HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - For Jarquez Samuel's first start in his 14-game career at Marshall, you've got to give him a hand.
Or two hands. Fundamentally trained and ready for a defensive tackle's use.
The 6-foot-5, 275-pound native of Valdosta, Ga., was pressed into duty last weekend against Ohio, and the sophomore's performance probably was the most positive story in the Herd's 34-31 loss to the Bobcats. A more positive team result could have gotten Samuel player of the week honors.
You doubt that? Well, quite a few coaches are wracking their brain trying to remember when a nose tackle got in on nine tackles. The Bobcats aimed their running attack right at Samuel and he shook off blockers more times than not.
With Brandon Sparrow out with an ankle injury, the Herd essentially had three seasoned tackles and needed Samuel. Steve Dillon usually backs up James Rouse at the "three-technique" tackle spot and, yes, he got his snaps.
But for Samuel, it was showtime, and he showed a glimpse of brilliance.
"He earned it," said assistant coach J.C. Price, who tutors tackles. "I keep pressing upon these guys that you've got to play like you practice, and that guy had an outstanding week of practice, and it translated into the game.
"Tackles, especially a nose, you're often not going to be in the position where you make that many tackles. It just happened his number was called and he made the plays he was supposed to, within the framework of the defense."
Almost certainly, Samuel gets the call again for the Thundering Herd's manly test against Virginia Tech. Kickoff Saturday is at noon, with ESPU providing the TV coverage.
Samuel sported a grin when talking about his first start, and the work involved in getting to that point. He's become solid in the weight room, certainly, but young tackles have to learn there's much more to that in shaking off a large, hard-charging blocker. For all the brawn needed, the hands are the starting point.
In high school play, major-college prospects usually don't need great hands - they can blow up the blocker and move on to the ball carrier.
"That's the biggest thing [using hands] we work on in practice," Samuel said. "We hit the bags, we hit the sled, punch each other, just use our hands. If you can use your hands you can separate, and that helps you a lot."
And yes, that's a big part of it, Price confirmed, but not everything.