14 Players to Watch This Spring
Practice begins 14 days from today. Herdhaven is going to spend today looking at the 14 players that most Marshall fans should be the most interested in over the next month and a half. Marshall is coming off of a 13 – 1 season which ended with a top 25 national ranking. Only a late season one point, overtime loss to Western Kentucky prevented the Herd from finishing the perfect season.
Marshall lost quarterback Rakeem Cato, wide receiver Tommy Shuler, center Chris Jasperse and linebackers Jermaine Holmes and Neville Hewitt just to name a few. Obviously, some of the players on the list below will be players who are expected to battle for a chance to replace the aforementioned graduates.
Let’s dive into the list.
14. Nate Devers – Devers was a three star center who signed with Marshall with the class of 2014. He was the highest rated recruit in the class and was once committed to Cincinnati. Devers is a center but can also play guard. Devers is the only player on the list of 14 who will play on the offensive line. The Herd returns starters Clint Van Horn, Sebastion Johansson and Michael Selby. Marshall also returns two other players who started at some point in 2014, Cody Collins and A.J. Addison.
The development of Devers will be very interesting in how the front line takes form. Most assume that Michael Selby, a leader this past season with his play and his ability to battle multiple injuries, will move over and take over for his buddy Jasperse at center. If that is the case, then the guard spot could be taken by Cody Collins who played well at times late last season when stepping in for the injured Selby. Devers could be the one that causes change here. If Devers can come in and play very well at center, then Selby could stay at guard, with Devers at Center.
13. Damien Dozier – Dozier is on the list primarily because he is a mid year enrollee from high school and a former Virginia Tech commit. Dozier is a 6’3.5”, 213 pound outside linebacker/defensive end. With the injury last season to Evan McKelvey, the outside linebacker position could be a position of need. In addition, Marshall also lost two starting defensive ends in Arnold Blackmon and RaShawde Myers to graduation. Dozier should be in a position to battle for playing time at one of the two spots.
12. Chase Litton – Litton, a big quarterback, would normally be a little higher on this list, but some recent comments from Coach Doc Holliday indicate that he is hoping to not have to play a freshman quarterback. Still the 6’5”, 200 pound gun slinger is going to be fun to watch. He has taken to Huntington already and made an impact as a leader on and off of the field. Watching Litton develop with returning quarterbacks Gunnar Holcombe, Cole Garvin and Michael Birdsong should be very interesting.
11. Marquis Couch – Couch is a 6’0”, 200 pound outside linebacker from Miami Central High School. The same Miami Central High School that produced recent Marshall legends Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler. Couch was the first commitment to the class of 2015 when he committed last February. Couch is also an early enrollee who is on campus and ready to practice this spring.
10. Raylen Elzy – Elzy is a 6’4”, 200 pound tall, fast, outside wide receiver who like the players above, also was able to enrollee early and started school in January. In doing that, Elzy, will also be able to participate in spring practice. Marshall returns the bulk of their wide receiver production in Deontay McManus, Devonte Allen and Angelo Jean Louis, but there is still a chanze Elzy, with his size, could find a niche within the Herd’s high powered offense.
9. Blake Keller – Keller is a transfer from UCF. Keller played a little as a true freshman before transferring to the Herd last season. He had to set out last year but was able to practice. He will be on the field this year and will be worth watching as the Herd looks to try and replace Blackmon and Myers at the defensive end position. Keller has a high motor, but is a little smaller than last year’s ends.
8. Emanuel Byrd – Byrd is a junior college transfer from Georgia Military. Byrd is a 6’3”, 220 pound tight end. His importance nearly put him higher on the list due to the few number of tight ends on the roster, however, the late season emergence of Ryan Yuracheck provides the position with a little bit of stability. However, after Yuracheck, the only scholarship tight end is Kaleb Harris. Harris was a three star linebacker recruit from the class of 2014. Byrd, with two years of eligibility remaining, should step right into the mix. The fact he graduated early and enrolleed in January doesn’t hurt either. Keep an eye on this athletic playmaker to see if he breaks into the two deep before camp breaks in late April.
7. Jason Smith – Smith is a 6’6”, 265 pound defensive lineman from East Coast Prep. He signed with Marshall last January and entered school at that time. He was academically ineligible, and had to set out for two semesters. He will be eligible to participate in spring practice this year and should make a push for playing time. He will most likely play on the interior behind returning players Steve Dillon, Jarquez Samuel, Tomell One and Ricardo Williams.
6. Malik Thompson – Thompson enrolleed last year at the same time as Smith. Thompson, like Smith was ineligible and had to set out two semesters. Also, like Smith, he is eligible to participate in spring practice now. When he signed, many people close to the situation talked about how Thompson could be a steal in the class. He is rumored to be up over 270 pounds at this time which should cause him to move to the inside and play tackle. He signed as a 6’6”, 250 pound defensive end from Fork Union Military Academy. Expect both Thompson and Smith to blast up the depth chart early on.
5. Kent Turene – Turene was one of the biggest name recruits to ever sign with the Herd. Turene started his career at Georgia before being deemed ineligible. He transferred to Marshall, sat out a year, then as a freshman began to move up the depth chart. He was getting a lot of late game playing time, and even some time in the overtime loss at Virginia Tech, as he was coming onto the field late in the game before a personnel change caused him to exit. Shortly after that game he was hurt and missed the rest of the year. He battled back and early on in the 2015 season finally got to practice again. While preparing for his first action of the year prior to the UAB game, he got hurt again, and would miss the rest of the year. This is a very important spring for Turene as he appears ready to battle for one of the vacated middle linebacker spots.
4. Shawn Petty – Petty is a middle linebacker transfer from Maryland. He transferred last season but had to set out the year. He practiced this past season and many people said late in the year he was one of the best linebackers on the field. Keep in mind one of the middle linebackers, Hewitt, won the CUSA defensive player of the year award, and Petty was rumored to be as good. Petty will battle for a starting spot beginning this spring.
3. Antavis Rowe – Rowe and the player listed at number two could be interchangeable as they are both important for the exact same reason, someone has to replace Darryl Roberts. Roberts was an all conference corner for the Herd who was a leader in the defensive back field. With Roberts graduating, the true sophomore, Rowe, who played a lot last year at the nickel position, could be in the mix to replace Roberts.
2. Keith Baxter – Baxter, like Turene, has battled multiple injuries throughout his career. Holliday played Baxter as a true freshman early in the year at Ohio. Holliday loved his speed and his size at the corner position but he couldn’t stay on the field. Baxter did play quite a bit last year but struggled at times in coverage. Baxter and/or Rowe need to step up and take over for the departure of Roberts to play corner opposite returning starter Cory Tindal.
1. Michael Birdsong – Birdsong is a transfer quarterback from James Madison University. Birdsong committed to the Herd last year following the Green and White game. He came to school over the summer, and has since became a leader on and off the field, which is something Holliday likes to see. Birdsong is 6’5”, 239 pounds. Birdsong expects to battle Holcombe, Garvin and Litton for the coveted starting quarterback position at a school that has produced Rakeem Cato, Byron Leftwich, Chad Pennington, Eric Kresser and Michael Payton.
These fourteen and the rest of their teammates will take the field in just fourteen days in preparation for the defense of their Conference USA championship.
Stay tuned to Herdhaven for further updates, practice reports and recruiting information.
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