A Look Into the Trenches

The 2011 Marshall Thundering Herd Defense experience a season of ups and downs. The unit never could quite put on a stretch of play that was consistent enough to maintain a winning streak. Well, at least not for the first nine games of the season. When it counted though, they pulled together enough to gut out three straight wins.

The first two wins were CUSA games, one on the road, and one at home. The final game at home called for a stand in Overtime in order to become bowl eligible. The game ended when Darryl Roberts intercepted the final pass of the game to seal a .500 season. Marshall, however, will lose arguably one of their best defensive players in school history in second round draft pick, Vinny Curry. Replacing Curry's actually position at defensive end may not be a necessity, but replacing his game changing ability will.

Getting started, I will take an immediate look at the defensive end position vacated by Vinny Curry. Most Marshall fans expected Trevor Black to step in and take this spot. Black played great, and nearly beat Louisville in the fourth quarter last season by himself with three dominating plays in a row. Black, however, is no longer with the program, so he will be replaced as well. Head Coach Doc Holliday has said multiple times that junior to be, Jeremiah Taylor has the ability to be an NFL player. He will need to step up this season as he is expected to take over for Curry. Playing opposite Taylor is still up in the air. Former Walk on, Alex Bazzie manned the spot this past spring, and sophomore to be Rashadwe Myers came on strong at the end of camp.

The Wild card at this spot could and should be freshman Armonze Daniel. Daniel was a highly rated linebacker from the 2011 class who was redshirted. He is built like a rush defensive end. His younger brother, Elijah Daniel, is one of the highest rated defensive recruits in the country this upcoming season. Marshall has offered the younger Daniel, and would possibly love to see Daniel bookends in the 2013 season. That is a story for another day. For now though, rumors abound that Daniel could get a shot to move to that position.

Others who could step in and play are freshman Joe Massaquoi, Stefone Grace and Marcus Gilchrist. Gilchrist will most likely redshirt. Here is my look at the depth chart:

Defensive End:
1. Jeremiah Taylor and Rashadwe Myers 2. Alex Bazzie and Armonze Daniel 3. Stefone Grace/Marcus Gilchrist and Joe Massaquoi

Defensive Tackle should be a position of immense strength and depth for the Herd in 2012. Marshall lost two big defensive tackles in Delvin Johnson and Brandon Bullock but returns a lot of talent. Marques Aiken started last season and played through multiple injuries to become a force. Brandon Sparrow will be returning for his junior season. Ken Smith, a JUCO transfer who reported to school in December to practice this spring, showed the ability to step in and start right away. Blake Brooks, a transfer is extremely strong, and although once thought to be a walk on spot filler will play this season.

However, the two big names this year should be Steve Dillon and Jarquez Samuel. Samuel and Dillon both practiced for a couple weeks last August before being ruled ineligible due to academics. Samuel is a large, and highly recruited defensive tackle from Georgia, he should step in and battle for a starting spot. He was not able to participate this spring. Dillon is a different story. Dillon originally signed with USC. He was thought highly enough of that USC actually used one of its only 15 scholarships (due to probation) on him. He was unable to enroll and thus came to Marshall. Dillon is a difference maker who could step in and be this seasons defensive line version of Vinny Curry. Here is my take on what I think the depth chart will be when the season begins:

1. Steve Dillon and Marques Aiken 2. Ken Smith and Jarquez Samuel 3. Brandon Sparrow and Blake Brooks

It would not surprise me to see a player like Aiken or Samuel move outside and play defensive end, especially if the move of Daniel to DE does not come to fruition. One other name along the defensive front who has started and played many important games for the Herd is James Rouse. Rouse suffered yet another injury this past spring. I have left him off, for now.

The front 4 should be a strong point of the Herd Defense. As you can see from above, there is a lot of returning talent, and a huge influx of young, highly recruited talent that should really strengthen things up on the front line. I expect huge years from Steve Dillon and Marques Aiken. I don't know anything from anyone, but I would think with the size Aiken has, he could be one that could move outside to make room for the remaining DT talent and to provide experience outside. Aiken's size and long arms would make him a force coming off the end.

Also, with the recent news of former Clemson commit, Josh Brown, things above could change. I am not sure whether or not he would be someone who would be eligible to play this season, but he is a big kid who will certainly play at defensive tackle. The improvement at the tackle area, combined with the depth issues at end, could see a move for someone like Jarquez Samuel as well.

One thing is for sure, four solid football players will start, and four more will back them up and get a lot of playing time.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com for the Linebacker and Defensive Back breakdown.

Herd Haven Top Stories