Tigers Ready for Chad Jasmin to Step Up
courtesy N Orleans Times-Picayune
Jasmin rushed for 2,018 yards on 210
carries and had 33 TDs last season.
Chad Jasmin grew up near the marshes of southern Louisiana,
living at a pace that resembles the nearby Mississippi River - deliberate and unhurried.
There's plenty to do around Jasmin's hometown of Vacherie, Louisiana: baseball, basketball, fishing, church, hanging out. But no
football until high school in this town that sits at the intersection of Hwy 18 and Hwy 20, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
"Neither one of the feeder schools that come into our school play football," said St. James head coach Rick Gaille, who has done well (an 81-19 record in seven years after taking over a dismal program), considering he has to start from scratch teaching football to most of his team.
Gaille holds workouts during the summer for players that are coming out for the team. He gets an idea of what's headed his way from junior high school. That's where he first saw Jasmin.
"It didn't take long to see that he had a lot of natural talent," said Gaille. "He was pretty easily identifiable, especially in the running and the agility drills. It was obvious that he was more capable than the others."
Jasmin had spent his years until high school playing softball and baseball. He played football in the streets and got plenty of advice from his maternal grandfather.
"Basically, you know, I tried to keep him involved in sports and spend a lot of time with him, which I thought was critical," said Chad's grandfather, Charles Jasmin. All four of his grandsons will be playing college football next year when Chad makes the trip to Clemson. Chad and his grandfather spent time together and talked.
It didn't keep him from getting into trouble. But it did keep Chad from the drugs around Vacherie. He notices how most of his friends in Vacherie have been affected by drugs.
"I feel like it's better for me to get away from the
environment," said Jasmin as he looks toward June when he boards a plane with his grandfather and heads for his future at Clemson, away from Vacherie. "I just kept my head on," said Jasmin. "All those boys understand when I'm around they don't do drugs." Jasmin figures it's better just to get away from it all. Nothing against Vacherie, but he feels lucky to be getting away.
A year ago the choices were few. There was an offer from
Tulane, where four of his former teammates were playing for an energetic coach named Tommy Bowden. Chad's grandfather had sent him to the Tulane camp and the Archie Manning camp. Bowden and his staff saw him at both and stayed
quiet, except to tell Jasmin that they wanted him at Tulane.
"The things that were obvious were his skill and speed,
quickness and acceleration," said Burton Burns, who recruited Jasmin at Tulane.
What Jasmin didn't have was a lot of newspaper clippings. Jasmin played just three years of high school football due to academic problems in elementary school. When he finished the eighth grade he had just three years of eligibility.
He spent the first year as a fifth defensive back and backup fullback. He played plenty, but didn't start.
In his second year, Jasmin played in just five games after
breaking his foot. He rushed for 873 yards and 12 touchdowns in the five games. Meanwhile he was taking summer school and correspondence courses in order to finish high school in the three years.
Before his senior year, he made a verbal commitment to attend Tulane. That caught the attention of Vacherie's weekly paper, but no one else noticed. By the time his high school career was over, though, Michigan, Nebraska and LSU were begging for attention.
Jasmin rushed for 2,018 yards on 210 carries and had 33
touchdowns last season. You had to show up at the right time to see Jasmin run the ball. Most games he rushed less than ten times. He still wasn't being heavily recruited.
The film of St. James' game against rival Lutcher in
mid-October made the rounds, though. Jasmin was unstoppable. He carried his 5-10, 200-pound body
through and around the Lutcher defense. He had touchdown runs of 52, 41 and 73 yards. He caught three passes for 66 yards. He led St. James to a 34-7 win over Lutcher with 256 yards on 23 carries.
"He plays better when he knows he's going to get the ball a
bunch," said Gaille. "Lutcher is in the same parish. We're across the river from each other. We knew all along that he was going to be the focal point of the attack."
After the Lutcher game, Jasmin started piling up enough yards to catch the attention of the New Orleans media. Still, no one, including LSU, gave him any serious attention until the state quarterfinal against Breaux Bridge, which featured Domanick Davis, who was LSU's primary target as a running back. When he pulled away from Davis on his way down the field, LSU wanted to know why Jasmin hadn't sent them any film.
"Yeah, they came in at the end," said Jasmin. "LSU was trying hard to keep me in state."
Jasmin rushed for 191 yards and scored three touchdowns as St. James defeated Breaux Bridge, 40-12.
"Fox Sports Southwest asked me how fast Chad Jasmin was," said Gaille. "I said he won the district in the 100 meters, but we don't know how fast he is in the forty. We don't time our players. The one thing I do know is that if Domanick Davis is a 4.6, then Chad Jasmin is a 4.5 because he ran away from him in the game.
"There was a pause and they go, 'You think Davis is a 4.6?' I said, 'I don't know.' They said, 'Davis is a 4.3.' I said, 'I don't think there are many of them out there. But here's a kid 200 pounds running away from a kid that was recruited as a speed player.'"
Davis couldn't catch Jasmin, but LSU tried to after his
performance against Breaux Bridge.
"Chad was the one dimension that they didn't have," said
Gaille. "They didn't have a back with the power he possessed. The backs they had were smaller skatbacks."
LSU showed up on the St. James campus the same week Tommy
Bowden resigned at Tulane to move to Clemson. Bowden wanted Jasmin at Clemson.
There was no question in Jasmin's mind about what to do.
"Coach Bowden and his staff are nice people," said Chad.
"They're straight up."
St. James lost the next week in the state semi-finals. Two
months later he signed with Clemson with offers from Nebraska, Michigan and LSU on the table.
Bowden had wanted to sign one running back, but signed two -- Jasmin and Bernard Rambert from Summerville. "We had four running backs on scholarship," said Bowden. "But with Rambert and Jasmin we had two guys that we couldn't pass up."
It wasn't long before tailback Travis Zachery was in Bowden's doghouse because of some off-the-field trouble. Bowden suspended Zachery for the spring, but didn't rule out his returning in August. Then, in the spring Pat Cyrgalis went down with a broken ankle. It left just Terry Witherspoon, Javis Austin, Vince Ciurciu and Gary Johnson in the backfield. They combined for 566 yards last season and didn't impress Bowden in the spring.
"I think it's pretty obvious that we don't have a playmaker at running back," said Bowden.
Jasmin has been told to come to Clemson ready to run the ball. "He had a better idea about our offense than the guys at Clemson before the spring," said Burns.
Jasmin, as well as most of the other incoming freshmen,
came to the spring game. He and quarterback Willie Simmons, from Quincy, Florida, sat together. "I told Willie that I heard that he had the quarterback job," said Jasmin. "He said, 'You too. You too.'" Jasmin laughed.
As deliberate as his life has been up until now, Jasmin knows that the pace is about to pick up.
"I want to come in and make an impression," Jasmin said.
Tommy Hood can be reached at email@example.com