Linebackers at William and Mary are supposed to make tackles, so Jabrel Mines figures that he's simply doing his job.
That doesn't mean what he's doing is any less notable, particularly for an undersized guy who's part of a decorated and respected group.
Mines is second in the CAA in total stops, behind only New Hampshire tackling machine Matt Evans, and has established himself as a valuable complement to all-conference teammates Jake Trantin and Dante Cook.
"He's really come into his own," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. "I was a little surprised at how many tackles he had, the first couple games. I knew he was playing well and from watching practice, I knew he was playing well, but I'm looking (at statistics) after games and going, man, Jabrel really is in on a lot of them."
Mines recorded 16 tackles in the Tribe defense's marathon effort against Virginia, and followed with 12 more stops in last Saturday's win at VMI.
"I want to be accountable to the defense," Mines said as the Tribe prepares for Saturday's home opener against New Haven, "and making the tackle is my role at the time. Fortunately, I've had a lot come my way the last two weeks."
It's more than just plays coming Mines' way. Though the Tribe's defensive scheme is designed to allow the linebackers to make tackles, they still must get themselves to the proper positions and then wrap up ball carriers.
"His biggest attribute is that he has a real good understanding of where he's supposed to be within the scheme of our defense," said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Scott Boone.
Mines possesses decent speed and quickness, but his knowledge and instincts permit him to play a bit faster and more efficiently than even his raw ability allows.
"He's really smart," Laycock said. "You see that when you talk to him. He knows his stuff. He knows what's going on out there. He's got great recall. He understands. He's very good with the coaches."
At 6-foot and 212 pounds, Mines relies on instincts and hustle, as well as a taste for contact.
"Coach (Boone) always talks about running to the ball," Mines said. "Even if you don't know what you're doing on every play, you can run to the ball. Running to the ball has nothing to do with knowing your assignment, your ability or anything. It's just effort. I always want to see myself as a high-effort guy. I want to run to the ball on every play, get around the ball. In high school, that was something that coaches always stressed to me, and it's carried over — be around the ball."
Mines, Cook (20 tackles) and Trantin (19) are the Tribe's three leading tacklers. Cook is adjusting to life on the outside again after spending most of last season at middle linebacker. Trantin is adjusting to game speed again after sitting out 2010 for family reasons.
Trantin's absence and the subsequent position juggles afforded Mines greater playing time at different positions as part of the rotation a year ago, when he was the Tribe's No. 4 tackler.
As a 205-pound linebacker in 2010, he said that he felt more comfortable defending the pass and dropping into coverage than stuffing the run. A year's experience, a few more pounds, and extensive work with Trantin and Cook have paid off.
"Now I feel comfortable whether it's run, pass, any situation," Mines said. "I trust the people around me, and I want to be accountable for my teammates and have them trust me just as much."
Which they do.
"He's a force," Trantin said. "I think a lot of times he gets overlooked because of Dante and myself, but he's a vital part of our defense and he's a big playmaker for us. He's a kid who possesses a lot of talent and a lot of athletic ability. He's a problem for a lot of offenses."
Mines was a three-sport athlete at Group AA Caroline High, north of Richmond. He drew interest from North Carolina and Georgia, both of which welcomed him to walk-on, as well as several CAA programs.
But Boone was a persistent recruiter, attending his basketball practices and getting to know the family, as well as appealing to his wish list.
"He wanted me to play linebacker, which I felt was my natural position," Mines said. "That and the academic opportunities I felt like made William and Mary my best option."
Mines' goals this season are 100 tackles and all-CAA recognition, though he'll settle for a productive role on a championship team and the respect of his teammates.
Per Laycock's request, he has tried to become a more assertive leader. He has made a point to get to know every one of his teammates and to learn something about them, so that he can communicate with them on and off the field.
"I'm really strong on the team bond," Mines said. "I feel like the closer you become as a team, it really helps you in those moments on the field when you really need one. When it's fourth down and an inch to go, whether it's offense or defense, guys have got to come together. This year I've tried to take on a strong vocal aspect on the defense, whether it's telling guys we've got to have one on a particular play or motivating them on the field as we go."
For Mines, it's one more successful tackle.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun