It is an eternal and unavoidable dimension of collegiate athletics -- perhaps not within the context of single seasons, but certainly within the prism of extended coaching careers: Ideal rosters don't last.
Decorated senior classes, bands of brothers who climbed the mountainside over a period of a few years, must eventually part company with the coaches who molded them into first-rate performers. At some point, every college coach with any degree of longevity in the business must face the reality of turnover. One class goes out, and the next wave of players gets its turn to experience the thrill and the pressure of starting on the gridiron (or the hardwood, or the field) for the first time.
Ivin Jasper has lived the dream at Navy, the program where he's served since the start of the Paul Johnson era. Jasper has made a home in Annapolis, and he's never felt like leaving -- not long enough to accept another offer from another program, at any rate. Jasper's lengthy stay has inevitably brought him in touch with the difficulties of tutoring new quarterbacks, slotbacks, and fullbacks, but over the past four years, Navy's offensive coordinator received one of the greatest gifts any coach can claim: He was given a generationally great talent and leader at quarterback.
Jasper has seen plenty of superb quarterbacks at Navy, men who made more than their fair share of important, game-changing plays for the Midshipmen under two separate head coaches. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. Lamar Owens. Ricky Dobbs. Navy cranked out wins one season after another, thanks to a succession of quarterbacks who all became proficient enough to give life and dimension to the triple-option offense.
Yet, as distinguished as those three quarterbacks (and others) were for the program, Keenan Reynolds became the supreme Navy quarterback of this century and this golden era in the life of the program. No Navy quarterback had captured the imagination of fans at such a great height since Roger the Dodger. No quarterback led Navy as close to the national pinnacle in college football since Mr. Staubach. No Annapolis player made as strong a run at the John W. Heisman Memorial Trophy since Napoleon McCallum in 1983 (sixth place).
No quarterback in Navy football history had ever done what Keenan Reynolds did last year: The lauded senior led the Midshipmen to 11 wins for the first time in school history. He won four Army-Navy Games as the starting quarterback -- no man had ever reached such a dizzying elevation.
Ivin Jasper certainly got the most out of Keenan Reynolds, but in the reciprocal relationship of coordinator and quarterback, the player's skill often simplifies the task of the play caller. Jasper enjoyed a great deal of security over the past four seasons, especially the last two. Molding Reynolds and staying patient with him in the face of injuries made the first two seasons more of an adventure, but in the bigger picture, Jasper still knew he had someone special the whole way.
Alas, that kind of career -- that kind of on-field relationship -- can't last for eight years or a decade or 15 years in college sports. Jasper must move on this season, to an offense in which only one starter returns. The offensive line must be replaced in full. Tago Smith takes on the awesome responsibility of replacing Reynolds at quarterback.
It's not exactly a comfortable situation, but it's precisely the kind of situation which keeps coaching eternally fresh at the collegiate level. Ivin Jasper spent much of 2015 getting out of the way and allowing Keenan Reynolds to do what he does best. Now, that kind of familiarity must give way to a more interventionist form of coaching. Rather than "allow" his quarterback to let his instincts take over in many cases. Jasper must cultivate sound instincts in Smith and his teammates.
It's a reset button of sorts. It's a rebuilding of an offense after the security blanket afforded by No. 19 in recent years.
It's scary, to an extent, this remaking of Navy's offense. Yet, it's the very kind of undertaking which will allow Ivin Jasper to remind others -- and himself -- why he's been such a valuable offensive coordinator and assistant coach in Annapolis for a decade and a half.