2015 Thundering Herd Offense Set to Explode
Spring practice continues to roll on in Huntington, as the Marshall Thundering Herd prepare for what could be a very good season that is the beginning of a good run through Conference USA. Marshall is coming off of a one loss, CUSA championship season with a Boca Raton Bowl win at the end. The Herd has run up 23 wins in the past two years, and looks to add more for Head Coach Doc Holliday.
Spring has sprung for the Herd, and changes have been made to an already potent offense. Although replacing quarterback Rakeem Cato will be the biggest task, replacing record setting slot receiver Tommy Shuler will be tough as well. Holliday has made sure he nails this down as two of his most talented receivers will be at that position which should allow the Herd some more versatility.
Hyleck Foster expected to be the slam dunk replacement for Shuler. That will most likely be the case, but standout outside receiver Angelo Jean Louis has been moved there and has stayed there for the past week. Jean Louis brings something to the position that Marshall fans have not seen in quite some time. A combination of size and quality.
This got me thinking, what team does the 2015 Thundering Herd offense remind me of the most.
The last time Marshall had the ability to line up three taller wide receivers, a high quality pass producing tight end and multiple running backs was back in 2002. The same could be said for the Marshall team in 2001. Both teams, let by one of the best quarterbacks in school history, Byron Leftwich, were one of the highest scoring teams in the nation.
The wide receiver positions both years were held by Darius Watts, Josh Davis and Denero Marriott. All three wide outs were over 6 feet tall, and could run. In 2002, Marriott led the team in catches with 86, for 993 yards and 8 touchdowns. Josh Davis hauled in 75 catches for 1,191 yards and five touchdowns. Watts ended the year with 71 catches for 1,030 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The previous year saw much of the same. Watts led the team with 91 catches, for 1,417 yards and 18 touchdowns. Davis caught 79 balls for 961 yards and 5 touchdowns. Marriot had 56 catches for 800 yards, and nine touchdowns.
This year, those three wide out positions should be manned by Davonte Allen, Deontay McManus and either Angelo Jean Louis or Hyleck Foster. The Herd will also have the ability to spread out all four wide receivers.
The 2001 Thundering Herd had Greg Kellett at tight end. Kellett caught 25 balls. The 2002 season saw Georgia transfer Jason Rader pull in 30 catches for 320 yards. The 2015 season will see Ryan Yurachek take over for Eric Frohnapfel.
The main difference in the two teams will most likely be the big drop off from the top three wide receivers to the next group. Wide receiver Coach Mike Furrey has said that he wants to see multiple wide receivers end the year with over 50 catches. In 2001, only two wide receivers outside of the top three, had 8 catches or more. Curtis Jones had 25 and Chris Martin had 8 off the bench in mop up duty late in games. Similar circumstance in 2002 when Jones and Demetrius Doss had a few more catches than the mop up guys.
The 2015 Thundering Herd should see production more spread out. Hyleck Foster and Jean Louis should split the reps at the inside receiver position. On the outside, wide outs Emanuel Beal and Justin Hunt are vying for playing time. Both wide outs have had solid spring camps. Hunt has shown that he can do it, as he played and caught a touchdown pass as a true freshman. Kenneth Rawls and Raylen Elzy are two tall wide outs who will be competing for time. Rawls sat out the 2014 season as an academic non qualifier, and Elzy arrived on campus in January as a mid year enrollee.
Marshall returns a triple headed monster at the running back position in Devon Johnson, Steward Butler and Remi Watson. All three running backs have put up huge numbers in their careers with Johnson having one of the best seasons in school history last year. The 2001 and 2002 seasons saw Butchie Wallace and Brandon Carey lead the team in rushing each year. Wallace rushed for 796 and 614 yards, while Carey had 289 and 659 yards.
There is still a long way to go before Purdue heads into the Joan for a Labor Day weekend contest to kickoff the 2015 season. Marshall has just five more spring practices before they break for the long off season.
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