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Jackson's mission - Take Navy's options away

September 02, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - D'Qwell Jackson might be using his alter ego this weekend.

Normally, Maryland's All-American middle linebacker is all over the field making things happen for the Terrapins defense.

This weekend, Jackson might make a bigger impact by running in place.

That's because Maryland is opening up the season this weekend against Navy at M&T Stadium in Baltimore. And when you face the Midshipmen, it becomes a steady diet of the triple option.

The triple option uses the mobility of Navy's offense and the impatience of the opposing defense to make things happen. For the Middies, that meant a 10-2 record and a trip to the Emerald Bowl last year.

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"It's going to be a little change," Jackson said. "I'm used to running and flying around the ball. With this, I'm going to have to stay at home. You have to know what the others are doing, too. It's assignment football."

The triple option hampers the aggressive start that Maryland would like to establish. The defense will have to wait for Navy to commit to a play instead of reacting before the action reaches them.

"We can't let Navy control the football," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "They run a four-down attack and once they get the ball across midfield, they usually don't punt. If we can't get our offense on the field, we are in trouble."

The renewal of the Navy rivalry will be a test for Jackson, who has his work cut out for him this season.

He is part of a linebacking corps which is the most experienced part of the Terps' defense. The defensive line is stacked with young players who haven't proven they can take on blockers while leaving the linebackers gaps to work. The secondary lost its top six players.

But it doesn't seem to be a negative to Jackson.

"In a perfect world, there would be an all-senior defensive line in front of me," Jackson said. "But we have a lot of youth with fresh legs. (Defensive line) Coach (Dave) Sollazzo has done a lot of work and a great job with those guys. It is a different style of offense. You change your scheme and you have to change some little things to play against it, but you don't change everything."

Maryland has tried its best to practice against the triple option set, but have only been able to create superficial looks.

"There are things we can do, but we can't simulate the speed," Friedgen said. "This week, we moved Terrell Skinner, who is a wide receiver for us but was an option quarterback in high school. He tried to simulate the Navy quarterback. We were trying to see some things over and over, but we can't run the plays as well as they can. There might be some big plays until we settle down."

Jackson isn't about to give up any yardage. The 6-foot-1, 231-pound senior believes in the notion that playing by the guidelines will give Maryland an edge.

And Friedgen is banking on the experience of the linebackers to give Maryland more than a shot against Navy.

"We have a young defensive line and strong linebacking playing behind it," Friedgen said. "You have to have a good secondary, too, against the Wishbone because if they mess up, it's a touchdown. But if I have to have one group to stand up for us, I'll take veteran linebackers."

That means there is a lot of heat on Jackson this weekend. Or does it?

"Nobody puts as much pressure on me than myself," Jackson said. "There is a lot of urgency after last year. We have to go out and be perfect in everything we do. We want to get back to a bowl. We don't want to be sitting around in January."

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