HUNTINGTON - In his third year in the Marshall football program, Chris Jasperse is increasingly successful at juggling all the tasks of the center position.
This fall, he has added one more challenge: Mentoring a rookie right out of high school.
Jasperse, a 6-foot-4, 283-pound sophomore, isn't that far from being a protégé himself. In August 2010, he was a walk-on just out of Page High School in Greensboro, N.C., and had much to learn.
He has picked up a scholarship and a lot else along the way, as have the rest of his line mates. As the Thundering Herd's preseason camp hit the midway point Wednesday, coaches continued to rave about how far the offensive line has come.
"I keep bringing that up, but I see out there guys who are well coached, who are going extremely hard," said Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday. "And there are reasons the running backs are running the way they are: It's because of those guys up front."
That line is still young. Jasperse and junior right tackle Garrett Scott started 13 games apiece last year, enough to lead the unit in career starts. Even John Bruhin, the sixth-year man at right guard, has only 12 career starts - all last year, as well.
Offensive coordinator Bill Legg says Jasperse is playing the role of veteran quite nicely.
"Chris is a very, very smart player," Legg said. "He's a guy, in all honesty, probably by the middle of his true freshman year, we could have played him if we had to. But we didn't have to, so we held him and gave him an opportunity to win the starting job in the spring, and he did, and he played well last year."
And Jasperse played through no small amount of pain. Perpetually leaning over to snap a football puts an uncommon stress on one's back, and he was feeling it by the bowl game. He played through it and considered surgery.
That's when Jasperse consulted his mentor, former center Bruhin. From the adjacent right guard spot, Bruhin served as Jasperse's on-field guide through the 2011 season, helping sort out all those calls a center must master.
But this time, Bruhin shared his considerable experience with back pain. After all, the native of Powell, Tenn., is playing his sixth year because of season-ending back surgeries.
Jasperse underwent surgery himself on Jan. 25.
"When I had the decision to make, back surgery or not, I saw [Bruhin], that he could come back, he could play through it, and I was like, 'If he did it, I can do it,' " Jasperse said. "And he's in there every day, and he's more beat up than any guy we've got on the whole team - he's got arms, legs, backs [hurting], everything, but comes in there and still plays every play."
Jasperse recovered quickly, played a full spring and has taken all first-team snaps this month. He's also taken on the tutelage of freshman Cameron Dees, the 6-2, 280-pound native of Seffner, Fla.