Jasper’s Mids rewrit­ing of­fen­sive records

Baltimore Sun - - VAR­SITY -

in con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries over East Carolina and South­ern Methodist.

“Ob­vi­ously, we’re in a very good place right now. You have to give all the credit to the play­ers. They’re play­ing great foot­ball,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ivin Jasper said. “I’m re­ally proud of the kids for play­ing sound and smart. We’re not com­mit­ting penal­ties and we’re not turn­ing the ball over. As a unit, I think the of­fense is play­ing with a lot of con­fi­dence. At the same time, they are stay­ing hum­ble and hun­gry. They just con­tinue to grind and plug away.”

Many ob­servers cite the con­tri­bu­tions of quar­ter­back Will Worth. Worth, who took over when Tago Smith suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing in­jury in the opener, has ac­counted for 2,544 yards from scrim­mage and 33 t ouch­downs. The 6- f oot-1, 205-pound se­nior has rushed for 1,181 yards and 25 touch­downs and passed for 1,363 yards and eight scores.

Navy has 5,170 yards and 459 points through 11 games this sea­son. With three games re­main­ing, the Mid­ship­men are al­most as­sured of break­ing the sin­gle-sea­son school records in both cat­e­gories, which were set in 2007. That was the fi­nal year of Johnson’s ten­ure, when the Mids to­taled 5,773 yards and 511 points.

“It al­ways comes down to hav­ing good play­ers. We have a sys­tem that puts peo­ple in po­si­tion to make plays, but it al­ways comes down to our kids ex­e­cut­ing,” Jasper said.

While Jasper de­flects credit, those most closely as­so­ci­ated with the pro­gram — from coach Ken Ni­u­mat­alolo to Worth — say he was the driv­ing force be­hind Navy’s re­mark­able of­fen­sive run in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber.

Af­ter all, Jasper, 46, is the play­caller — the chess mas­ter who must counter the moves by op­pos­ing de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors. Jasper, who played for Johnson at Hawaii and spent a to­tal of 12 years as his as­sis­tant, has be­come just as pro­fi­cient as his men­tor at ad­just­ing to what­ever the de­fense is do­ing.

Jasper has served as quar­ter­backs coach since 2002 and has worked with12 start­ing quar­ter­backs over the past 15 sea­sons. He has found a way to get ev­ery one to op­er­ate the tripleop­tion of­fense at a high level.

No­body knows these facts bet­ter than Ni­u­mat­alolo, who like Jasper was a quar­ter­back at Hawaii when Johnson was of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and ac­cepted his of­fer to learn the triple-op­tion of­fense from the ground up as a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant.

Ni­u­mat­alolo was dis­ap­pointed to learn Mon­day that Jasper was not a fi­nal­ist for the Broyles Award, which hon­ors the top as­sis­tant in col­lege foot­ball. The ninth-year head coach was not sur­prised that the five coaches who made the cut all came from Power Five con­fer­ence schools.

“If any­body did their home­work and knew what Coach Jasper has done this sea­son — I mean, no­body on that list has come even close to what he’s done,” said Ni­u­mat­alolo, not­ing that Navy is post­ing record-set­ting Navy’s Jamir Till­man catches a touch­down pass against SMU on Sat­ur­day. In their past two games, the Mid­ship­men have a com­bined1,193 yards and141 points. sta­tis­tics with a pro­jected backup quar­ter­back at the helm. “I guess around here we’re used to that … not get­ting much re­spect. Ivin knows and we all know that he’s a heck of a foot­ball coach.”

Four de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors — Michi­gan’s Don Brown, Alabama’s Jeremy Pruitt, Clem­son’s Brent Ven­ables and Colorado’s Jim Leav­itt — are joined by Pitts­burgh of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Matt Canada as fi­nal­ists for the Broyles Award. Ni­u­mat­alolo called Jasper’s ex­clu­sion “a darn shame,” but did not hes­i­tate when asked whether his long­time friend will one day be­come a head coach.

“No doubt. I don’t know what else the guy has to ac­com­plish. His re­sume speaks for it­self,” Ni­u­mat­alolo said. “He’s def­i­nitely de­serv­ing. Hope­fully, some­body will rec­og­nize that this guy is a heck of a foot­ball coach and could lead a pro­gram.”

Jasper has been a can­di­date for sev­eral head coach­ing jobs since be­ing pro­moted to Navy of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 2008 when Ni­u­mat­alolo be­came head coach. Jasper was a fi­nal­ist at Ge­or­gia South­ern in 2014 but with­drew from con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore Wil­lie Fritz was hired. Fritz is now the head coach at Tu­lane of the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence.

Jasper also in­ter­viewed with Army West Point in 2014, but that job ul­ti­mately went to an­other Johnson pro­tege: for­mer Navy and Ge­or­gia South­ern head coach Jeff Monken.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Jasper has shown in­ter­est in the Delaware va­cancy, which opened when Dave Brock was fired in mid-Oc­to­ber. As in years past, Jasper is hin­dered by the fact that Navy’s sea­son stretches un­til late De­cem­ber — later than most schools are will­ing to wait to in­ter­view po­ten­tial can­di­dates.

“I re­ally don’t worry about that, to be hon­est with you,” Jasper said when asked about the prospect of be­com­ing a head coach. “It’s just a mat­ter of some­one out there look­ing at what you’ve done and your body of work and de­cid­ing to try this of­fense. That’s what it all comes down to — some ath­letic di­rec­tor at some school mak­ing the com­mit­ment to giv­ing this type of of­fense a shot.”

Un­for­tu­nately for Jasper, there are not many Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion pro­grams will­ing to use the triple op­tion. Which is why Jasper will likely have to even­tu­ally ac­cept an of­fer from a Foot­ball Cham­pi­onship Sub­di­vi­sion school.

“It’s al­ways been viewed as a ser­vice-academy of­fense. Some peo­ple have even called it a high school of­fense. There have also been ques­tions about whether you can re­cruit to the of­fense,” Jasper said when asked about the triple op­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion. “It’s all those things that peo­ple talk about other than what we’ve done on the foot­ball field.”

Johnson has proved at Ge­or­gia Tech that the triple op­tion can be suc­cess­ful in a Power Five Con­fer­ence. The Yel­low Jack­ets have en­joyed win­ning records in six of nine sea­sons un­der Johnson, who has an over­all record of 69-48 in At­lanta.

Ge­or­gia Tech went 10-3 and lost in the Or­ange Bowl in 2009, 11-3 with a win in the Or­ange Bowl in 2014.

Mean­while, Navy has a win­ning record in 14 of the past 15 sea­sons while rou­tinely post­ing im­pres­sive of­fen­sive num­bers. There are an aw­ful lot of down­trod­den FBS pro­grams that have not come any­where close to to­tal­ing 75 points and 600 yards in a game.

“Coach Jasper def­i­nitely ranks right up there with Coach Ni­u­mat and Coach Johnson as far as un­der­stand­ing this of­fense. No one knows the op­tion as well as those three men,” for­mer Navy quar­ter­back Ricky Dobbs said. “I think Coach Jasper would be a great head coach. I’ve told him on many oc­ca­sions that I would love to be his quar­ter­backs coach when that fi­nally does hap­pen.”


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