Countdown to Kickoff: In Fast Forward

The football season is quickly approaching. Some 40 days have past since the countdown to kickoff began. This article will get you through those 40 days as we fast forward to just 53 days left before the Thundering Herd takes on Purdue to open the 2015 football season.

The Summer is flying by here in Huntington, West Virginia, as the area deals with some of its wettest weather in what seems like a lifetime. Things have been quiet on the football front, a few roster spots have been vacated due to rules violations, but for the most part, the season is just a few weeks a way from getting started, and things are pretty much as expected.

The last time Herdhaven came to you with the season countdown, we were talking about Tomell One. One is number 95, and we are now just 53 days until the Herd takes on the Purdue Boilermakers. So, we have a lot of ground to make up together today, and little space to do it in.

After Tomell One was discussed, Jarquez Samuel should have been next. Samuel will wear number 94 as usual. He is entering his senior season and will be starting in the middle of the defensive line. Samuel has been a dominating force at times, and should not disappoint this coming season. Flashing back to 1994, the Herd went 12 and 2. Marshall was led by Todd Donnan, and made it to the semifinals in a match up on the road against Boise State. The Herd lost a second half lead, fell to the Broncos, and Marshall season ticket holders had to watch Boise play Youngstown State the next weekend in Huntington at the Joan.

Steve Dillon is next. Dillon will again wear number 93. The defensive tackle who originally signed with the USC, will be finishing up his fifth year with the Herd. He will help to anchor the interior defensive line with teammate Samuel. In 1993, Marshall again made it back to the Division 1-AA National Championship game. Marshall would take on Youngstown State for the third consecutive season. The Herd was looking to defend its Championship at home, but the offense didn’t show up and Marshall fell to the Penguins for the second time in three seasons, this time by a score of 17 to 5.

Ricardo Williams will be wearing number 92 and also adding big time talent to the middle of the defensive line. Williams started his career at the Miami of Florida, before transferring to Marshall two seasons ago. Williams played many big possessions last year including the defensive hold to beat UAB on the road and maintain, at that time, its perfect record. 1992 was a special season. Most Marshall fans rank it up there as their favorite Marshall team of all time. That moment when “The Kick” went through the uprights, then Troy Brown showed some foreshadowing by intercepting the final play of the game, Huntington was a different place. People wandered around the field singing “We are the Champions,” together as one. The afternoon seemed to go on in slow motion.

By now, readers should be able to see this is going to be a look at this years roster, and the corresponding year based on number. Ok, on we go.

Currently no one is wearing number 91, so on to 1991 we go. First National Championship game since 1987 for the Herd. Marshall travelled to Stateboro, Georgia to take on those same Youngstown Penguins. Marshall, behind Michael Payton, lost 25 to 17.

Damien Dozier will be wearing number 90 this year. Dozier is a mid year defensive end recruit who at one point was going to Virginia Tech. Dozier enrolled in the spring, participated in spring football and looked good at defensive end. With the loss of Jerome Dews, one would expect Dozier will maintain his spot on the depth chart and most likely not redshirt. Expect to see Dozier play quite a bit early on in the year. That playing time will determine his spot in the rotation once CUSA play heats up. In 1990 Marshall had a very underachieving season. The Herd, led by Jim Donnan finished just 6 and 5 on the year in its final year in Old Fairfield Stadium.

Joe Woodrum will put on the number 89 jersey this year. The former walk on tight end expects to play some this season with Ryan Yurachek, Kaleb Harris and Emanuel Byrd. In 1989, George Chaump was finishing up his tenure with the Herd. Marshall lost two of the last three on the year to Appy State and Georgia Southern to miss the playoffs and finish with a 6 – 5 record.

Ryan Bee wears number 88 for the Herd. Can he produce better than some of the guys who have dared to put on the number of the great Randy Moss. Bee will be playing along the defensive line, most likely at end and should have a chance to move up into the rotation. The spot could be the most unsettled as you move down the depth chart as any on the team. Bee is tall, and reminds some of Paul Toviessi in regards to his wingspan and potential. 1988 was a decent season for the Herd to say the least. Many will say it was one of the best teams in school history that no one has ever heard of. The Herd, led by Sean Doctor, marched through the season losing only a late season road contest to The Citadel. Marshall then lost a home game in the second round of the playoffs to Furman, 7 – 0. Marshall had defeated Furman earlier in the year 24 to 10. This sets hard with some of our message board members here at Herdhaven.

Currently the roster does not have a number 87 or 86, so a quick look at the years 1987, and 1986. In 1987, the Herd made that memorable run through the season, with a win over Louisville. Then Marshall walked through James Madison, Weber State and Appalachian State to get to the National Championship Game. The Herd would fall late, but the beginning of Division 1-AA dominance had begun. 1986 was an average year for the Herd in regards to the upcoming 20, but a very good year compared to the previous 20. Marshall finished 6-4-1 for its third winning record in a row.

Ryan Yurachek burst onto the scene last year at tight end. His ability to make catches and get opened helped the coaching staff move former four star wide receiver Deontay McManus back to the outside wide receiver position. Yurachek should start this year and be a go to outlet for first year quarterback Michael Birdsong. In 1985 Marshall had the most wins it had tallied since 1965 when they racked up 7 wins against three losses and a tie.

The number 84 will be worn by wide receiver Josh Knight. Knight will be a junior this year and is looking to make an impact at the wide out position. He played a lot as a true freshman on special teams. Knight had a good spring and looked to have a connection with all three quarterbacks. 1984 is a very special season for the Herd. Marshall would have its first winning record in 20 years as Carl Fodor and company led the Herd into and out of Johnson City Tennessee with their 6th win under their belts. Marshall needed to win its last two games to get to that magical number and it did on the road.

Eric Frohnapfel wore number 83 last year, currently no one has been officially assigned that number. IN 1983, Marshall finished 4 and 7 as it continued to look for that elusive winning season.

Emmanuel Beal will be wearing the number 82, and he could perhaps be one of the biggest, strongest receivers on the team not named McManus. Beal should step in and play a lot of snaps this up coming season. The year 1982 saw the Herd go 3 and 8 and rack up yet another winning season. Little did Herd fans know, the monkey was soon to be off of the back.

1981 saw the Herd go 2 and 9 and carry on the struggles in the Southern Conference. The number 81 is interesting right now. The roster says Angelo Jean Louis, the ridiculously talented wide receiver who had a break out freshman season in 2014. He wore number 15 last year, switched to number 1, lost number 1 due to something he did during practice, or didn’t do. Couldn’t go back to number 15 because freshman wide out Raylen Elzy had it, so he was slapped with number 81. Stay tuned.

Jack Gammon, a walk on wide receiver wears number 80. He got some reps during the spring at the slot position and could play some early in the year. That play will determine his spot on the depth chart as the season progresses. Hyleck Foster, however, appears to have the slot position nailed down for now and Jean Louis was moved there this spring. Marshall finished 2 – 8 – 1 in 1980. That tie was special one as kicker Barry Childers hit a field goal to tie Western Carolina at 13. It was Marshall’s first non loss in Southern Conference play in school history.

The numbers 79 through 74 are taken by offensive lineman. 79 is redshirt freshman to be Federice Binot, 78 is redshirt senior Clint Van Horn, 77 is not being worn yet, 76 is Nate Devers and 75 is Tyler Combs, and AJ Addision wears number 74. All four of these lineman should play, especially Van Horn and Devers. Devers is in a battle at right guard with Jordan Dowrey. Binot, Addison, and Combs should be on the two deep as well. From the year 1979 to 1974 Marshall won just 12 games, with five of those wins coming in 1976. 1976 saw Marshall nearly bust through and make 1984 obsolete. The Herd started the season 5 and 3, and then lost their final three games. Two of those three were at home to Villanova and Southern Illinois, they also lost on the road to Toledo.

Joe Massaquoi wears number 73. The redshirt junior blasted onto the scene this past spring and will play a lot at defensive end this coming year. Marshall finished 1973 with four wins and seven losses.

Marshall won just 2 games in 1972 against 8 losses. The number 72 is retired by the Marshall football program in the name of NFL Hall of Famer Frank “Gunner” Gatski.

The Big Swede, Sebastian Johansson, will return and start at left guard along side center Michael Selby. Johansson has the ability to move out to tackle if the need should arise. 1971 was the year of the Young Thundering Herd. One of the greatest wins in school history took place that year when Marshall beat Xavier 15 to 13 on the final play of the game on a TD pass from Reggie Oliver to Terry Gardner.

Currently Marshall has no scholarship players on the roster wearing the number 69 or 70. Marshall finished with 6 wins against 13 losses through 1969 and 1970. The tragic story from 1970 is one that resonates throughout the school, program and the community. It was through these ashes that the Glory beginning in the late 80’s arose.

Tom Collins will put on the number 68 for the 2015 campaign. Collins will most likely play a key roll along the offensive line as he can currently play four of the five positions effectively enough to not see a drop off in production. Marshall finished winless in 1968. It was the final year before the Herd was tossed out of the Mid American Conference. It was also the second consecutive winless season. Marshall was 0 – 9 – 1 and in 1968 and 0 – 10 in 1967. The number 67 will be worn by Sandley Jean Felix in 2015. Jean Felix is currently slated to start at the left tackle position and protect the back side of new quarterback Birdsong.

The rest of the 60’s were very lean in regards to wins, although Marshall did see winning recors in 1964 at 7 – 3, and 1963 and 5 – 4- 1. The roster is also sparse on scholarship players in the 60 range, seeing only offensive lineman Cody Collins between the numbers 67 and 59. Collins played a huge roll last year late in the year subbing in place of injured right guard Michael Selby. Collins will be on the depth chart in 2015 and could play both guard positions and back up Selby at center.

Gary Thompson is the most productive returning defensive end on the team. Thompson, number 59, will be expected to start and produce at the end position. Thompson came to Marshall as a safety with electric speed, he has used that speed to become the teams best pass rusher off the end. The Herd won just 1 game in 1959 and tallied 8 losses.

Jordan Dowrey and Eric Ansley wear numbers 58 and 57 respectively. Dowrey is in a heated battle at right guard with fellow redshirt freshman Nate Devers. Both players played the same amount of reps, for the most part, during the spring. Both split reps with the first units as well. Dowrey, a high school wrestler who never lost, fits the bill of offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, strong and mean. Ansley has all the measurable, standing 6’7” and weighing over 300 pounds. The redshirt junior has had an up and down career at Marshall but appears to be making progress after a stellar spring. Marshall finished 9 and 9 from 1957 to 1958, winning 6 games in 1957, and losing 6 games in 1958.

Shawn Petty could be the most intriguing player heading into fall camp on the Marshall roster, NOT named Birdsong or Chase Litton. Petty transferred from Maryland and has two years to play middle linebacker for the Herd. Petty was the defensive scout team player of the year in his transfer year and that carried over to spring practice. Petty is slated, per the roster, to wear number 56 in this, his junior year and he should by all accounts man the middle linebacker position. He brings size back to this postion standing 6 feet tall and weighing 251 pounds. He is also very athletic, playing quarterback at Maryland as a freshman due to multiple injuries. The Thundering Herd of Marshall College finished 3 and 6 in 1956.

Aaron Plantt, a linebacker turned defensive end, turned potential defensive tackle is number 55 on your 2015 spring roster at least. Plantt has yet to play, but could step in and elevate his game and break into the depth chart over the next two seasons. As was the case a year later in 1956, Marshall won just three games in 1957 as well.

Michael Selby has worn the number 54 since his arrival in Huntington a couple years back from Georgia. Selby broke onto the scene and played a lot as a true freshman in 2013. He then started at right guard as a sophomore and will enter his junior season the pre season watch list for the Rimington Award given to the nations best center. A pretty nice honor for a player who has yet to play center at the college level. Selby will anchor a very strong Marshall offensive line in the 2015 season. Fred Freeman rushed for 606 yards, Bill Zban threw for 267 yards and hauled in 7 catches for 144 yards in 1954 as the Herd finished with 4 wins and 5 losses.

Now we are up to date. Today, July 15th, Marhsall is just 53 days from its opening game against the Purdue Boilermakers out of the Big 10. The two teams will play on a Sunday afternoon in Huntington.

Currently no scholarship player is wearing the number 53 on the Herd roster, but it has been worn in the past by some dynamic defensive end. Ralph Street wore number 53 for some time in the early 2000’s, and then most recently, Alex Bazzie. Bazzie, is in the CFL right now starting and playing very well for the BC Lions. Marshall finished with 2 wins, 5 losses, and 2 ties in 1953. The Herd opened the season with a very tough 7 to 0 road loss at Virginia Tech. Marshall was led by head coach Herb Royer. The Herd would beat Morehead State and Ohio on the year. The ties were against Wofford and Morris Harvey. Captains were John Chamara and Phil Milano. Marshall was led by quarterback Chamara who completed 46 of his 110 passes for 705 yards, 6 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The leading receiver was the great Jim Swierczak who hauled in 27 passes for 296 yards and 6 touchdowns, he led the Herd in receiving in each of this three seasons in green and white. The leading rusher was Paul Long who rushed for 272 yards and a score.

The countdown to kickoff will continue, hopefully uninterrupted by life, tomorrow right here at the good ole HH.

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