Defensive end Roberts thriving despite lack of collegiate offers

Defensive end Roberts thriving despite lack of collegiate offers

North Texas junior defensive end Jarrian Roberts (30) motions instructions to one of his teammates during the game against Western Kentucky. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Defensive end Roberts thriving despite lack of collegiate offers
October 22
03:09 2015

Alex Lessard | Staff Writer

@alexlikechexmix

Growing up in Clarksville, Texas, a town with only two red lights and just over 3,000 residents, playing Division 1 football was something local kids could only dream about. But one graduate of the 2011 senior class from Clarksville High School defied the odds thanks to the one university willing to take a chance on him.

Junior defensive end Jarrian Roberts has continued to prove the doubters wrong thus far in his North Texas career. After redshirting in 2012, the 252-pounder saw increases in playing time and production each of the next two seasons, showing the coaching staff enough to earn a permanent starting spot this year.

With that opportunity, Roberts has matched his previous career total with four sacks this season, all coming in the first three games. No other Mean Green defensive player has more than one.

“He’s got the ability to play multiple spots up front,” defensive line coach Kevin Patrick said. “A guy of his size and having that ability really enables us to put him in good one-on-one matchups across the board.”

Jarrian’s love for football started in the second grade. He was always one of the biggest kids on the team growing up, often times playing offensive line due to his size. But as he got into high school, Roberts found his niche on the defensive side of the ball.

At the linebacker position, Jarrian racked up 118 tackles and six sacks in his senior campaign. His performance was rewarded with District 6-1A Defensive MVP honors but still went largely unnoticed by universities across the country.

Despite his knack for making plays all over the field, Jarrian did not have a clear role when he first arrived at North Texas. Under former defensive coordinator John Skladany and current coordinator Chris Cosh, his skillset and playing style has evolved into something unique.

“I’m kind of a smaller guy, a finesse guy,” Jarrian said. “I try to show power at times, but I just want to get after the quarterback.”

This season, Cosh has used Jarrian as his primary pass rusher, lining him up at different positions depending on the situation. While teammates like junior defensive tackle Sir Calvin Wallace fill the necessary gaps, Jarrian is left with only one man to beat before having a free shot at sacking the quarterback.

“Put him on the inside, he’s going to win. Put him outside, he’s going to win. Put him at linebacker, he’s going to make that play,” Wallace said. “That’s just the type of guy he is.”

Jarrian showcased his versatility in the first home game of the season against Rice University, finishing with three sacks and four tackles for loss. The sack total was the sixth most by a North Texas player in a single game in the past 18 seasons.

“When you start fast, it always builds confidence,” Jarrian said. “Before you know it, I was just on a roll.”

Having the resiliency and positive mindset through his career can be traced back to one of his biggest mentors growing up. His older brother, Ricky Roberts, nearly lost his life after a heart blockage caused him to pass out during a Lubbock Christian University basketball practice while Jarrian was in high school.

Although it took eight years, Ricky didn’t let the scare stop him from earning his college degree. This is  something Jarrian learned from and applied to his own life.

“He kept going through it and strived to be better. No matter how long it took him, he was always positive about it,”  Jarrian said. “I think about him every time I’m on the field.”

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Junior defensive end Jarrian Roberts (30) poses in the Athletic Center. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

His motor has helped him transform into one of the team’s biggest leaders this season. Wallace said he is always pushing teammates to watch extra film and do anything possible to get an edge on game days.

“He’s a leader, especially on the defensive line,” Wallace said. “He really takes it upon himself to do a lot of things that other people wouldn’t do.”

In a defense that has given up a Conference-USA worst 50.2 points per game, Roberts has been one of the lone bright spots. As long as he continues to put weight on, work on his footwork and become more consistent, Patrick believes Roberts can become one of the best pass rushers the Mean Green has ever had.

Roberts has not recorded a sack the past three games, but the hope for a positive finish to one of the worst seasons in North Texas history hasn’t faded.

“I just want us as a team to play to our full potential,” Roberts said. “We’ve played good here and there in a couple quarters of different games, but I just want to put it all together.”

Featured Image: North Texas junior defensive end Jarrian Roberts (30) motions instructions to one of his teammates during the game against Western Kentucky. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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