Marshall's Swedish import elevated to first team
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -The way Marshall's 2012 offensive line two-deep chart was set up, Sebastian Johansson was as far away from the field as Huntington is to his native Sweden.
But in this still-young spring, Johansson has been running with the first team at left guard, splinted digits and all. He is getting the chance to beat out Josh Lovell, who started half the Thundering Herd's games last year.
"I didn't give it to him. He earned it," said Alex Mirabal, offensive line coach. "He earned it in the offseason with how he prepared. He's got a tremendous amount of ability, he's very accountable.
"Heck, he dislocated one of his fingers on Friday on his right hand, and today in one-on-one pass rush dislocated fingers on his left hand, and he's still out there playing the whole time."
Johansson, a 6-foot-5, 290-pounder who will be a third-year sophomore in the fall, played the 2009 season at nearby Raceland, Ky., and then returned to Sweden to essentially repeat his senior year academically. He played for his hometown team in Karlstad, but came to Marshall very raw - and still is, to some extent.
Which is fine with Mirabal.
"I look at it as a positive, because he doesn't have bad habits," Mirabal said. "He's got no habits, in terms of football, so you don't have to break and re-teach them. He's a really good athlete with tremendous feet; he's got good power. He cares about getting better.
"My issue with him is I've got to say, 'Hey, don't be so hard on yourself. When I tell you about what you're doing and you should be doing something different, don't get all huffy-puffy. Settle down, just listen and implement this.'
"And he's benefiting from being sandwiched between [center Chris] Jasperse and [left tackle Gage] Niemeyer. They help him make sure he's on the right page."
A year ago, he wasn't on any page, as far as the two-deep went. What a difference a good offseason can make.
"I can only blame myself for it," Johansson said. "But I've been working hard in the weight room with [strength and conditioning] Coach [Scott] Sinclair, and the possibilities are coming together."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.