Marshall Spring Football: Practice Six

Marshall football returned to the business of preparing for Season One in Conference USA on Wednesday, following 13 days off since the last practice. MU players and coaches put last week's spring break at Marshall in the rear-view mirror and tried to shake the rust of the near two week layoff out of its system. Head Coach Larry Kueck was pleased with the effort, if not the execution, by the Thundering Herd in practice number six of 15, which culminates with the Green-White Spring Game April 16.

"Not bad for, what, 13 days since our last practice," said Kueck following the 7:00 a.m.-8:45 a.m. workout. Kueck is scheduled to be on the "Insider Statewide" show on WRVC 930 AM in Huntington and WBES 1240 AM in Charleston on Wednesday evening at 6:10 p.m. "We hope the timing will return tomorrow (in sweats at 7:00 a.m.) and the hitting comes around by Saturday's workout (10:00 a.m.)." Marshall's quarterbacks were the players most easily noticed when it came to the timing being off, as passes where over-and-underthrown, as well as some fumbles on snap exchanges and handoffs.

"I think our timing was off a little bit," said junior quarterback Jimmy Skinner, "but it should be back by tommorrow. We were throwing into a tough morning sun for the first time, as well." Skinner has been at the number one, just ahead of sophomore Bernard Morris and junior college transfer Derek Devine in the quarterback depth chart, but all three QBs rotated in every two plays during team drills and goal line. "I'm pleased with my progress this spring," Skinner continued, "and it's great to have such a great relationship with the head coach as we do with Coach Kueck. I hope he gets the job as head coach." Skinner was referring to the interim tag currently on Kueck, who is scheduled to be interviewed along with three or four other candidates sometime in April for the head coaching position for MU football for 2005 by Director of Athletics Bob Marcum.

Sunny, warm skies greeted Marshall players for their first practice following spring by Greg Perry/HI staff

Hiram Moore, the junior receiver from Huntington, returned to practice in a yellow jersey (no contact) today, following missing the first five practices from injuries in an auto mishap. No other players appeared to be sidelined, except for those previously reported out for the spring like Toby Bullock, Donte' Newsome and Emanuel Spann who continue to attend practice in blue (no drills) jerseys.

The defense was really in control of the team portion of practice, which was only "thud" (contact, but no tackling or taking players to ground). Very short gains were the rule, except for a well-executed screen pass to sophomore running back Ahmad Bradshaw from Devine which turned into a big gain. Devine also caught the defense napping late for a big gain on a bootleg left.

The goal line portion of the practice was live, however, and it appeared the defense would continue its domination when red-shirt freshman back Gerwin Williams was tackled in the backfield by the first team defensive line of Demarcus Thomas, Floyd Wright, Roger Garrett and Gavin Herscher. After that, however, the offensive line (from left tackle: Chris Barnes, David Ziegler, Doug Legursky, John Inman and Seth Cook) dominated the line of scrimmage, leading to four scores in five plays from the two or three-yard lines. "The offensive line got fired up on the first play from the goal line," said Skinner. "We scored every play until the final stop. They are young, but they are playing better every practice." Only Cook and Legursky had significant playing time last season and Barnes is a junior college transfer.

Marshall coach Larry Kueck kept an eye on QB Jimmy Skinner during Wednesday morning's by Greg Perry/HI staff

Scoring at the goal line were: G. Williams dashing through a huge hole up the middle, then powering over first team middle linebacker Matt Couch at the goal for the score; Brian Shope was wide open on the tight end drag on the third play, but Skinner underthrew the pass; Tank Tunstall rumbled through another large whole to score on play four; and Morris hit red-shirt freshman tight end Matt Parkhurst for a score on play five, with Parkhurst making a spectacular catch of a ball thrown up around his shoulder and slightly behind him on a corner route. Ian Hoskins eneded the practice by stopping Tunstalle on a sweep, just short of the goal. Other players with big plays included cornerback Willie Smith, during pass skel, breaking up a long pass from Skinner to Bradshaw that was right into his hands, then Bradshaw, Smith and safety Chris Royal battling for what might have been ruled a fumble in a game. There was an interception by UNC transfer corner Chris Hawkins and sophomore Shaun Lauzon also caught a perfect strike from Bradshaw for a touchdown in the same drill.

Marshall will go out Thursday morning at 7:00 a.m. for practice seven, then Saturday at 10:00 a.m. for practice and some scrimmage. The practice at South Charleston is set for April 9 at 6:00 p.m. at Oakes Field, while the Spring Game will be April 16 at 4:00 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

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