Coach's stature bigger than size
HUNTINGTON -- Marshall offensive lineman Garrett Scott got down in his stance for a drill during Thursday's practice and there staring him in the eye was his position coach Alex Mirabal.
No, Mirabal wasn't lined up against Scott. He was standing there going over instructions.
That's because the 6-5 Scott is nearly a foot taller than his new position coach, who came from Florida International.
Standing at around 5-6, Mirabal doesn't exactly look the part of what society considers an offensive line coach.
That doesn't mean he hasn't earned his team's respect quickly, though.
"With him, since he's so much smaller than us, you have to get down to his level, so we're going to have good knees on the offensive line," Scott joked. "I'm just happy he's here because we've learned so much since he's been around."
Mirabal, who is in very good shape, may look more like a cross-country runner than an offensive line coach, but Scott, his teammates on the offensive line and those who follow the Herd will be interested to learn that he isn't just a teacher of the position.
He once played it, too.
"I was heavier back then -- not bigger, I am what I am -- but it's always been a passion of mine," Mirabal said. "I played it at Christopher Columbus when I went to high school there and then I had a very good offensive line coach who was a teacher. He and our head high school coach were my mentors."
At a position like offensive line, it might be thought that Mirabal's lack of "looking the part" may hurt his credibility -- especially with a veteran corps returning to the offensive line for Marshall.
The players dispelled those rumors quickly, led by center Chris Jasperse.
"When you look him in the eyes, you take him serious," Jasperse said. "He's not playing around. He's not scared of us one bit. It's a respect, definitely. He and (Marshall offensive coordinator) coach (Bill) Legg have some of the same beliefs, but not everything."
Jasperse joked that in looking at film from practice, it's sometimes comical to see Mirabal chasing after the offensive linemen and getting in their ears during drills.
However, both Jasperse and Scott were quick to point out that there's no questioning his passion for or knowledge of the offensive line position.
"He knows what he's talking about and more importantly, he knows what we need to do to help us win," Scott said. "Everything that I don't know, he knows so I'm going to listen to him as he breaks down the game for us."
Mirabal's presence -- and even his stature, to an extent -- signals a change from the different philosophy that most associate with the offensive line position.
The former Florida International offensive line coach explained his philosophies a bit more in depth.
"Our founding principle on the offensive line here is five guys, one mind," Mirabal said. "Those five guys have to act as one person so communication is huge for us. We all have to be on the same page."
Mirabal said the transition is not going to be as difficult as many might think from former offensive line coach Geep Wade to him because the scheme is the same as when Mirabal worked with Legg at Florida International a few years back.
"This offense was tremendous last year," Mirabal said. "It was ranked sixth in the country, so it's not like I'm going to come in here and revamp and change a lot."
Mirabal called Jasperse the "intel" of the offense and said his expertise at center will be leaned on heavily.
"With one word, he puts them all on the same page," Mirabal said. "We're either going to all be right together or wrong together, but no matter we do, we're doing it together."
There are three aspects to being an offensive lineman that Mirabal is looking for and he listed them in order.
"Communication, technique, and physicalness, in that particular order," Mirabal said. "If you can communicate and you have the proper technique, you can succeed. I'm not going to teach them to be tough. If they weren't tough, they wouldn't be out here.
"That's what I love about the offensive line. It's not brute (strength) -- if it was, anyone could do it. It's the chess match of it. It's really a game within a game up front between the O-lines and D-lines."
As the Herd gets set for its third practice session of spring on Friday, the team transitions into shoulder pads.
Mirabal will undoubtedly be his normal fiery self during the practice, critiquing his linemen and teaching them the proper way.
And when one lineman gets down in a stance and is still looking their position coach in the eye, a joke might ensue from the humorous group of athletes before him.
"We joke about it and mess with him every now and then," Scott said. "But he's just coach Mirabal. You can't go wrong with him. He's such a good guy."
The jokes are just fine with Mirabal -- as long as his team continues to grow this spring.
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