Herd Linebackers: Then and Now

Linebacker is a position of importance on every defense across the country regardless of whether it is an NFL team or the local youth team full of eight year olds. For the most part, the team’s best tackler is located at that position, and they are expected to make plays across the field. Marshall lost two of its best ever last year due to graduation, Jermaine Holmes and Neville Hewitt.

Hewitt ended his two year career after coming to the Herd via the Junior College route by winning the CUSA defensive player of the year. After a relatively successful junior season, Hewitt hit the scene hard and early last year and never looked back. His assertion into the starting lineup meant that someone was going to have to make their way down to the two spot on the depth chart. That person was Stefan Houston, who later dropped to number three due to the late surge of freshman Raheim Huskey.

Marshall returns just four linebackers from last season who actually got to play, and one of those was lost early in game five to a season ending knee injury.

Over the past three decades the Herd has been a program, like most, who have had linebackers who are names most common Herd fans remember. Marshall has had stalwarts such as William King, Shannon King, Larry McCloud, Max Yates, John Grace, Jermaine Swafford, Donahue Stephensen, John Spellacy, Mario Harvey and Andre O’Neal who played and starred the second they arrived on campus.

There were more linebackers over the past years that also helped to step up and anchor defenses at Marshall. Maurice Kitchens had a few good years, including a big play at home to beat a heavily favored Houston team. Charlie Tynes made big plays at both linebacker and safety in his career, one play came late in an upset win over the 6th ranked Kansas State Wildcats when he knocked Darren Sproles out of bounds late in the game to prevent a touchdown. The Herd would hold and win the game.

Kevin Atkins, Dennis Thornton, Albert Barber, and Duran Smith were linebackers who at some point in their careers figured the game out and made big play after big play. Thornton was another player who started his career as a safety before moving to linebacker.

Then there were two of the Herd fan’s favorites. The late J.T. Rembert and Vince Parker. Parker, who passed away most recently, was an excellent player and an equally as good a person off of the field. First hand experiences with Parker showed why he was such a leader and a man who his teammates looked up to and followed. Rembert was the same way. Rembert came to Marshall and played early and often. He was a regular for four years on the defense, and then became a regular around the city of Huntington. Very few regulars of Huntington had not had some type of excellent encounter with the former linebacker. Whether he was working around town, tailgating on the lot with former players, or even joining up one weekday afternoon for a game of flag football with fans at Ritter Park before a weekday game with Southern Miss. Both players were excellent linebackers, and very memorable Sons of Marshall.

What was your favorite play that you remember these linebackers doing?

Larry McCloud slamming Rufus French in the Motor City Bowl. Larry McCloud tackling a Toledo player in the snow in the MACC. Duran Smith returning a tipped pass for a TD against Toledo in the MACC in 2002. William King returning and watching the final minutes of the 1992 National Championship game in his sweat suit on the bench after rushing back from the hospital.

Talk about your favorite linebacker play here, but don’t forget to come back and read the breakdown below of the linebackers on the 2015 Thundering Herd. Top Linebacker Plays

Back to the group of young men who will be wearing the green and white this season. As was mentioned earlier Stefan Houston was the young man who suffered the most on the depth chart with the emergence of Hewitt and Huskey. Two seasons ago as a true freshman, Houston played in nine games. He had 41 tackles, and 5.5 tackles for loss. Most assumed he would continue his emergence last season. That did not happen. Houston played in just 5 games, and had 16 tackles, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble. As spring practice began, however, Houston was right in the middle beside Shawn Petty with the starting linebackers.

D.J. Hunter returns for the Herd as well. Hunter, another linebacker who came to college as a safety, was a former Tennessee commitment. Hunter, the first ever, “mystery recruit,” to be covered by most Marshall message boards, came to Marshall and has played every year except his redshirt season. Last year he was fourth on the team in total tackles with 80. He also had 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks for the year.

Marshall also will be set to return senior leader, Evan McKelvey. McKelvey, the younger brother of Baltimore Raven, and former Marshall star Omar Brown, played only five games last year before going down with a season ending injury at Old Dominion. The team looked up to him so much that someone wore his number in every game of the rest of the season, well, except for one. The only game no one wore the number was a late season contest against a school from Bowling Green, Kentucky. McKelvey, ended the year with 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks. McKelvey is limited in action this spring but should be back and ready for the 2015 season.

The only other scholarship linebacker on the roster for the 2014 season was Maryland Transfer Shawn Petty. Petty had to set out the year after transferring to the Herd. The 6’1”, 251 pound Petty seems to have entrenched himself in as possibly the next great Herd middle linebacker. He won the scout team defensive player of the year award, and word has it, he wreaked havoc on the first team offensive unit throughout the season in practice.

Marshall received national letters of intent from four linebackers in the class of 2015.

Three star linebacker, Marquis Couch, from Miami Central High School signed with the Herd and enrolled on campus in January. Couch, an alumnus of the High School which produced both Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler, has been involved in spring practice.

Two star linebacker Doyle Grimes committed to Marshall after having committed to Syracuse. Late in the recruiting game the tackling machine took another visit to Syracuse and liked it so well that he decommitted from Marshall to think about things. On signing day, Grimes ended up signing with the Herd. He will report in June and could have an impact on the depth chart.

Two star junior college transfer, Devontre’A Tyler is coming to Marshall from Iowa Central. Tyler is the cousin of another Marshall linebacker Ty Tyler. Ty Tyler, a three star high school linebacker should be reporting go campus this summer along with his cousin, Tre (Devontre’A) Tyler.

Check out Herdhaven’s interview with Tre Tyler here.

Tre Tyler

Marshall, even low in numbers, should have plenty of talent at the linebacking position for the 2015 season. They will however, have to find a way to replace seniors DJ Hunter and Evan McKelvey following this year and heading into the 2016 year. One should expect the recruiting class of 2016 to have multiple linebackers and possibly another junior college transfer.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven for further updates.

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