LANSING | Jariel Brooks' lack of size doesn't mean he lacks either heart or knowledge about his opponent.
At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, the T.F. South senior linebacker doesn't let his small stature get in the way of bringing down a ball carrier.
"A lot of people ask me if I am a defensive back, but that doesn't bother me," he said. "You have to have that linebacker mentality, and I think of myself as someone who is 6-3 and maybe 280. You have to play big."
Brooks and the Rebels (1-1) travel to Oak Forest (1-1) tonight for a South Suburban Conference Blue opener. South, the Bengals and Lemont all tied for the SSC Blue title last year. The senior class won conference titles at the freshman and sophomore levels and were part of last year's conference championship.
"They beat us last year at our place (28-20) and we know this will be a tough game," Brooks said. "Our defense has to make sure we are set and don't make mistakes. My job is to make sure we are prepared and let people know where to go on a play."
T.F. South defensive coordinator Bob Padjen said Brooks is a vocal leader and has a great knowledge of the game.
"Jariel has that ability to find the football and get to the ball and ball carrier," Padjen said. "He studies a lot of film and knows a lot about the game and our opponents.
"Jariel can run down a ball carrier, because he has great speed. A lot of that is because he is in position to make a play. He is a kid, that when we watch tape, he tells you where (the opponent) is going to go. He tells you what he saw right away."
Brooks leads the Rebels with 16 tackles, including two for losses. Last year, he had 65 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and three TFLs. He also plays some offense as a running back.
"I like to make big hits," Brooks said. "I am vocal and that is what is expected from a captain and a senior."