June 25, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – There are linchpins, and then there are linchpins.
Chris Jasperse seems to qualify on both counts, so to speak. While fellow senior Rakeem Cato is the center of most Marshall football attention this summer as a quarterback with Heisman Trophy credentials, Jasperse is the Thundering Herd center … period.
What that means, of course, is that the high-powered offense displayed by Coach Doc Holliday’s club the past two seasons starts with Jasperse’s snaps. And the 6-foot-4, 289-pound Greensboro, N.C., native begins the 2014 season with a distinction besides being on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation’s top center.
A recent survey of FBS programs conducted by Duke’s sports information department sought a list of active offensive linemen with more than 2,500 career snaps played.
Jasperse not only leads active linemen in snaps played – 3,032. He’s made most of those snaps, too. He’s played 51 more snaps than No. 2 on the list, Duke redshirt senior guard Laken Tomlinson. Only 10 linemen have played more than 2,500.
Jasperse has started all 39 games of his Marshall career after redshirting in 2010 as an invited walk-on. Thirty-six of those starts have been at center, with the final three games of 2012 at right guard. And he is one of the prime examples of how Holliday’s program has climbed into consideration for a Conference USA title and poll-sitting status in 2014 after going 10-4 with a Military Bowl victory last season.
“Really, we’re not doing anything different now, just trying to turn it up a little bit,” Jasperse said earlier this week after finishing running sprints in Edwards Stadium during the Herd’s summer conditioning program. “We want to build off what we accomplished last year.
“The biggest thing is in the weight room. All our volume and our sets have gone up from last year with the same strength coach (Scott Sinclair) from last year. Our running numbers have gone up a lot more because we’re in better shape and we’re bigger, faster, stronger.
“And with all these expectations we have to work harder to make sure we fulfill them.”
He’s one of only five active FBS offensive linemen to have started a nation-best 39 games in a row, and
Jasperse appreciates the appreciation for his talent, work ethic and smarts – Holliday and offensive coordinator call the center a coach-in-waiting – but he isn’t dwelling on watch lists.
“I think this year, our motto would probably be ‘Unfinished Business,’ or something like that,” Jasperse said. “Last year, we made it to the conference championship game, but we didn’t win. So, now we all have that sour taste in our mouth even though we won the Military Bowl championship. What we want is a conference championship, so we can be truly No. 1 in our league.
“The expectations, if you attain team success, then individual success comes as well. As long as we’re winning, a lot of guys on the team will get shout-outs of their own. So we’ve got to keep it a team thing, and then all of the individual awards will come at the end.”
If Jasperse makes every start this season and the Herd reaches the C-USA title game and a bowl, he’ll finish with 53 career starts, and eclipse the MU major college record for starts by an offensive lineman – shared by tackles Steve Sciullo (1999-2002) and Nate McPeek (2000-03) at 51 starts.
The Herd record for offensive line starts belongs to former guard Aaron Ferguson, who had the total-games advantage of playing in the Division I-AA championship era. Marshall played 59 games in Ferguson’s four seasons (1993-96) and he started all except his first two, for a total of 57 – 51 of those at right guard, six at center.
Jasperse, who got his undergraduate degree last December (with a 3.08 GPA) and is taking master’s courses in sports administration, enjoys the responsibility of starting the Herd offense.
“In our offense, I make all of the calls,” Jasperse said when told of his 3,032 snaps leading the nation. “In some offenses, the quarterbacks or running backs will point out protections and stuff. And I like the responsibility.
“It gives me whole control of the offense, so that I know where everybody is. I like having that kind of responsibility, that control.”
He’s also the Herd’s top 2015 NFL prospect, ranked No. 10 at his position by NFLDraftScout.com. Of all those shotgun snaps he’s made, there haven’t been many off-center, either. So, what is a bad snap for Jasperse?
“Luckily, Cato can pretty much catch any snap I throw back there, as long as it’s not 8 feet in the air,” Jasperse said with a grin. “He’s caught ‘em out wide, on the left, on the right, he snags ‘em. He’s got great hands like that. I’m very fortunate to have a guy like him.
“Cato (he’s 6-foot-1) doesn’t like it low. As long as it’s above the knees, he can take it. So, keep it up, just don’t make it too far over his head. If you can put it in the box from his arm length to about here (just below waist high), he can catch it. Don’t put it below his knees because he doesn’t like to go down and get it.”
Jasperse has been on the field for nearly 2,200 snaps the last two seasons. As a Herd 2013 season captain (voted by teammates) and a game captain (picked by coaches) eight times last season, he’s been a major cog in Holliday’s construction job in the program.
He said he’s not surprised that the Herd is expected to play in tall cotton in his final collegiate season.
“I thought with the talent we brought into our class and the class after, we could get to where we are,” Jasperse said. “Coach Holliday always told us that we have the right guys coming in here now, so keep working and keep believing and we’ll get it done.
“I truly believed that then, and you can see the success we’re having now on the field.”