Marshall’s football program is coming off a 3 – 9 campaign in 2016. Clearly, it needs some positive news coming down the pipe.
The “team,” aspect of the program did not seem to exist at certain points last year, so it was a goal of Doc Holliday and his staff to get back to being better in that regard. It was mentioned time and time again. Anyone who attended a single practice, or the Green and White Scrimmage game in the spring could see it for their own eyes. Right there on the field, it was a group of 85 (I realize it was not an exact 85,) and not just a few groups and a super star or two, it was one team. Every drill that was ran, every conversation that was had was done with “team,” in mind. It was clear as day.
Still, any good news after the season ending loss to the Conference USA foe from Bowling Green Kentucky, would be great.
That good news started all the way back in February:
- Last season one of the biggest down falls of the offense was the inability to get the running game going. The staff knew that they needed a proven running back. In early January they received a commitment from a three star Junior College Running Back from Arizona Western, Tre Rodriguez. Rodriguez has Conference USA experience. He played at Florida Atlantic in 2015 and averaged 6 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns.
- In addition to the running back position, the defensive back position needed shored up a bit as well. Heading into last season that position was hit hard with unforeseen issues. Antonio Howard left and had to go the junior college route after being eligible as a freshman. Corey Tindal elected to forego his senior year and head play professional football. Issues caught up with Antavis Rowe and Tiquan Lang. At the end of the day, freshman Chris Jackson was forced into action, and learned on the fly. The Herd staff stepped up in the offseason and pulled in to big time players, Kereon Merrell and Chad Clay. Clay is a former four star player at Georgia. He got into some trouble with a BB gun. His issues were a lot more minor than that of DJ Hunter who came to Marshall years ago with a BB gun issue. He panned out, there is no reason to think Clay will be any different.
- Clay will be worked in to the numbers, most likely as a blue shirt since he was not a recruited athlete to Marshall and had not made a visit. He will most likely be eligible to compete this fall, and could fit into the mix early. No roster changes were needed to be made in order for this to take place. Sir Patrick Scott, Jamie Herr, and JaQua Daniels are three players from the Class of 2016 that would have been on the roster this fall, but are no longer with the school. Typically a few of the non qualifiers do not make it in the classroom and leave school. They were never truly a part of the roster, and therefore, attrition cannot be a word used for players who fall into this category. Some players have left the program in recent months, such as Brandon Rodgers and Doyle Grimes, but these three players are not leaving the program short in numbers in anyway.
- The first betting line for the Marshall home opener with Miami of Ohio had the Herd as a 8.5 point underdog. That was in May. That has since dropped to Marshall receiving five points. Promising, maybe not ,but concerning? Hardly. The fact that Marshall is coming off a 3 – 9 season and Miami has won six of its last seven with the only loss being a 1 point bowl loss to SEC Mississippi State, is the primary reason as to why this is the case. Nothing to see here.
- Athlon came out with their rankings. Marshall was picked to go 5 – 7, a two game improvement over last season. Athlon, like so many other pre season publications simply tries to be the first one to come out. In doing so, which group of schools gets the least attention? G5 or P5? Cleary it is the Group of five, non power conference schools. The Herd had 6 players on the four All Conference teams. That tied the Herd for next to last, but the middle of the conference was bunched closely together. Marshall tied with Old Dominion and UTEP. The fact that Marshall had six on the list and none of them were Juwon Young, Kendall Gant, or CJ Reavis shows how difficult it is to pick All conference teams in May.
- For many years, Phil Steele has been the leading preseason publication for college football. Steele has the Herd at second in Conference USA East, and back into the mix after a season that did not fit the mold of recent Doc Holliday teams. In addition Steele has eight players on the all conference teams. He rated the Marshall linebackers as the best in Conference USA, the defensive backs as the best in CUSA. He also rated the defensive line at number 2, the quarterback at number 3, and the wide receivers at number four. Finally, he had Doc Holliday tied for number one in conference USA in coaching.
- The fact that Doc Holliday is said to be on the “hot seat,” is a good thing. The program is still thought of enough that a coach coming off one bad year after winning 33 games in three years, could be on the Hot Seat shows what they think of Marshall football. Marshall football is not falling off the face of the football planet.
- Holliday and his staff pulled in the second ranked recruiting class in Conference USA this past season, even coming off of the 3 – 9 campaign.
- The 2016 recruiting class had several non qualifiers. Three big names on that list are all on campus and ready to go. Running back Tyler King expects to compete right away in the backfield and Larry Aaron is a big defensive tackle. Then there is four star, former Alabama commit Jaquan Yulee who has taken an impressive approach to the game in his year away, and is ready to go.
- Knock on wood, but thus far, the off the field issues have been few and far between.
- Big time, four star, former UCLA commit, wide receiver Darian Owens not only arrived on campus, but was able to participate in spring practice and will be eligible this fall. Owens is a 5’11”, 193 pound wide receiver with 4.5 speed and a 34 inch vertical leap.
- In addition, Marshall was able to sign five mid year Junior College players who were able to participate this spring and exploded up the depth chart. Donyae Moody, Kereon Merrell, Artis Johnson, Marcel Williams and Armani Levias all fill spots of need and, with the exception of Levias, all were major players this spring.
- The Herd, who is perceived to not recruit locally, has five commits thus far. Four from Kentucky, and one from nearby Spring Valley High School in Huntington.
- Big time, speedy, athletic wide receiver Willie Johnson who was starting to come on early last year before an injury ended the year at Pittsburgh, will be a medical redshirt and be listed as a freshman this year with four years to play.
- There is construction going on around the stadium.
- Six Games have already been picked up for television. With more expected to be announced soon.
That is a lot of happy news for Herd fans heading into the 2017 season.
Talk about it here:
Perhaps this news will get even better in the coming months!!!!