After switching to defensive finish, James Houston has grow to be one in all nation’s prime sack leaders — •

Jackson State wanted any person, anyone, on protection to make a play towards Texas Southern.

James Houston IV did. Nobody was stunned.

Houston, a transformed linebacker moved to defensive finish, sacked TSU quarterback Andrew Physique and compelled a fumble that Jackson State recovered.

The offense transformed the turnover right into a landing drive, giving Jackson State a 34-21 lead en path to a 41-21 win.

“The sort out was giving up the within nearly all recreation and I knew I might make the most of it,” Houston stated. “I got here on the within, the quarterback didn’t see me, and I hit him.”

Jackson State can clinch a berth within the Cricket Celebration Bowl on Dec. 18 with a win within the Southwestern Athletic Convention championship recreation on Dec. 4.

To take action, it’ll most likely want Houston to have one other large recreation.

Houston, a graduate switch from Florida, began the season at linebacker after strongly contemplating West Virginia.

He’s the kind of switch participant Tigers coach Deion Sanders loves so as to add. Sanders prefers graduate transfers as a result of they’re severe about lecturers and so they’re targeted on soccer as a result of they solely have one season to make it occur.

Houston ranks second amongst FCS gamers with 12.5 sacks and tied for fifth with 18.5 tackles for loss.

The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native is a bona fide drive-wrecker. At Florida, he performed in 9 video games in 2020, and in 2019, he performed in all of the Gators’ video games as a reserve defensive participant.

Not dangerous for a dude who moved from linebacker — a place swap he didn’t wish to make — earlier than the season began.

However Sanders and the defensive workers believed Houston could possibly be a difference-maker as a result of he possesses some pure expertise that the perfect pass-rushers have.

He has a pure bend coming off the sting, which suggests tackles don’t get a lot of his physique to dam, and his hand approach is sweet for a participant with out a lot expertise on the place.

“Clearly, I believed I used to be going to be a linebacker, but it surely has been an entire new world. I’ve discovered easy methods to play the place technically,” Houston stated. “I do know I’ve a protracted technique to go together with my expertise on the place, however I really feel like I’m having an incredible 12 months and I wish to do much more for my crew.”

Houston additionally performs with a relentless spirit that helps him make performs.

“He has all of the bodily instruments you’d like a pass-rusher to have — size, athleticism — however the largest factor he performs with is a excessive motor,” Southern coach Jason Rollins stated. “You may have these instruments and that motor, it’s arduous for somebody to comprise him and management him.”

Perceive, Houston didn’t wish to transfer to defensive finish. At 6-foot-1 and 225 kilos, he believed linebacker was his path to the NFL.

Sanders informed him groups by no means have sufficient pass-rushers, so the teaching workers moved him.

“I wouldn’t say I used to be excited,” he stated. “It was a problem and a possibility to get on the sphere and do one thing.”

The transfer has been the perfect factor for Houston and Jackson State, which leads all FCS colleges with 44 sacks, eight greater than Harvard.

“Now, he does drive his coaches loopy as a result of he desires to play linebacker,” stated interim head coach Gary Harrell, “to indicate what else he can do.

“He’s that type of all-around athlete who might play linebacker, however he’s extra necessary to us getting after the quarterback and making performs for us.

“He’s an issue,” Harrell stated. “His motor. His will. I get caught up watching this man play as a coach on the sideline. He’s an issue. The best way he makes use of his palms; he’s essentially sound and the man simply by no means stops.”

Jean-Jacques Taylor, a local of Dallas, is an award-winning journalist who has lined the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL for 25 years and is president of JJT Media Group.

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