HUNTINGTON — Before one examines Marshall’s depth at center, one reminder: Chris Jasperse leads the team in career snaps among active offensive linemen.
Check that: He leads the nation. The major-college ranks, at the least.
The Duke sports information department launched a survey on the subject this summer, wondering if Blue Devils offensive guard Laken Tomlinson led the nation. The Dookies found out that their man trailed exactly one other lineman, Jasperse.
The count: Jasperse 3,032, Tomlinson 2,981.
Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, in his second season with the Thundering Herd, has worked on keeping the center position as deep as possible in case Jasperse went down. That did not happen last season, but there was a fleeting thought that the native of Greensboro, N.C., was going to miss a play.
“We’re playing East Carolina and somebody’s shoe came off,” Mirabal said. “And when his shoe came off, I sent [Michael] Selby on the field and [Herd quarterback Rakeem] Cato thought I sent Selby on to replace Jasperse. Cato about had a heart attack and I had to call a timeout.”
With Cam Dees gone for good for medical reasons, Selby has been the top backup at center, in addition to his starting guard duties. At the latter, he played a substantial number of snaps in the Herd’s 31-20 bowl win over Maryland and was the starter throughout the spring.
Nowadays, the sophomore works almost entirely at guard, while Jasperse snaps to Cato exclusively. Selby does some snapping in early individual drills, but that’s about it.
But if need be, Selby says he’s ready to slide over.
“I think I’m prepared to do that, especially since I played center most of last year until I got moved to guard,” he said. “I still remember all that.”
Redshirt freshman Cody Collins saw a lot of work in the spring, but coaches are going to give true freshman Nathaniel Devers a long look. Don’t underestimate this battle: The winner rides the bus to Miami (Ohio) for the Aug. 30 opener and the others probably stay home.
It’s almost mandatory to travel with three centers, but Selby can count as one — thus freeing up a seat on the bus for someone at another position.
Devers, a Massillon, Ohio, native, is listed at 6-foot-3, 261 pounds. He has to bulk up as freshmen typically do, and has to get shotgun snaps down, as he had a few hit the ground Wednesday. Still, but Mirabal believes he is will be a great candidate there.
“He’s a natural center. He’s not somebody we’ve converted,” Mirabal said. “They converted him in high school.”
The center position could be very solid after Jasperse graduates this year, but that’s not Mirabal’s worry. With Marshall chasing a big season, it cannot be.
“I don’t care about next year, I’m not worried about next year,” Mirabal said. “I’m worried about this year. Right now, heading into week No. 1, not even at the end of the first week [of camp], we have five centers.
“We’ll be fine. Right now, I’d say today if something happened to Jasperse, you move Selby over there and let’s go. Hopefully by the end of camp, Collins develops, Devers develops and you don’t have to do that.”
Reach Doug Smock at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.