First Day Practice Good For Fans, Team & Coaches

It was Day One of the 2004 season and Marshall welcomed 105 football players for the first practice at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, all done up with new helmet logo on the top of the press box and the name of the stadium (and the James F. Edwards Field) spelled out under the sky boxes for all to see. The team on the field, though, was what nearly 200 Herd fans came to see as Coach Bob Pruett got the first look at the team that will challenge Troy in the home opener in 26 days, on September 4.

In fact, the coach was very pleased with the first day of practice, which could only be in helmets (with shoulder pads to come Wednesday and full pads on Friday). "I thought they had good retention of what we have done (in practices and games)," said Pruett. "This morning, they ran very well in the running test and they seem to be in great condition.

"I'm really pleased with Ian O'Connor's improvement, in both kicking and punting." O'Connor was the kickoff specialist last season for MU, but is pushing junior Nick Kelly for the field goals and extra-points job and true freshman Marty Biagi (from Shelby County HS, the same school that produced the Herd's Curtis Head) for the punting duties. "O'Connor may win both jobs if he stays consistant," said Pruett. Also in the mix are other true freshmen Jon Dinkins (from Monkton, Maryland) and Danny Urrego (from Sunrise, Florida).

One of the pleasant surprises are the late additions to the running game. Both Gerwin ("JER-win") Williams, from Sacramento, California, and Ahmad Bradshaw look very powerful and very quick. They will no doubt push the returning backs including Tank Tunstalle, Donte' Newsome and Will Albin, who looks to be in great shape, himself.

Something that was a bit of a surprise was Bernard Morris, the red-shirt freshman quarterback from Orlando, Florida, taking a turn at wide receiver. Assistant coach Dwayne Nunez told our Robert Harper Morris will work at quarterback the bulk of the time, but will work some at receiver in camp and during the week on "Game Day" practices. Speaking of receivers, they looked ready as well, as freshman Shawn Lauzon, who is now wearing #42, made a one-handed catch and tip-toed the sideline to stay in during pass skel. Lauzon is running with the "ones" as is Josh Davis and Tremel Guillory...four wide outs was bringing in Brad Bates. Emanuel Spann, the freshman who was headed to Wisconsin, looks very speedy but a tad shorter than 5-11. Mandell Smith was on the sideline, wearing his green #88, waiting to be released to practice.

Other notes: The defense looked in mid-season form when in 11-on-11 drills, strong safety Curtis Keyes picked off a pass and not only ran through the one offense, he ran through the two offense that was standing to the side, with a convoy of the entire defense. The defenders on the sidelines were hooting, pumping their arms and sprinting down the sidelines with their teammates on the field as Keyes and the D took the ball about 60 yards to the end zone...Stan Hill looks 101 percent. He was very calm and cool in the pocket and was throwing the ball even better than last year. There was no sign of a problem with the knee that he had surgery on...Morris and Jimmy Skinner seem to be neck-and-neck for the number three QB and may yet push for time with the two offense, along with senior Graham Gochneaur...Marcus Hairston looks like a new man. He is up around 265 pounds, adding 30 pounds of muscle and bulk for some time at defensive tackle as well as defensive end. He also shaved his head, removing his trademark "dred locks" hair a matter of fact, the "shaved head" seems to have returned as the style of choice for much of the Herd for pre-season practice...Practice resumes on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Always keep in mind, times may change due to rain storms or rain storms coming, moving practices to earlier in the day, or may move to grass fields to east of stadium, due to high heat.

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