UNLV Preview-Player to Watch: Jamaal Brimmer

For Jamaal Brimmer, being a successful strong safety is all about instincts.

An unusual ability to diagnose plays, the speed and quickness to get to the ball in a hurry and a knack for making big plays have served the UNLV All-American well in recent years. The senior standout led the Mountain West Conference in interceptions with six and has had an amazing 27 tackles-for-loss over the last two years.

A candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award, Brimmer is also returning MWC Defensive Player of the Year. As he readies for the season opener against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, Brimmer is looking for his best year yet.

"I guess it's just instincts," he said of his game-changing talents. ?I can look at the play and see where I need to be quicker than expected. That helps me make big plays."

UNLV head coach John Robinson has seen his share of talented defensive backs, and ranks Brimmer with the best of them. He complimented Brimmer by comparing him to NFL Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott.

"Jamaal is one of the elite defensive players in the country," Robinson said. "He was an All-American last year and we have every expectation that he will improve again this year. He is one of the most instinctive players I have been around. He reminds me a lot of Ronnie Lott in terms of instincts and the ability to attack."

The comparison was an honor for Brimmer, who is well aware of Lott's accomplishments on the football field.

"I watched him play," Brimmer said. "He is a great motivator for me. Being compared to him is nice." The uncanny ability to bring down ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage has been a great asset to the UNLV defense.

"It's just an edge I have," Brimmer said. "I just try to time plays and disrupt things."

Brimmer considered entering the NFL draft after last season, but fortunately for UNLV fans, he chose to stick around.

"The NFL is the ultimate goal," he said. "I thought about it, but it wasn't the best answer for me."

The Las Vegas native wasn't recruited by the national heavyweights out of Durango High School. A few Pac-10 schools showed minor interest, but Brimmer said they weren?t certain where to play him.

"I was not very fast out of high school," he said. "I was an 'in betweener'." A lot of people wanted me to be a linebacker." UNLV, which switched to a 3-4 scheme last year, returns seven starters on defense. The school?s all-time leader in tackles, linebacker Adam Seward (6-2, 250), gives UNLV another big-time player. Robinson said the idea on defense is to use faster, attacking players. "I think we can be better," Brimmer said. "We like to blitz and show different looks. We don't have a lot of size. We move around a lot and try to get mismatches." Brimmer is fully aware that his team is in for a huge test against the Vols, particularly at imposing Neyland Stadium. He realizes UNLV's program is not quite on the same level yet. "Their goal is to win a national championship; ours is to win a conference championship," he said. Still, the Rebels have proven to be competitive on the road against quality teams in recent years. They upset Wisconsin last season.

"The noise is something we have talked a lot about," Brimmer said. "The big stadium and the crowd can affect the game. We went through that at Wisconsin. It's a hostile environment, but I think we will be prepared."

Robinson is convinced UNLV can be a formidable unit on defense.

"We not only turned the corner in moving from one style of football to another, we made a real beginning in building a complete defensive system," he said. "We still have plenty of room for improvement and with so many returning players, we can establish a successful tradition.

"Last year's overall secondary was very uncertain, now it could become one of our strong points. We also expect to be better along the defensive front. And the linebacker group is unquestionably the best we have had here."

Brimmer believes it could add up to a memorable season for UNLV.

"We want to win the Mountain West Conference and make a bowl," he said. "I think we can do it if we don't have any big injuries and execute the gameplan."


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