It all started on opening day of his true freshman season in 2004 on the road in Bronco Stadium. Joined by fellow offensive line recruit Desmond Clark, the two would become part of a staggering group of 17 freshmen (most of them "true" freshmen) starting or making the depth chart that year for Idaho - the most active freshmen of any Division 1A team in America that season.
Thrown into the fire on Day 1, he's been an integral part of the Vandal O-line ever since.
Fennell as a true freshman in 2004 against WSU.
He was Idaho's top backup at guard and center, and made a start at each positon his freshman season. His sophomore year he moved temporarily to the defensive line - his strong-suit in high school - but by fall was back on the offensive line where his size and strength could be best utilized. As a junior he split starting duties with redshirt freshman Adam Juratovac, and the two are locked in a battle for the starting nod again this spring.
Regardless of who starts this fall, Idaho has the "luxury" of having significant depth across the line, none deeper right now than right guard. And unlike 2004, Idaho now has over three full lines, with serious starting battles at several positions. Marcis is Idaho's lone senior on the offensive line, but his leadership and experience are one of the keys to success in 2007.
Last week VV.com's Larry Johnson caught up with Marcis after practice, and the two discussed Marcis's plans for himself this season, his expectations for the team, and how things have changed over the years at Idaho. The full interview is presented below.
Fennell last fall against Utah State.
LARRY JOHNSON: As a senior and leader on this team – a player that started on the offensive line as a true freshman in 2004 – what are your expectations for yourself this fall, and what are your expectations for the team?
MARCIS FENNELL: "I expect to be the leader for the offensive line, but I also expect the offensive line to lead the team because we have a lot of experience on the offensive line in all five spots. I expect this team to go real far. We've got a lot of experience, and it all starts with the offensive line."
LJ: What have you seen improve or develop the most in your game – in your approach to the game – in your four years in Moscow? What are your biggest strengths as a lineman?
MF: "I would have to say technique. Being a defensive lineman coming out of high school, I also played a semester here [Idaho] on the D-line. It kinda helped me to play against the D- line - know what they're going to do. [This year] I also worked a lot with coach Finn on my hands, my feet. I mean, I'm not 6-6, 305, but I believe that once my technique is fine, I'll be all right. As long as my technique is all right, I believe I'll be all right."
Fennell as a true freshman in 2004 in the Dome.
MF: "Like I said earlier, we're a little smaller than we have been in the past, a lot more 6-2's than 6-6's. We pride ourselves on technique, where more in the past we just wanted to get up into the defense. We just wanted to put people on their backs. But now we want to take care of each other on the line as far as have we covered the gaps, so we always have a backup every play. We're more technique, 'in the books' now."
LJ: Across the line of scrimmage from you, can you describe the play of the defensive line? Is the D-Line better this year compared to last year?
MF: "Yeah. I mean, we're improving every year. We got a couple of new schemes this year that the D line also has to know. Offense is just like defense. You have to learn new styles, new techniques. They are also more "in the books." They also have more schemes. We're not just a 4-3 team, we're a 3-4 team now. They've lost a lot of weight as far as what the coaches expected. They wanted more in the 270-280 size compared to 300, but I can see they're improving just like we're improving. They might be a little ahead of the offense right now, but that's how football is. The defense always is farther than the offense."
LJ: Well, that's typical at this stage in camp.
LJ: How does the new offense under Coach Axman compare to last year's offensive attack? Do you like the new schemes?
MF: "I actually do. It's a lot more fun. A lot more throw the ball, let us [linemen] run around...kinda have fun. More like a Madden game [laughing]. There are a lot of screens, a lot of little dinks here, little dinks there, but we also still run the zone and still get after it, and we still count the defense. A lot more variety to the offense than there was last year."
LJ: Describe your new o-line coach Dan Finn? How does he compare to the OL coaches you've had in the past?
MF: "Young. As far as I can say, young. It's not a bad thing, you know. It could be a good thing. [This is the] first week with him. Like him so far. He is real enthusiastic about what we do. He can get in and do a drill with us. As far as the coaches in the past, we had a little older coaches in the past. They couldn't necessarily get in and do it for us and show us how to do it, but as far as coach Finn he can also do it for us, and he knows what we're going through off the field. I'll come in and have a bad practice, getting down. He can say, `What's wrong? How's the class?' He knows what's going on in my outside life other than football; so I kinda like that because he's fresh out of college."
LJ: You've seen a lot of coaches here, obviously. Everybody knows that. That's common knowledge. But what was it like the first time you met coach Akey?
MF: "I actually knew coach Akey before he came here. He recruited me out of high school at Washington State. The first thing I did, the first thing when he saw me was, he shook my hand and gave me a hug, and he said, `We're going to make this better.' From then on I believed him, and I'm just going to stick to his side. I have talked to him weekly. I want to be best buds with him. I want to help him make this program a lot better than what it is right now."
LJ: OK, what's your favorite music?
MF: "Actually my favorite is rap, but I listen to everything. I'm a California boy; so I've never really listened to country before. But since I've been here it's a lot different. [laughing] But I like anything. My favorite is a little rap, just something to bob my head to."
LJ: Thank you very much!
MF: "Thank you."
Desmond Clark (73) and Marcis Fennell (51) in 2005 against Nevada.