Sept. 12, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Apparently, Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal’s job is safe for now.
It seems that you can say the same for Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday and his veteran offensive coordinator Bill Legg, too.
However, someday – probably not too far down the line – Marshall center Chris Jasperse is going to get a job coaching the game he loves.
If not here, then somewhere … and his current coaches figure he’s going to be good in and for their profession.
Jasperse will start his 28th consecutive game Saturday night when the “Battle for the Bell” rivalry between the Herd (2-0) and Ohio (1-1) is rejoined at Peden Stadium, and the redshirt junior from Greensboro, N.C., is one of the Marshall captains for this crucial date.
It’s the kind of push-and-shove game the 6-foot-4, 289-pounder wouldn’t miss.
Yet, if he were on the sideline or in the coaches’ box upstairs, Jasperse probably would make a significant impact on the game, too.
Mirabal, in his first year at Marshall, has raved about Jasperse’s knowledge. The guy leads the Herd in more than his 27 career starts (24 at center; three at right guard late last season).
“I think he’d be a tremendous coach; he’s mentioned to me that it’s something he’d like to pursue in the future,” Mirabal said. “Chris is like one of those little toddlers that ask, ‘Why? Why? Why?’ constantly, which is good. He just doesn’t want me to tell him, ‘We’re using this technique;’ he wants me to tell him why we’re using this technique, against a particular look or scheme.
“I think he gets a tremendous amount of insight from it. Also, you can see those techniques and schemes that we’ve brought, he’s put those into action right away. He’s a smart guy. And he’ll be the first to tell you, not being a great athlete, he knows he’s got to be a great technician, great with angles, with leverage, with his hands, and Chris is learning from all of that. He puts himself in tremendous position to do that.
“You can really see it especially on the second level or the third level, how he’s done a much better job when he gets up to the linebackers, to the safeties, in terms of putting his body in the right position.
“I think he’d be a tremendous football coach just because of the fact he’s not one of those guys who wants to be told what to do. He wants to know why are we being told to do it in this way, and not in a disrespectful way at all, but just to accumulate all the information he can.”
A sports management major, Jasperse is on schedule to graduate in December. To no one in the football program’s surprise, he has a 3.14 grade point average.
“I don’t know if I could do it right now,” Jasperse told me when asked if he could coach the Herd’s offensive line. “I have been learning a lot, and I do want to coach eventually.
“Coach Mirabal has done a great job with us. I just try to help him and our GA (graduate assistant Aaron Hill) out as much as I can. Those two kind of kid around and call me their ‘student assistant.’”
“So, yeah, I do want to coach someday. It’s just a passion I have.”
In his four seasons in the Herd program – Jasperse arrived in 2010 as a walk-on – he has had three line coaches in Legg (two years), Geep Wade and now Mirabal. The variety of instructional styles and teaching techniques can only help Jasperse reach his goal of reaching the sideline.
Legg, who played center at West Virginia in the mid-‘80s and has coached the offensive front, quarterbacks and been an offensive coordinator over his 25 years as a college coach, said that considering Jasperse as a future offensive line coach might be underestimating the Herd center’s future.
“He has a really high football IQ,” Legg said. “Chris understands stuff beyond his position, and I’m not just talking about offensive line stuff, I’m talking beyond offensive line stuff. It’s one of the reasons why he plays as well as he plays. He understands not just what he’s supposed to do; he understands defensive reactions and that kind of stuff.
“He’s a guy who studies the game, it’s important to him and he’s got a passion for it and it shows up. We’re fortunate we’ve got a guy like him playing center, fortunate we’ve got a guy like that playing quarterback (junior and third-year starter Rakeem Cato).
“Those two guys have extremely high football IQs. So, it transitions over to the type of decisions they make and how they execute their individual games.”
Legg said Jasperse isn’t just locked into knowing what his protective wall does.
“He’s got a pretty good grasp of that,” Legg said when asked if the herd center could coach wide receivers. “He may not be able to tell you right now, today, the exact technique on all the receivers, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he could tell you at least some of them.
“Chris looks at the big picture. He understands when the defensive safeties are rotating, what that indicates to how the defensive line plays. And the more you know, the better off you are, the better prepared you are. That’s how he’s been since he got here.”
Holliday smiled when asked about Jasperse’s goal down the road.
“No doubt,” the Marshall coach said. “Chris is a great leader, a captain for the game this weekend. And he’s a guy in charge of that offensive line, makes all the calls, plays the position like he owns it.
“The kid just loves football, it’s important to him and he’s extremely tough. No doubt he’d be a great coach because of all the intangibles he brings to the game. He’s exceptionally smart. He gets everybody lined up every time; he identifies the fronts, he changes protections. He’s proven he can handle anything up there.
“And he does understand the entire concept of what we’re trying to get done offensively, and he also understands (defensive) fronts and coverages and entire defensive packages. He spends a lot of time working at it, and he’s extremely good at what he does and I have no doubt he’ll be a great coach one day.”
However, that’s not in the immediacy. It’s the Bobcats that has Jasperse’s focus.
“We’ve been able to run the ball, get hats on hats, executing our blocks and our backs been coming through, making plays,” Jasperse said. “Our wideouts have been blocking on the perimeter and that’s been huge for us. We take a lot of pride in that now, running it, and we need to keep doing it.
“We’ve been talking about how physically we have to be to beat (Ohio) up front, and we have to do that early, run the ball, keep at it … The three words we hear from Coach Mirabal all the time are ‘strain,’ and ‘dominate’ and ‘discourage.’ We hear those all the time from him. Finish our blocks. Even an extra push at the end discourages guys a little bit. That’s what we’ve been focusing on.”
Marshall – for a second time – is the eighth stop in Legg’s coaching career. He’s coached in the Big Ten, Big East, Conference USA, Mid-American, Sun Belt, among other leagues. Legg has tutored plenty of talent, but as far as knowledge of the game and willingness to learn, he said Jasperse has few peers.
“Even in his redshirt freshman year (2010), he understood what we were doing at every position up front,” Legg said. “He could mentally line up and play any one of the five positions on the offensive line, and execute any one of the plays from an assignment standpoint.
“That’s the reason why he’s advanced, but only part of it. The rest of the reason is he loves to play, has a passion, plays hard all the time, works at it. It’s just who he is.
“He’s in that top list of guys that just have that ‘it’ factor, guys who have passion for the game and a willingness to study the game, and an understanding of the game beyond their own roles in the game.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around a few young guys like that, but he’s right up there, without a question.”