Aug. 29, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – “Geez, Louise!”
One day earlier this month after a Marshall football practice, I was waiting to interview a player when I thought I heard Coach Doc Holliday utter those words.
Hey, maybe I just needed new hearing aid batteries.
Well, I was close. The Herd coach actually was talking about impressive Marshall redshirt freshman wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis.
Holliday always calls the redshirt freshman “Jean-Louise.”
“I know he does,” Jean-Louis said, smiling, earlier this week. “I know.”
Jean-Louis doesn’t mind, as long as Holliday keeps talking about him as the coach has during August camp. Jean-Louis has ascended the Herd depth chart, and is listed as the starter at z receiver for Saturday’s season opener at Miami (Ohio).
Johnny Cash sang about a boy named Sue. The Herd receiver does not want to be a guy named Louise. So, what’s correct?
“Jean-LU-wis” (phonetically) is fine,” the receiver said. “In Creole, it’s Jean-Lew-WEESE. It’s not Jean-Lew-ESE … The English form is fine with me.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Jean-Louis plays bigger than his height and stronger than his frame. He arrived at Marshall as a four-star recruit (Rivals.com), one of four on the current Herd roster, with former Fork Union Military Academy teammates Deon-Tay McManus and Stefan Houston, and safety A.J. Leggett.
An earlier commit to Miami (Fla.), Jean-Louis sat out his first year at Marshall (starting in January 2013), and began to emerge last December -- once he was eligible – during Herd drills prior to the Military Bowl.
“First of all, I’m really anxious for that first game,” Jean-Louis said, “but I’m even more anxious to get into that red zone and see what we can do, what’s possible with our red zone offense. And I’m really anxious for that first catch. I’m going to grab it and hopefully make a big play with it.
“I have a chance now to show why I came here. We’ve got a lot of talent and I just want to help us win.”
Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato said Jean-Louis, of Wellington, Fla., began to show his stuff in spring practice. Jean-Louis said he values this one-year opportunity to play with one of the nation’s top quarterbacks and one that seems destined to break MU passing records now belonging to Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich.
“To be honest, it took most of the spring,” Jean-Louis replied when asked how long it took a rookie receiver to gain the veteran QB’s confidence. “It was over after that. I got a hang of things, started learning more, running the routes right.
“I stayed back with Coach (Mike) Furrey (receivers coach) and learned. All the older guys would leave and he’d tell the young guys to stay, learn little bit more. Cato saw what I could do, but I had to prove it to him.”
Back at Palm Beach Central High School, Jean-Louis had offers from some of the best of the power-conference programs, but he said upon arriving at Marshall, he was raw compared to the receiver he projects to be – and wants to be – these days.
“The toughest thing for me was to slow everything down, the game, slow down myself,” Jean-Louis said. “I came out here like I have since high school and it was high-flying, do everything full speed. But here, on this level of football, you’ve got to slow things down a little bit and play with a little more composure.
“You can’t come out and run around like a chicken with your head cut off like I was doing. Coach Furrey has been teaching me to slow down a little bit instead of going full speed every rep.
“There’s a reason for everything you do. I remind myself that all the time now. The hard part was after not playing for a year, I was definitely anxious to get out here and make sure I went hard and when the ball was thrown my way, everything was good. Then, I learned a bit more.”
Holliday said earlier this week that there’s a reason Jean-Louis is at the top of the depth chart and is projected as one of five Herd players to make their first college starts at Miami’s Yager Stadium.
“He makes plays,” the fifth-year Herd coach said. “The one thing that we do is come up with a production chart. At the receiver position, it’s not about how many snaps you make but it’s about how many plays you make.
“You have the opportunity to make 20 plays and if you make 18 out of the 20, then chances are you can kind of tell by the production sheet who has made plays throughout camp and who is the most productive guy. Production is what matters in skill positions, not potential.
“So, he makes plays and has made plays all camp and has continued to do that. When the ball comes toward him, it is a good chance he will make a play and it’s going to be critical for him to continue to make plays in the game Saturday.”
Early on, Furrey told Jean-Louis he needed “to play more quietly, play more under control.” His learning curve also has included working against a Herd secondary led by the experience of senior Darryl Roberts at corner.
“It’s no joke,” Jean-Louis said of the Herd defense. “It’s a good thing to go against the best guys every day. Swagg (Roberts), Corey Tindal, they push me all of the time. Ever since I’ve been here, they have pushed me. Even though I was a freshman, they weren’t cutting me any slack. I had to get it and learn fast if I wanted to be out here.”
Jean-Louis and veteran Davonte Allen lead an outside receiver corps the Herd hopes will give Cato a greater opportunity to stretch the field than in 2013. The redshirt freshman said his focus is on “making the right play, then catching the ball.”
“Like Coach Furrey tells us, ‘You’ve got to learn, got to know, got to love it.’ The thing I feel now is any defense that anyone puts out there, I feel I need to know it -- the Cover 2s, Cover 3s, Cover 4s. I know now; I just need to know more. That’s the next step for me.”
And after slowing down, Jean-Louis is catching up. Before long, he might opposing defenses yelling, “Geez, Louise!”
What else does he need?
Nothing,” he said, smiling.“This is fun. This is what I liked to do. I missed it for a while.”