Marshall Spring Football: Practice Nine

Daylight Savings Time started Sunday morning and while it makes the evenings longer, the Herd found out that a 7:00 a.m. start (really, 6:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) begins with the moon and stars still shining above the lights of Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Still, no one complained about the starry start, as the sun soon rose on a "Chamber of Commerce" type day. The Herd defense rose up with the sun during team and pretty much dominated play in the ninth scrimmage for Marshall this spring.

Interim head coach Larry Kueck asked the team to "Make Thud Like Live" in what was the ninth practice for Marshall, today in shoulder pads and shorts/sweats. There were numerous big hits in the in a practice where defensive coordinator Bill Wilt was asking his defensive line to, "Step up. We need to find somebody to be a soldier." Wilt talked about the front four, where he replaces an All-American in Jonathan Goddard (oops, Johnathan!); an All-Mid-American Conference player in Jamus Martin; and two tackles in Reggie Hayes and Jamaal Whyce, as well as end/tackle combination Marcus Hairston."

"They are all trying to do the right thing (on defensive front)," said Wilt following Monday's practice. "We need someone to separate themselves out; guys that have done that so far are Adrian Davis and DeMarcus Thomas, but that's expected because they have more experience that others. But I'm not done on anyone, we're just waiting for the next jump to come. They all try to do the right thing and sometimes look slow on the snap count. That's because they don't know exactly where to go or what to do (in the defensive scheme). It's a work in progress and we hope they'll be all right come September." The Herd opens the 2005 season on September 1 against I-AA National Finalist William and Mary, then 10 days later will host the Kansas State University Wildcats of the Big 12, the victim of one of MU's biggest upset wins back in 2003 in Manhattan, Kansas.

Kueck was happy with the response by players to Saturday's scrimmage in today's practice. "We go 85 or 90 plays on Saturday, then took and hour and one-half break," said Kueck of the scrimmage. "Then we came back in to look at the video while it was fresh on the player's minds. I saw some improvement from Saturday, based on what we saw wrong on the video, but we've got to keep working, working, working. What you want is a little improvement every day."

The Herd got huge improvements at wide receiver Monday morning, as Nate Manns and Chubb Small had sensational drills in one-on-one and pass skeleton. Then Manns, a junior from Beckley Woodrow Wilson High School, caught two touchdowns from Derek Devine, the Herd's junior college transfer quarterback, in the final four plays of team. The first was a beautiful sliding catch in front of safety Geremy Rodamer, as Devine put the ball where only Manns had a chance to catch the scoring pass. Small also had a pretty touchdown, taking a slip screen to the right, using great downfield blocking and slipping through a small seam for a 15-yard score.

Also shining for the Herd was senior linebacker Scott Wilks, a third-generation player for the Thundering Herd (grandfather Herndon played for Cam Henderson and won letters in 1934 and 1935; father Phillip was a letterwiner for Perry Moss in 1968). Wilks picked off a Jimmy Skinner pass and raced downfield for what would have been a 60-yard score (if the whistle had now blown early to stop play). Wilks teamed with nickel/cornerback Chris Hawkins, a senior transfer from North Carolina, to knock Ahmad Bradshaw off his feet on a big-time "thud" early in team, while Hawkins also took tight end Brian Shope off his feet one play earlier. Wilks had three or four other stops and Hawkins and Wilks again combined to rock freshman tight end Joe Bragg and stop him one yard short on a third-and-five pass from Devine. Shope did a little damage himself, running over linebacker Matt Couch in a pass drill earlier in the practice. Offensive lineman David Ziegler returned to practice and had a "pancake" block on blitzing linebacker Ian Hoskins, just one play after Hoskins had a near pick of a Bernard Morris pass to Nate Manns.

NOTES: The Herd only suffered one injury in Saturday's scrimmage, as defensive lineman Blake Merritt, who had a fumble recovery, twisted his foot and sat out today...Defensive end Byron Tinker was down during team, but limped off under his own power. His status was unknown for Wednesday's 7:00 a.m. full pads practice...Marshall will hold its annual Coaches Clinic in the Shewey Athletic Center on Friday (details at www.herdzone.com/football), beginning at 8:00 a.m....The Herd will work out in shoulder pads and shorts on Friday at 3:00 p.m., then conduct its second of three spring scrimmages in the now annual practice at Oakes Field in South Charleston, W. Va., on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Details also at herdzone.com...Marshall's annual Green-White Game is Saturday, April 16, at 4:00 p.m. Cost is $5 per person and the game will be broadcast on WRVC 930 AM.


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