CONWAY — When Coastal Carolina senior Andrae Jacobs delivered a booming hit Saturday on Stony Brook’s Marcus Coker, it conjured memories of the kind of highlight-worthy plays the linebacker became known for two seasons ago when he emerged as the Big South Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as just a sophomore.
The difference, though, was his big pop came on special teams and it would be his only official tackle of the game.
There is still talk on the fan message boards as to why Jacobs doesn’t play more and he readily admits he’s still adjusting to his new role as a special teams enforcer and defensive second-teamer, but whatever frustration lingers within the linebacker, he has done his best to keep it to himself this season while accepting the reality of the situation.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team get a win,” Jacobs said. “Of course I had goals for myself, but it’s different now. I’ve got to know my role. I’ve got a different role on the team now. I play a lot of special teams, or I play all special teams, so I try to just go make plays, get behind the defense when I’m not on the field, offense when [they’re] on the field and just be that guy. Be a leader in a different way.”
Two years after finishing second in the Big South in tackles during the regular season with 104 – third-most on the CCU single-season list – and a year after posting his second-straight season with at least 10 tackles for loss despite being nagged by a groin injury, Jacobs has just 15 stops through six games this fall. First-year CCU defensive coordinator Clayton Carlin decided in August that his defense was best served with junior Mike McClure and sophomore Quinn Backus – both first-year starters – as the team’s two primary linebackers, leaving Jacobs to rotate in behind them.
That move sparked a lot of attention from observers of the program who had watched Jacobs grow into the role of defensive leader the last two seasons, and it made for a potentially tough situation for a proven veteran trying to buy into a new coaching staff.
Even now, Jacobs doesn’t want to discuss how that conversation went back in the summer when Carlin told him of his new role, but the coach acknowledges it was indeed a tough moment.
“It wasn’t good. It was not good,” Carlin said. “It was painful because I was certainly aware of his history here, so it wasn’t enjoyable for coaches or him. [But] he has handled it like a pro, and he’s a shining example of how to be a team guy.”
These days, Jacobs is a fixture on the Chanticleers special teams units and rotates in for about 20-25 defensive snaps a game, Carlin estimated. This week, he’ll be one of Coastal’s team captains for the third time this season, making him the only player to receive that honor – decided by the coaches – three times already.
“He’s been outstanding,” Carlin said. “He’s been an outstanding team guy and he’s been very selfless, and I can certainly appreciate everything has not been easy for him. But he has handled it like a man and as I said all along, we need Andrae.”
Added CCU head coach Joe Moglia: “I couldn’t be prouder of Andrae. He has been great – not OK, he has been great in terms of special teams, he’s been great in terms of his attitude and he’s been great in terms of his leadership. He is the epitome of what we’re talking about in terms of his character.”
And with the performance so far of Backus and McClure, Jacobs’ role is not likely to change anytime soon. Backus has already been named the Big South’s Defensive Player of the Week twice this fall and ranks second in the conference with 11 tackles per game, while McClure ranks fourth in the league with 8.3 stops per game.
“I think it’s still a work in progress,” Jacobs said of adapting to spending more time on the sidelines. “I’m starting to realize it now that we’ve got these last [five] games. It’s toward the end of the season now and I’m just trying to work hard. That’s all. ... I still think I can do more than what I’m doing so I’m just going to try to continue to contribute in any way I can.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.