BOGACZYK: Herd's Samuel Puts His `Nose' to the Grindstone
The Word on the Herd-August 18, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- In vying for a starting role on Marshall’s 2014 defensive line, nose tackle Jarquez Samuel hoped to make an impression on Herd coaches.
He’s gone one step farther. The redshirt junior from Valdosta, Ga., has made an impression – regularly – on Marshall’s offensive front, so much so that Samuel and veteran center Chris Jasperse found themselves going nose to nose during one of last week’s practices.
“It’s all love, all love,” Samuel said of his tussle with Jasperse that ended up with both on the Edwards Stadium turf. “It’s just fun going against the offensive line. I know it’s fun for them to go against us, too, and we’re just competing.’
Samuel and fellow junior Steve Dillon have battled all camp for the nose starting job, trying to replace two-year starter Brandon Sparrow. With one week of August camp left and then a week of game preparations for an Aug. 30 opener at Miami (Ohio), Samuel has been the Herd’s most impressive defensive lineman in drills.
“Steve Dillon and me, it’s so fun,” Samuel said. “We just compete. We both will play. We both need to play. I love Steve and Steve loves me. We just come out and practice every day and try to make each other better.”
The 6-foot-4, 273-pound Samuel has been very effective stopping the run and has been getting push against the Herd offensive front regularly. That’s because he’s not only stronger than he was a year ago, but wiser, too.
“I think it’s a maturity factor that comes along with just being a little physically tougher than he was,” said J.C. Price, the Herd’s defensive tackles coach. “Even right now, Jarquez is fighting through the bumps and bruises of camp and there’s no drop off in his play.
“Where before, when he had a nick or something, his productivity and the way he played would suffer. Right now, there’s no drop off, even though he’s going through the grind of camp.”
Samuel has long arms, too, and he’s learned to use those, Price said.
“The difference between the way he’s playing now and the way he played last season -- and he started doing this toward the end of spring practice – is his pad level,” Price said. “He’s a big, long guy, and tall guys have a natural leverage, really long arms, so all of the attributes were there.
“But if you don’t play low and get off the ball faster than the offensive linemen, then you’re going to be in trouble. He’s really playing with great pad level right now.”
Price explained that Samuel and Dillon played roles last season like that of a middle reliever in baseball. They backed up and picked up Sparrow. Now, one of them could be the guy, but it seems likely that the Samuel/Dillon hybrid will simply give the Herd more talent in what figures to be about an 8- or 9-player rotation on the defensive front four.
Samuel gave plenty of credit for his rise to the Marshall second-year strength and conditioning coach, Scott Sinclair. He credits Price with building a confident player through proper techniques, too.
“Coach Sinclair, oh man, I had a good summer,” Samuel said. “I got faster, got stronger (improving his three weight lifts by 105 pounds). He’s really good strength coach and he helped me out a lot this summer to get where I am now.
“Hands … we’ve got to use our hands. With Coach Price, every time we come out for practice we do a hand drill … Our hands are the only way to get away, to separate. He preaches using our hands and that’s helped me a lot.”
Samuel said the personnel rotation in the defensive front and the flip-flopping at nose with Dillon hasn’t been an issue in trying to find consistency in his own game.
“It’s not a problem,” Samuel said, “because you’ve got to have confidence in the guy next to you that he can do the same thing (tackle James) Rouse can and does, or Steve does or Rico (tackle Ricardo Williams) does, or the ends do.
“So, you start out by getting a feel for it, but after a while, you keep rolling in and out, and you get used to it.”
Price, an All-American nose at Virginia Tech in the mid-90s, knows what Samuel is trying to master. Much of it is attitude, the Herd line coach said.
“There’s nothing natural about putting your hand on the ground in there and getting run into by two offensive linemen,” Price said. “There’s a term we use, and it’s ‘ITS’ -- and I’m not going to talk about what that means -- and everything happens a little faster inside, everything’s a little more physical inside in the A and B gaps. And he’s just doing a great job of being mentally tough.”
ITS is an acronym for “in the (stuff).”
“It’s just the mental challenge of doing it over and over and over and over again every day,” Price said. “and Jarquez is finally to the point where he’s doing it.”