Oct. 18, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Michael Selby is doing something he really shouldn’t be doing.
Marshall football coach Doc Holliday calls it “tremendous.”
If that sounds contradictory, well, then consider Selby’s play as a true freshman for the Thundering Herd. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound Georgian already has played three positions on the offensive line … where true freshman are a rare breed.
Selby has played 169 snaps as the Herd (4-2, 2-0) points toward Thursday night’s Conference USA game at Middle Tennessee (3-4, 1-2). After his debut with 13 snaps at center in Marshall’s opening-game win over Miami (Ohio), Selby has been rotating between left and right guard as the backup to Sebastian Johansson and Alex Schooler, respectively.
“He’s a true freshman and he’s not playing like one,” center Chris Jasperse said. “I’m guessing his high school coach was really good with him, and Mike brought a lot of good technique in and we found a spot for him to play. He’s just worked hard and done a good job.”
Jasperse guessed right.
“I had a great offensive line coach in high school, also my head coach,” Selby said of Washington County (Ga.) coach Joel Ingram. “He played center as Jacksonville State, and him being an offensive line coach and head coach, there was a lot of pressure on the offensive line.
“He taught us a lot about sticking together, working together as a team, a unit, and dominating the guy across from you. He helped me a lot in preparing for college. He was also our strength coach, and we were big in weightlifting. We won the state title three years in a row in weightlifting.”
Selby played 61 snaps in the Herd’s win over UTSA, then 28 in the comeback victory Saturday at FAU, as line coach Alex Mirabal
went primarily with only six linemen for the five spots against the Owls.
There’s more to Selby’s success than his strength and smarts – he was a 3.8 student in high school. He said he’s benefitted by playing with a group that has had four senior starters to go with Jasperse, the fourth-year junior who has played every snap in four straight games.
“That helps me tremendously,” Selby said. “Jasperse always tells me, ‘You’ve got to look at the safeties and see if they’re blitzing.’ They help me, picking up blitzes or noticing what kind of protection we have, they’ve been a big help, helped a whole lot.”
Holliday said the rookie – one of seven true freshmen to see field time for the Herd this season -- has a good mentor.
“Jasperse, it’s like he’s Selby’s dad,” a laughing Holliday said recently.
“Right,” the veteran Herd center said, smiling. “We joke around and everybody calls Mike Selby my son. I just kind of took him under my wing and kind of showed him the way and helped him out. He’s been playing really well lately, and it’s been fun, and we just joke around about it.
“Mike listens a lot and that’s important. You watch film a lot; you learn what everybody’s roles are. When I was a freshman, (center/guard Chad) Schofield was the man and he kind of showed me the way, and I sat in a lot of film sessions with him, learned the offense and that’s how I learned it well.
“Selby, he’ll text me with questions, and whatever he needs to do he can ask me because I know pretty much the whole offense. And it’s great for him to have a resource like me to use. He goes 100 miles per hour and he hits people. He’s not afraid to put his face in there. He runs right at people.”
Selby grinned when told of the parental nickname.
“Jasperse has been saying that the last couple of weeks and we joke around about it, but Jasperse has done a lot, so I won’t take it too hard on him,” Selby said. “And he helps me, so I guess you can say I am his little son and he’s my mentor.”
Selby said he played only right guard in high school, never at center or the other side. His ability to pick things up quickly began in spring practice when the Sandersville, Ga., resident used part of his spring break to come to Huntington and observe Marshall spring practice, often standing very close to the O-line group of which he would soon be part.
“I really couldn’t learn a whole lot of plays then, back in the spring,” Selby said. “I learned the basic stuff, inside zone or wide zone, but just picking up on how they practiced, seeing that with my own eyes, got me ready for coming here and starting camp.
“Practicing like they did, I noticed back in the spring they went through drills fast and I just had to prepare myself mentally to be ready to do those type of drills.”
Selby quickly became the No. 3 center in camp behind Jasperse and sophomore Cam Dees – another true freshman who played up front a year ago. Dees went out in mid-August with an ankle sprain and then had a concussion, and Selby found himself snapping the ball in real time against Miami (Ohio). Dees has yet to appear, and may be ticketed for a redshirt season if he isn’t needed.
“About the end of the second week of camp I was backing up Jasperse, and I had a pretty good game in our second scrimmage,” the blond lineman said. “I didn’t set any goals that way, on playing right away.
“I just wanted to come in and help the team any way I could, whether that was on scout team or playing my first year … whatever they wanted. It worked out for me to play this year and it worked out for the best.
“Ever since that second week of camp I played center, and you know, things happen. I got moved to guard, and I’ll help the team anyway I can. They burned my redshirt, wanted to find a place for me on the field. It’s great to get some work in. There was a spot, so I’m there.”
Selby, who is majoring in exercise science, said he wants to be a college football coach after graduation. Marshall veteran offensive coordinator Bill Legg has remarked a few times this season that Jasperse could coach most positions on the field right now.
Like ‘Dad,” like ‘Son?’”
“What’s surprised me the most (about Selby) is he can play both left and right (guard),” Jasperse said. “Every series (at FAU), Mike was going left and then right (and back) and you’ve got to switch sides in your head … ‘Hey, I’m going in a left-handed stance playing left,’ next series, it’s a right-handed stance playing right.
“So, every series, ‘Am I a right guard or a left guard?’ That’s got to be tough. I played center and right guard and it’s tough. You’ve got to remember where you are. What does the right guard do here? What does the left guard do here? So, you’ve really got to be focused in and he’s done a good job with that.”
In Mirabal’s grading system, Selby has had success on 99 percent of his assignments (mental grade) and been successful 83 percent (physical grade).
“Michael Selby, as a freshman to go in and play the amount of snaps he has played, is tremendous,” Holliday said.
“I played right guard in high school, so (flip-flopping between guard spots) was kind of a big adjustment,” Selby said. “The first day of practice when I started going back and forth I was putting my left hand down every now and then at right guard. So, yeah, it’s a big adjustment, but you’ve got to be mentally prepared for it so you swap everything when you hear the play, and you’ve just got to roll with it.
“Center, guard, it doesn’t matter where I play, as long as I’m helping the team. If I need to play center, I will. If I’m needed at guard, I’ll be there.
“I do like center since I’ve played it, so who knows? I never played there in high school, but what I like about it is you’ve got to be in control out there, got to tell everybody what to do. You’ve got to see the whole field.
“There’s just something about it … I like it.”
Problem is, that’s the position his ‘Dad’ plays. As long as Jasperse is there, Selby will be happy rubbing shoulders with him.