Notes From Spring Football Practice

Marshall football had sunny skies and a steady wind for to workout in this week, but it also had some spirited play and a glimpse into what is unfolding three quarters into spring practice 2003. Here are some candid observations from Marshall football practice this week...

Running with the Ones...
Running on first team defense yesterday where DEs Jamus Martin and Jonathan Goddard; DTs Reggie Hayes and Paul Sinclair; LBs Charlie Tynes, JT Rembert,Kevin Atkins and Gladstone Coke and in the secondary Willie Smith, Roberto Terrell and Moriah Anderson.

Running first team offense was TE Jason Rader, OTs Josh Blakey and Nate Griffin; OGs Dewayne Robinson and Luke Salmons; C Joey Stepp; QB Stan Hill; RB Butchie Wallace; WRs Darius Watts, Josh Davis, Jason Schroeder.

Random thoughts...
WR Tremel Guillory is a Troy Brown clone. Besides being the same size and body shape as Brown, Guillory also wears #80 and is very tough on the underneath crossing pattern, something that Troy made his name with at MU. Guillory will also help the Marshall return game, as he seems to have really good hands at kickoff and punt returns. On Friday, Guillory made several crossing catches as a 'check-off' from QB Graham Gochneaur. Guillory could press for a starting position by fall...
Speaking of special teams coverage and returns, it seems the Herd is holding open tryouts for kickoff and punt returners. Taking turns this week in the return game were Franklin Wallace, James Johnson, Chris Royal, Tremel Guillory, Wilbur Hargrove, Roberto Terrell and Jimmy Tyson.
On the kickoff return team that saw plenty of practice time were (in order left to right) Lonnie McCowan, Joe Deifel, Dennis Thornton, Jason Rader, and Curtis Keyes. Second and third row included Charlie Tynes, Jason Schroeder, then Marcus Hairston and Jeff Mullins...

Finding a punter will be a main focus between now and fall. The status of Klint Rose is unknown. Rose -who was having a good spring punting, with a leg that was as strong as Curtis Head's but not as accurate- has put the coaching staff in a quandary.
Late in the week, Ben Lewis handled some punts, but it was obvious his leg is not as strong as Rose's and his punt does not turn over like Head's and Rose's do. QB Graham Gochneaur took a few tries at punting and actually did pretty well for someone who has not done it for a while. If Rose does not come back, this could be an Achilles heel for MU in an area that for years has always been a strong point...

It appears that Jimmy Skinner has a slight lead over Adam Black for the number three QB position. Skinner made some good throws in the controlled 'scrimmage' and 'skelly' drills. He throws a nice ball, he just needs to put on some muscle. Adam Black throws a nice ball as well, but sometimes 'locks' on his receiver too early...

New defensive backs coach George Darlington got a couple doses of what kind of firepower the Herd possesses at WR. Twice Darius Watts got behind coverage for long (would have been TDs) catches. The second time was against a zone coverage, and Darlington yelled, "That should never happen in that (zone) coverage." Now, I guess coach Darlington knows how the rest of the MAC defensive coaches feel...

In the passing 'skelly' drills, (where it is receivers versus defensive backs and linebackers, no line) the Herd was especially proficient at hitting the open receiver. Only Graham Gochneaur threw an interception, picked off by Dennis Thornton. In the drills Guillory, Watts and Schroeder stood out...

The quarterbacking in Friday's practice was up and down. The defense appears ahead of the offense at this time. Stan Hill continues to show a great amount of poise in the pocket and adds that running dimension MU hasn't had since Mike Payton. I thought Graham Gochneaur had a good practice and has added a good ball fake to his skills. Gochneaur seems to really like throwing to Guillory...

The defense -like I said earlier- seems to ahead of the offense at this point, and one of the strengths of this defense will be its flexibility. As we saw in the GMAC Bowl, Jamus Martin dropping back into a MLB position, and because of his pure athletic ability can either rush or cover passes from that spot. Speaking of flexibility, several players are able to line up in different positions, according to the call. Paul Sinclair, for example, can line up at DT or DE. Charlie Tynes as we have seen can play LB or S. Dennis Thornton and Fernando Durden all have the athletic ability to play multiple positions.
Mark my word...Thornton will be a stud before it is all over with. The linebackers are, lets just say, pure studs. They all can hit and run with anyone. But what I like is the fact that they just seem nasty. They want to inflict damage and try to do it on every play.
Nathan Leslie looks bigger and is the biggest of the DTs. He should be a big contributor this year. Lonnie McCowan really brings it from the safety position on running plays, but is still feeling his way around on the pass play coverages...

Outstanding plays of the day were made by Marcus Hairston, who nailed a reverse for about a 9-yard loss during the 'controlled scrimmage'. Hairston was not fooled at all, stayed home and 'laid the wood' to the RB. The defense (which always seems to talk more) was very spirited during the running of the plays. They root for the twos and threes to shut down the offense on every play, and constantly let the offense know about it.

Hits of the day were made by LB Peyton Harris who drilled WR Nate Manns on a pass play in which Manns caught the ball and then, when he turned around, Peyton stuck him so his shoulders hit the ground first.
Later on, Gladstone Coke really drilled RB James Johnson on an attempted screen pass that was a little high and left Johnson exposed and Gladstone took the shot and nailed it.

Several players (including Luke Salmons) are wearing the new 'concussion' helmets that you saw on select college and NFL players last year. The helmet has a lower jaw line that helps against impact in the side of the head area...

Ivan Clark hurt his ankle during the practice and was on crutches the rest of the time. OL Nate McPeek and Toby Bullock did not practice. DE Maurice McKinney -who is coming off ACL rehab- did not practice.

Finally... practice wrapped up this week with some 'spirited' goal-line drills. The ones went against the ones from the three. The ones only scored 1 out of four times, that was Wilbur Hargrove getting around the end to score. With Hargrove's speed, once he gets to the end it is over. The twos scored once out of four times, this time with a different approach.
Instead of trying the end like the ones did with Wallace and Hargrove, the twos went with raw power and went with Tank Tunstalle on consecutive plays between the tackles. First play was for two yards and brought a nice collision, the second was for the TD and Tank ran over the defender. Tank really brings it in these short yardage situations, a look we haven't seen in a awhile...

Well, that is it for this week's report. Hope to see everyone in South Charleston next week for the Marshall football practice at Oakes Field on Saturday.


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