergence has helped the production of an already stout defensive front grow.
“Everybody knows about Richard and Javon (Solomon),” Sumrall said. “Everybody knows about (Will) Cholo, (Antonio) Showers has played a lot of football. Buddha (Jones) has made some plays, Shakel Brown has made some plays up front. You add T.J. and the impact he’s making, I think it’s made our front that much more versatile and flexible. You have another piece to deal with that creates pressure in the pass rush game.”
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