HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— As Marshall was building its lead on the way to a 59-28 win over East Carolina last season, few fans probably noticed when right guard Alex Schooler lost his shoe and had to come out of the game.
Offensive line coach Alex Miribal immediately called for freshman backup center/guard Michael Selby to sub in while Schooler fixed his shoe. Quarterback Rakeem Cato saw the substitution and sprinted toward the sidelines fearing Mirabal wanted move starting center Chris Jasperse to guard and insert Selby in at center while Schooler was out of the game.
“Rakeem runs half-way to me and goes ‘Don’t move, Chris! Don’t move, Chris!’” recalls Mirabal. “And I said ‘I’m not, I’m not.’”
Chris Jasperse stayed at center then and has started every game there for The Herd over the last three years becoming a safety blanket for Cato and the rest of the offense.
“He and Rakeem are on the same wave length. When 12 is in the game 60 is in the game” says Mirabal. “It helps Rakeem tremendously. Chris calls are protections up front and Cato knows we’re going to have his back. We’re going to turn the protection to where the pressure is coming from.”
Jasperse is the most seasoned veteran on a Marshall team that is, for the first time under Doc Holliday, loaded with experience. The former walk-on from Charlotte earned a scholarship in 2011, was All-Conference USA Honorable Mention in 2012 and earned First Team All-Conference honors last season. Jasperse has what Mirabal calls “old eyes.” He has seen and experienced just about every defense and blitz package imaginable during his three seasons anchoring the offensive line and has been a large reason that Doc Holliday now likes the group that became known last season as the “Iron 5.”
“That offensive line, for two years I said I didn’t like them because I didn’t. You look at that offensive line right now—they’re all love football, they’re all extremely tough” says Holliday. “For two years I didn’t even walk in that room because I couldn’t stand them. Now, I spend time in that room. I like going in and watching Coach Mirabal teach. It’s a great room right now.”
It’s not unusual for Jasperse to break down blitz pickups to reporters after a game. His understanding of the game is so comprehensive it can overshadow the fact that Jasperse is a talented athlete.
“At the end of the day he’s a good football player and that sometimes gets lost because he’s smart, he’s tough, he’s played a lot, and those are the things that get thrown out first and foremost. But he’s a darn good football player,” Mirabal said.
In fact, Mirabal is willing to put Jasperse up against any center in the country.
“I watch a lot of crossover tape when I’m watching our upcoming opponents and you watch these ‘BCS’ centers and most of them can’t play at his level. I think of him highly not only as a football player but then as a leader,” said Mirabal.
Jasperse and the rest of the offensive line may not get the recognition it deserves as part of Marshall’s high powered offense but that just goes with the territory of playing up front. However, the fact that the quarterback is willing to sprint to the sidelines to implore that his center not be moved is a much larger compliment than any recognition that could come from the outside.