Waiting your turn is customary at college football’s elite programs.
Teams, like LSU, who routinely compete for championships don’t often provide young talent a quick and painless route to the starting lineup. Those slots are generally occupied by older, more experienced players who earned the same recognition in high school-- just years earlier.
Enter Jermauria Rasco.
The sophomore defensive end earned five stars by many recruiting services as a standout at Evangel Christian Academy, one of the premiere football programs in Louisiana. Two years later, he’s still looking up on the depth chart at future NFL players in Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery and Lavar Edwards.
There are two ways to approach the situation Rasco is in. One, become discouraged and disinterested due to lack of playing time. Two, take full advantage of the opportunity to watch and learn from players performing at such a high level.
Rasco, to his credit, has chosen the latter.
“Ever since I came (to LSU), those guys have been wiling to help me,” Rasco said. “I’ve learned so much from those guys. I’m glad that KeKe (Mingo) and Sam decided to come back this year. I’m trying to suck in as much information from those guys as I can.”
But it appears that sentiment is mutually shared.
Mingo gushed about Rasco during LSU’s open week.
“It’s crazy how much (Rasco) has gotten better,” Mingo said. “He came in ready to play at this level. He’s probably the most fundamentally sound guy that came in. They taught him a lot at Evangel.”
Mingo, a high school track star turned linebacker had to learn the defensive end position when he arrived at LSU. Now, he’s projected as a 1st round draft choice in the upcoming NFL Draft if he elects to forgo his senior season.
Because of the winding road to his newfound position, Mingo can appreciate a technically sound player at that position. By all accounts Rasco is that player.
So how good can Rasco be?
“He’s going to be a dominant player,” Mingo said. “You can see it on the plays he makes when me, Sam and Lavar are out. He’s a physical, tough player. I always tell him, I love the way he plays.”
As Mingo said, Rasco doesn’t spend all of his time on the sideline. He saw action in nine games a season ago and has played in all eight this year.
Even with the overload of talent in front of him, Rasco managed to earn snaps as a freshman. He made the most of them, notching a pair of sacks. His first came against Auburn, and the second came in the SEC Championship Game when he beat future 2nd round NFL Draft selection Cordy Glenn and sacked Bulldog signal caller Aaron Murray.
This season, Rasco feels his play is rapidly improving. Always an elite pass rusher who has even spent time of the kickoff coverage unit, Rasco is working to make his game more complete.
“I’ve gotten bigger and stronger,” Rasco said. “I can play the run now much better than I could last year.”
Though he’s only made five tackles this season, three of those came behind the line of scrimmage against the run game.
Maybe his most impactful play came against South Carolina when he slammed Gamecock trigger man Connor Shaw to the Tiger Stadium turf on a first down play late in the first half. South Carolina had driven into Tiger territory, threatening to extend what was a 7-3 lead.
Rasco’s takedown of Shaw forced an incompletion and ignited the rabid Tiger Stadium crowd.
“I thought it was a sack,” Rasco said. “But at the same time, I feel like that big hit kind of shook him up a little bit. I think it helped out the defense. That’s my job, being a role player.”
It’s a role Rasco has embraced, but one that figured to multiply in importance in 2013 assuming the top three Tiger defensive ends move on to the NFL.