Herd Defense Rises Up On Day Four

The Herd caught a break in Wednesday's practice, as the snow stayed south of Huntington in the West Virginia coal fields. The offense of the Marshall football team is another story, however, as the defense was bringing it on day four of the 15 practices for spring football at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Herd worked out in shorts or sweat pants, shoulder pads and helmets and again Larry Kueck, the MU interim head coach, was pleased about people "flying around" in the cold practice.

"The defense was playing hard," said Kueck. "We are stressing 11 guys flying around and so far, so good. The defense has sensational good play today." Marshall's offense is in the midst of trying out som things you don't have time for in the season, but Kueck stated the defense picked up on the changes very well.

"They played the boot (boot leg pass, by quarterback), spread and option very well today," said Kueck. "The turnovers they created are a big deal, when they fell on a loose snap. Those are 'game-changing' plays when the defense picks up a turnover for us. One the positive side of the turnover, that center had tow mis-fires yesterday on the snap and only one today, so that's progress." Sophomore Bernard Morris and junior Jimmy Skinner got the bulk of snaps during team, but JUCO Derek Devine did get snaps late in the drill with the "threes." Red-shirt freshman Travis Tatman is working with the quarterbacks in individual drills, but taking no snaps in team.

Marshall is rebuilding the linebackers and defensive line and Kueck was especially pleased with the progress at the defensive end position. "The competition is wide open," said Kueck. "All of them are busting their fannies. We've got to find three or four guys who can play and we've (got this group) and some help coming in the fall. Every day, Jason Kaminski is getting a little better," Kueck said of the linebacker who was moved to end this spring. "He is making progress in the weight room and his first step off the ball is really quick. Gavin Herscher also has that quick step off the ball. These position battles will probably not be settled, however, until the week we begin to get ready for William and Mary (the Herd's opener on Thursday, September 1), and that's true of (not just defensive ends) but the rest of the team.

"Spring ball is spring ball. We're going to have some guys working here and there; some things are experimental, like some of the coverages we are looking at on defense. Just hope to stay healthy. I was glad to see Dennis Thornton this morning at study hall at 5:55 a.m. He told me he would be out there today and I told him we appreciate it." Thornton appeared to injure a knee or ankle on Tuesday, but returned to practice today, as did offensive lineman Ryan Baynes, who turned an ankle.

NOTES: Marshall will have its final workout on Thursday, March 17, at 7:00 a.m., before shutting things down until Monday, March 28, when classes resume following MU's annual Spring Break for students...For the second consecutive day, running back Will Albin flattened linebacker Ian Hoskins in a drill...It was a tough day on newcomers and freshmen who spent most of their time on scout team in 2004. JUCO tackle Chris Barnes pancaked Byron Tinker one play, then was beaten badly by d-tackle Adrian Davis on the next snap. Tight ends Matt Parkhurst and Joe Bragg were called "on the carpet" by both Kueck and tight ends coach Shane Miles for missing assignments, as were wide out Chubb Small and running back Antoine Cabarrus...Cabarrus was "lit-up" on a non-tackling day as safety Chris Royal exploded on the youngster during team, taking Cabarrus off his feet...WR Uranius Johnson scooped up a fumble downfield during team and headed to the end zone before the whistle stopped the play...New offensive line coach Mike Cummings, was encouraging the players to run to the center of the field, as Kueck blew the horn early for the second consecutive day of practice (thanks to hard work and hustle by Herd players). Cummings spotted an injured Herd player, in a blue jersey, with a gimpy leg working toward the huddle and encouraged him with "Limp faster!"...Chad Pennington spoke in favor of making Kueck the head coach permanently in the Wednesday Herald-Dispatch newspaper in Huntington...No press conference was scheduled for today to announce any coaching changes, despite rampant rumors on Tuesday. Monday's rumor was Bob Pruett was coming back; Tuesday's was Mark Snyder, the former MU safety and Ohio State defensive coordinator, was being named today. Snyder, at the University of Tennessee's football coaches clinic (along with other rumored candidates, including UT's assistant and former MU player and coach Greg Adkins and James Madison head coach and former Herd assistant Mickey Matthews, who is there with his staff, including former Herd players George Barlow and Phil Ratliff), denied having been contacted by Marshall to date.

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