Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau
Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Mike Grimala, Ray Brewer and Case Keefer take stock of UNLV football through three games. How winnable really was last week's game at Northwestern? What are the chances of opening Mountain West Conference play with a victory at Wyoming off of a bye week?
Rayshad Jackson got a late start this season, as the grad transfer from Florida was not able to practice with UNLV until the final week of training camp. But he’s certainly up to speed now.
Through three games, Jackson has announced himself—with authority—as one of the Rebels’ top defensive players. His 18 solo tackles lead the squad, as do his three pass breakups. He has also notched 2.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.
That amount of production already exceeds what Jackson did last season at Florida (16 solo tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss in 10 games).
Jackson said that he’s now 100-percent comfortable at his outside linebacker position.
“I feel good fitting in to the defense and knowing that I’m the leading tackler right now on the team,” he said. “I feel good about the defense. I know the plays. Moving forward it’s going to be even better.”
Advanced metrics paint Jackson’s performance in an even more favorable light. Pro Football Focus tracks “defensive stops,” which credit defenders for making tackles that prevent “successful plays” for the offense; Jackson is currently No. 2 in the nation with 20 such stops.
Jackson is aware of his standing in the advanced stats.
“I take pride in that,” he said, “but I never settle for less. I want to be No. 1 at everything I do. I saw I was No. 2 and I know I need to get better.”
Jackson was credited with a team-high 11 tackles against Northwestern on Saturday, including seven solo stops.
Sanchez said even the advanced metrics can’t measure everything the 6-foot, 235-pound Jackson has been doing for the UNLV defense.
“The amount of quarterback hits he’s had, putting them on the ground,” Sanchez said. “Two or three times he put a good shot on the quarterback last week. Legal shots, but a good shot on them. Those are big deals that don’t show up in the stat column.”
The rest of the defense hasn’t matched Jackson’s level of play, as the Rebels have allowed 73 points in the last two games (both losses). When UNLV returns to action at Wyoming on Sept. 28, it will take a strong showing from the defense in order to get the team back to .500 and on track for a bowl berth.
Jackson said the upcoming bye week should help the D iron out its issues.
“The past few games we haven’t been technically sound, but that’s our focus right now,” Jackson said. “Focus on the little things and the big things will come.”