Freshman Selby’s importance rising
HUNTINGTON - No ordinary true freshman cracks the two-deep and gets substantial playing time on the offensive line. Michael Selby, however, has proved he's not ordinary.
"It wasn't given to him. He earned that spot," said right tackle/guard Clint Van Horn. "When you're a true freshman and you're playing out there, you've earned it."
Selby came to Marshall expected to redshirt, at least by customary offensive line protocol, but shot up from third-team status to become an integral reserve in Marshall's thinned rotation. He has gotten most of his playing time at the two guard spots, but is the second center behind iron man Chris Jasperse.
The 6-foot-2, 275-pound native of Sandersville, Ga., can come in on a moment's notice these days. Last weekend at Florida Atlantic, he entered quickly after starter Sebastien Johansson struggled against the Owls' small-but-speedy linemen. Selby said he played 28 snaps.
His rise was quick. After handling the demands of the summer conditioning program, he shed the third-team label in about two weeks and then got a big surprise - an impromptu move to No. 3 center. Then sophomore Cam Dees went down with an ankle injury and then a concussion, making Selby's development more critical. (Dees travels for road games these days, but his status for the rest of the season is uncertain.)
Meanwhile, Selby was turning heads for his play, separating himself from the rest of the sure-to-redshirt rookies in the O-line room.
"I noticed at the end of the second week of camp that I was going to get a chance to contribute on the field. I was backing up Jasperse," Selby said. "And I played in the second scrimmage and had a pretty good scrimmage game. I pretty much knew then I was going to be able to contribute this year."
That was a test of leadership for Jasperse, a junior who helped bring Dees along last year as a very respectable true freshman backup. The difference here: Dees came to Marshall recruited as a center; Selby not so much.
Selby had never played the position at any level. That's not an easy transition, for certain.
The center has to identify defensive alignments and intentions in an instant, call out blocking assignments in any situation, in the comfort of a home stadium or a noisy road venue. In a two-minute drill with the game on the line, Jasperse may have had a tougher assignment than his quarterback, Rakeem Cato.
Jasperse also had to keep track of the play clock and game clock - at a foreign venue, he also has to know where they're located. At FAU, for example, the sight lines to those clocks were substantially different and Marshall was driving toward the smaller game clock.
With roughly two weeks to the Herd's season opener, Selby had to learn it all, or enough to survive.
"He really listens a lot, and that's the biggest thing," Jasperse said. "You've just got to stay in the film room, and you've got to learn what everyone's doing, and you've got to be able to tell your guys what to do in big-time situations.
"Definitely, you're in a game-winning drive and they come out with some defense that you haven't seen, you've got to tell them something because those guys are, 'Hey, what are we doing?' You've got to be prepared for every moment, and play with confidence. That's the biggest thing."
By all accounts, Selby has the confidence and his center study has given him a deeper understanding of both guard positions. And Jasperse said he has the physical tools and the proper attitude of an older blocker.
"He just goes and hits you hard and he goes 100 miles an hour," Jasperse said. "He's not scared to put his face in anywhere, and that's what you need in an O-lineman. He just runs right at you and he's not worried how big or small you are."
The O-line may have the tightest brotherhood on the team, at Marshall and any other school. The Herd's position motto is simply, "Five men, one mind."
So when one of them leaves the program, the reaction borders on mourning.
The departures of Jeffries and Lovell affected the unit along those lines. One was kind of expected; the other came out of the blue.
"Jeffries, he fought through some injuries for us," said Clint Van Horn, the Beckley native. "He battled hard. His hips, both of them are messed up but he's going to get surgery on the one. He fought for us, and we really, really appreciate it. That was more of an emotional leave for him, because we really, really needed him. . . .
"It was sad, because he was a fifth-year senior and he put so much in for this program.
"With Lovell, it was a shock to us, a surprise to me. I was close with Lovell, so that kind of hurt a little bit."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.