"Defense came out with a different mentality today," said Herd senior defensive end Demarcus Thomas, who is starting alongside of end Byron Tinker (replaced today by Gavin Herscher, as Tinker rode the bike after slightly twisting his leg Monday) and tackles Roger Garrett and Floyd Wright on the first team. "We just wanted to go hard, get everything done like coach (Bill Wilt, the MU defensive line coach and coordinator) wanted us to do it. We had to stop doing our own thing, be more coachable and that showed in today's practice." Thomas spent his first three years at MU at linebacker before moving to defensive end last season, appearing in 11 games on special teams and as a backup to Jonathan Goddard, Jamus Martin and Marcus Hairston. Thomas recorded seven tackles, one tackle-for-loss and broke up one pass in limited action. He has 38 tackles over the past three seasons.
Tank Tunstalle laid down a solid run towards the end of Wednesday morning's practice.
"I was just trying to work on mistakes from last practice, after looking at the film," said Thomas. "You just try to go as hard as you can every play and, hopefully, you catch a offensive lineman tired or in a mistake and you make a play. I tried to learn a lot from Johnathan and the other guys last year." Thomas and the rest of the defense cranked its motor up a knotch on a full contact day, as opposed to Monday's practice when the Herd was in shorts and contact is limited to "thud," or just making contact with no tackling. "It changes your mentality," said Thomas. "I'm always worried that coach will get after me (for hard hits in thud). When we scrimmage, you liven it up. The mentality changes dramatically, it's like a game situation."
Coach Larry Kueck, who was headed to Charleston for "Marshall Day" at 11:00 a.m. at the West Virginia Legislature, was also impressed with the defense's effort. "Yeah, they had a great practice," said Kueck. "We put some new things in on offense and we struggled with it. We also were blitzing more on defense and everybody, the quarterbacks as well as the receivers, have to be aware of that. That was a good practice to get on video tape, so we can to go back and teach from (today's mistakes)." Kueck also commented on Thomas' effort. "Demarcus has a 'motor' that goes pretty good all the time. He is not the biggest defensive ends in American but I believe he is one of the fastest. He comes out and practices with good intensity, bouncing around out here. His personality is a 'bounce-around' guy."
Marshall worked on punt returns today, with Ian O'Connor, Danny Urrego and Marty Biagi kicking. The Herd was using Chris Royal, Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Hawkins to return punts just before team. In the scrimmage portion of practice, the offense got off to a bit of a good start, with Jimmy Skinner finding slot receiver Marcus Fitzgerald on a short gain, then Fitzgerald shaking free of defensive back Terick Thomas for 20 more yards. Skinner hit tight end Brian Shope on a 10-yard gain and Shope held on despite a big hit by corner Willie Smith. After D. Thomas stuffed a run by Bradshaw, Bernard Morris hit Shope on another 10-yard gain and again he was popped after the catch, this time by linebacker Matt Couch.
Chris Royal cast a shadow while returning punts in Wednesday morning's practice at The Joan.
It was all defense over the final 20 plays. Smith had a pass break up and there were three "coverage sacks," as the defensive secondary covered the receivers so well the quarterbacks had to hold the ball. Geremy Rodamer, pushing hard as the safety, had a huge hit on Tank Tunstalle after a short gain and later recovered a fumble from tight end Joe Bragg, who stripped by linebacker Maurice Kitchens. Couch and D. Thomas tackled Bradshaw in the backfield on third and five at the 18, then Thomas followed with a sack of Morris on the next play. Kitchens had a sack to go along with D. Thomas' and Couch, linebacker Scott Wilks (who is having a very good week of practice) and backup defensive end Colin Kelly recorded the "coverage sacks." In the situational third-and-five situations, the offense converted on only one of ten plays, with Fitzgerald picking up six to seven yards on the first play of the drill.
Marshall's coaching clinic is Friday at 8:00 a.m. in the Shewey Athletic Building, with practice in shorts and shoulder pads at 3:00 p.m. Marshall travel's to South Charleston for Saturday night's workout at Oakes Field, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Free tickets are available at the South Charleston Recreation Center and the SC Chamber of Commerce and will be used for drawings for door prizes like MU football tickets. The Herd is scheduled to workout next week on Tuesday and Thursday, then the Green-White game is Saturday, April 16, at 4:00 p.m. The cost is $5 each, with proceeds to the MU Quarterback Club, and the game will air on WRVC 930 AM.