Rabalais: Repaired shoulders have Jermauria Rasco ready to go

For Jermauria Rasco, every play there was pain.

This is nothing unusual for a football player. The anomaly is to tackle or be tackled to the ground and get up with out something hurting or stinging or aching.

For Rasco, LSU’s senior defensive end, playing the game meant years of dealing a different level of discomfort.

His freshman season at Evangel Christian in Shreveport, Rasco tore the labrum in his left shoulder. His sophomore season, he tore the labrum in his right shoulder.

As joints go, the shoulder isn’t the best engineered one in the body. The shoulder socket is inherently shallow and unstable. The labrum is a cuff of cartilage which makes the shoulder socket deeper and allows for uninhibited range of movement.

Rasco’s shoulders eventually repaired themselves to a certain degree, but he was always limited in what he could do physically. Somehow he kept playing.

“It was tough, but I’ve been dealing with it since high school,” Rasco said. “I just go with the flow and try to do the best I can.”

Rasco’s best was pretty good.

After playing nine games as a true freshman in 2011, Rasco played in all 13 of LSU’s games in 2012 and started all 13 games the Tigers played last season. He piled up 56 tackles, fifth most among returning LSU players, and led the team with four sacks and eight quarterback hurries.

All with two shoulders that should have themselves been on the physically unable to perform list.

“Every tackle or every awkward position I got into was always tough, but I’d deal with it,” Rasco said. “The doctors here always said they didn’t know how I played, but I just did it for so long.”

Finally early last year it was time for Rasco to be taken out of action and put in dry dock.

Rasco missed much of spring practice in 2013 after having surgery on one shoulder. He had the other done in January, less than three weeks after the Tigers beat Iowa in the Outback Bowl, which forced him to sit out spring practice as he mended.

The possibilities for Rasco this season, with rebuilt shoulders and a senior’s savvy, are potentially mind-boggling.

“I’m ready to go and have the best year I’ve had because I’m as strong as I’ve ever been,” he said.

“It starts in the weight room. I feel a lot stronger. My body feels good. I just feel like a better player. I never went over 225 on (the) bench (press) and this summer I was able to hit it a couple of times.”

His teammates see the potential there as well.

As a center, LSU’s Elliott Porter rarely has to deal with Rasco personally in scrimmages.

But he has enough peripherial vision and football sense to know what a force Rasco — a healthy Rasco — can be out on the edge.

“Rasco is a stud,” the ever-positive Porter chirped after Wednesday morning’s practice. “Always been a stud. I don’t think he’s gotten enough credit for the great defensive end he’s been the last three years.

“He makes us (the offensive line) better.”

It’s timely indeed that Rasco’s shoulders have been rebuilt. He goes into this season having to shoulder the leadership burden for a defensive line that, like other positions such as quarterback and wide receiver, is long on talent but short on experience.

The other defensive end spot is manned by physically sculpted junior Danielle Hunter, who started the last 10 games of 2013 for LSU and had 57 tackles. But the Tigers are replacing both defensive tackle starters — Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson — with players who will need to be shepherded along.

Rasco is ready for the responsibility, and to have his best season ever.

“It went by real fast,” Rasco said. “This is my last go round. I don’t want to take it for granted.”

Every time Rasco extends his arms pain free to leverage an offensive tackle or blocking back, he’s almost certain to appreciate the difference.

Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.