BY JOHN FAY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
OXFORD, Ohio -- Every year JoJuan Armour and his father, Ken Ragland, sit down and come up with a list of goals for JoJuan. This year's list reads a lot like last year's.
But that is not to say they don't have great expectations.
It's just that Armour, a senior outside linebacker, made about as many big plays as a defender can last year at Miami University. His numbers: 111 tackles, including 24 for a total loss of 121 yards, seven sacks, two interceptions, four fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks.
Following that act is going to be tough.
"Teams tend to try to stop you once they see what you've done," he said. "It's going to be harder to do the same things.
"Anything above last year would be great."
Armour is to the MU defense what Travis Prentice is to the offense. Armour was named the Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year. But the biggest honor came from The Sporting News, which named him second-team All-American, no small feat for a player from a MAC school.
Name: JoJuan Armour |
Pos.: Outside linebacker
Ht./Wt.: 6-1, 225
Honors: Named second-team All-American by The Sporting News, Mid-American defensive player of the year, first-team all-MAC last year. Named second-team all-MAC in 1996. Named Miami's Outstanding Freshman in 1995 after starting final five games as a freshman.
All in family: His younger brother, Andre Ragland, is top linebacker prospect out at Toledo Central Catholic. Andre is being recruited by the MAC schools, including Miami.
Ragland knew his oldest son was capable of greatness when Armour began playing football.
"When he was in the seventh grade, I saw he had it in him, the talent," Ragland said. "I taught him to a be a leader, to be aggressive. If you want something in this world, you have to go get it."
"He's achieved all his goals," Ragland said. "But I think he can be as good this year as he was last year."
Football is family thing for Armour. Armour's brother, Andre Ragland, is following in JoJuan's Nikes at Toledo Central Catholic. "He's a little bit bigger, a little bit better than I was in high school," Armour said.
The Toledo Rockets, who let JoJuan get away (then watched him make three sacks against them last year), are trying hard to keep Andre home.
Whether Andre goes to Toledo, Miami or somewhere else, his father and mother (Jean) will be there for games. They've done that for JoJuan.
"I've only missed four games since JoJuan has been at Miami," Ragland said.
Armour, who weighed 195 coming out of Central Catholic, wasn't heavily recruited. His size was enough to scare off the big schools. "A lot of people liked the way he ran," Miami coach Randy Walker said. "But they thought he was too skinny. We don't get a lot of those big, thick-necked guys."
Armour is skinny no more. He'll play at 225 pounds this year, and he bench presses more than 400 pounds.
"He was a good player at 205," Walker said. "But he's a much better player at 225."
Armour is getting some attention from pro scouts. He is small for an NFL linebacker, but he is fast enough to play strong safety. Armour is star of Miami's sterling linebacker corp. Dustin Cohen, a junior from Summit Country Day, returns at the other outside linebacker, and Drew Purcell returns to the middle. Cohen led the team in tackles with 121 and was second to Armour in sacks (six) and third in tackles for losses (13); Purcell was third on the team in tackles with 102.
Cohen and Purcell are like Armour: they are a little undersized, but they make plays.
"We're not the type of defense that can stand in there and slug it out," Walker said. "But we have speed and quickness. We like put them "behind the chains.' "
That means forcing the opponent in second-and-16s and third-and-12s with sacks and tackles for losses.
Armour is perhaps the best at making the big plays.
"He's very blessed physically," Walker said. "He's always been able to run and make changes of directions. But now he has great strength as well."
The RedHawks are counting heavily on the defense.
"It returns just about intact," Walker said. "We have a lot of good players. It is a key for us to be successful."
Armour is one of 10 seniors on Miami roster. They have been around for three straight second-place finishes in the MAC. This year, Goal One is to get over the top.
Last year was particularly frustrating because Miami beat league champion Marshall 45-21.
"Getting close makes it much tougher," Armour said. "We know we're capable of beating the teams that have won it.
"It makes you that much more hungry to win it."