Marshall does know now that its head coach will be former MU player Mark Snyder, who takes the reins at Marshall after serving as defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Snyder, a defensive coach his whole career and Marshall alum (just like a recently retired coach who had some success here the last nine years), will have the challenge of replacing over 25 seniors and the loss of 16 starters, eight on each side of the ball. Let's look at where we are after spring and before August.
OFFENSE: replacing Stan Hill and Graham Gochneaur will be tough, but not impossible. Since it appears Larry Kueck will stay as offensive coordinator, the system will not change and Kueck will have the freedom to call plays, which he did in 1996. Jimmy Skinner and Bernard Morris seem even after 15 practices, with Skinner's understanding of the system his strength while Morris' physical skills are outrageous. Morris has a court hearing this week that may impact more than his football career. JUCO QB Derek Devine got more comfortable each practice, but still has a way to go.
The offensive line seems set, but somewhat lacking in experience. John Inman made huge strides at right guard and Toby Bullock has lost 25-30 pounds and will apparently man left tackle. JUCO depth is on the way, but new OL coach Mike Cummings has re-energized this group.
The receivers showed some flashes, but overall were uneven. Hiram Moore has five for 106 at South Charleston, then one for seven in spring game. Nate Manns catches no balls in first two scrimmages, then breaks a 60-yard touchdown and an eight-yard score in the G-W Game. Bradshaw was the most consistant receiver, but there is some help coming with the props (see: speed!) and improvement out of young wide outs like Shawn Lauzon, Chubb Small and Marcus Fitzgerald. The tight end position may be the hidden gem catching the ball, as it is deep with talent. The TEs caught three of eight scores in scrimmages and averaged about six to seven yards per catch.
DEFENSE: Replacing front four (well, front seven, actually) seemed tall task, but some players seperated themselves this spring. Ends Byron Tinker and Demarcus Thomas seem ready to step in for Jonathan Goddard and Jamus Martin, and Jason Kaminski may be a good third, as he came on in G-W game. Down in trenches, Roger Garrett and Floyd Wright were downright terrific this spring, and Adrian Davis made great strides.
Linebacker is another spot with three starters gone, but Matt Couch played a great deal and led the team in total tackles, with 23 in three scrimmages. Donte' Newsome, who had double-digit tackles in the Ft. Worth Bowl, sat out with an injury, whick allowed Dennis Thornton to 13 tackles and two tackles-for-loss this spring. Maurice Kitchens surprised every fan with a strong spring, recording 15 tackles and a sack and one-half in the spring game, while steady Scott Wilks, who will continue to hold for kicks on special teams, had 12 tackles, two t-f-l and a sack this spring.
The secondary was set at three spots: Curtis Keyes and Chris Royal at the safeties (Snyder said they have better talent than the OSU safeties), with Willie Smith at the corner. As expected, North Carolina transfer Chris Hawkins (six tackles, team-leading four passes-broken-up) moved into the other corner spot. What was not expected, however, was for walk-on Jeremy Frazie to push Ivan Clark for the back-up/occasional start/nickle spot. Frazie had nine tackles and an interception in scrimmage action, while Clark who also recorded four pass-break-ups, plus four tackles, an interception in the G-W Game and forced and recovered a fumble. Add the fact that Geremy Rodamer, the Herd's back -up safety, was second on the team in tackles with 22, and the secondary looks to continue to be a strength.
Special teams got some attention, as Ian O'Connor and freshman Danny Urrego hit 6-fo-7 field goals and were perfect on extra-points in the G-W Game. Marty Biagi is pushing to be the punter, with six kicks for a 42.8 yard average. Royal, Small and Hawkins were getting punt return action, while Bradshaw may return kicks, along with some of the props.
Quotes from the Green-White Game:
"I think we did good as a team (today). I think we finished up the spring strong and we'll have a good year next year," said Nate Manns, who had two touchdowns, including a 60-yard score from Derek Devine.
"Coach Snyder said it would be good if I could get over here and get a few plays in (following the MCAT med school exam). How the MCAT go? Next question!" said Jeff Mullins, Herd tight end who thought he did well on the test, then caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Skinner.
"The main thing (coach Snyder) wanted to see right off the bat was effort, if not execution, all of us playing hard and he said he was pleased with that. When I saw Jeff open, I had to put it up there for him and he's got pretty good hops. He went up and got it," said Jimmy Skinner for the Green-White Game and Mullins catch.
"I think that no interceptions in three scrimmages is probably the plus side of the spring for me. The spring started out real slow for me, just like last spring, but I had a touchdown pass to end up. I hope we grow as a team. We're going to keep the same system and that's a win-win. Coach Snyder may imput somethings and take some things out, but everyone has a clean plate and we are just going have to come out, play hard and show him what you've got," said Bernard Morris, who threw no interceptions in three scrimmages and was 5-of-11 on Saturday for 76 yards and one touchdown.
"Most definitely, you've got to show yourself to the head man. If you don't bring it to the head of the Knights of the Round Table, then you are going to be left somewhere behind," said (Sir) Gerwin Williams, who led all rushers with nine carries for 81 yards and an eight-yard touchdown. He had one run for 43 yards.
"I think it will be important for us to utilize a fullback as we go into Confenrence USA. There are teams that use that formation in the league, giving you an extra blocker for run and passing situations, or as a receiver out in the flat. I have always been a "North-South" guy (a straight ahead runner), I'm not used to running laterally...if I get lateral, I look lost, so I just look for a crease," said fullback Will Albin, who had a touchdown Saturday when he bulled over safety Jon Moravec for a 10-yard score and averaged three yards per carry for the spring.
"This was a great practice today, on a hot day. We went lots of plays, then turned them loose and had some fun. Spring ball is all about competition. I know they have it in them to come out and do what I say. I have been around some pretty good programs, and this has been a good program, and they'll do what we ask them to do. We just have to ask them to do the right things," said Mark Snyder, following his first Green-White Game as the MU head coach. Snyder will evaluate the MU assistant coaches this week and begin junior recruiting in high school, as well as the Herd beginning their summer conditioning in the weight room with coach Mike Jenkins.
MU SPRING FOOTBALL STATISTICS, from Three Scrimmages Total
RUSHING: Ahmad Bradshaw 28-161 (5.8 yards per rush), 2 TD; Gerwin Williams 30-88 (2.9), 3 TD; Will Albin 30-86 (2.9), 3 TD; Tank Tunstalle 18-59 (3.3), 2 TD; Bernard Morris 7-28 (4.0); Jimmy Skinner 5-16 (3.0), TD; Derek Devine 5-6 (1.2); TOTALS 117-491 (4.2 yards per rush), 11 TD.
PASSING: Jimmy Skinner 40-25-3, 63% COMP, 305 YDS, 3 TD; Bernard Morris 41-22-0, 54% COMP, 248 YDS, 3 TD; Derek Devine 25-12-1, 48% COMP, 141, 2 TD; TOTALS 106-59-4, 56% COMP, 705, 8 TD.
SACKS ALLOWED: 18-(-116); TOTAL RUSH YARDS 135-375 (2.8 yards per rush, adjusted for sacks).
RECEIVING: Ahmad Bradshaw 14-221 (15.8 yards per catch), 2 TD; Nate Manns 2-68 (34.0), 2 TD; Will Albin 3-22 (7.3); Jeff Mullins 3-18 (6.0), 2 TD; Hiram Moore 6-108 (18.0); Matt Parkhurst 2-14 (7.0); Mike Nolan 2-13 (6.5); Brian Shope 6-38 (6.3), TD; Marcus Fitzgerald 4-30 (7.5), TD (two scrimmages); Joe Bragg 2-12 (6.0); Gerwin Williams 2-2 (1.0); Shawn Lauzon 3-78 (26.0), TD; Matt Morris 6-41 (6.8); Wilbur Hargrove 1-(-3); Chubb Small 2-27 (13.5); Tank Tunstalle 2-4 (2.0); TOTAL 59-705 (12.0 yards per catch), 8 TD.
ALL-PURPOSE YARDS (rush/receiving): Ahmad Bradshaw 42-382 (9.1 yards per play); Gerwin Williams 32-90 (2.8); Will Albin 33-108 (3.3); Tank Tunstalle 20-63 (3.2); TOTALS (all rush/receiving/returns) 310-1,353 (4.4 yards per play).
FIRST DOWNS/OFFENSE: 53 (17.6 per scrimmage).
PUNTS: Ian O'Connor 4-124 (31.0); Marty Biagi 6-257 (42.8); Danny Urrego 2-72 (36.0); TOTALS 12-453 (37.8 yards per punt).
FIELD GOALS/EXTRA-POINTS: Ian O'Connor 4-5 Field Goals (Good- 19, 28, 31, 36), 1-1 Extra-Points; Danny Urrego 2-2 Field Goals (20, 38), 2-2 Extra-Points; TOTALS 6-7 Field Goals (Long-38); Extra-Points 3-3.
PUNT RETRNS: Royal 2-30; Chubb Small 1-15; TOTALS 3-45 (15.0 yards per return).
DEFENSE (position-name): MLB-Matt Couch 23 TKL, TFL;
FS-Geremy Rodamer 22 TKL, 2 FR;
DT-Floyd Wright 17 TKL, 2 TFL, QBP;
MLB-Maurice Kitchens 15 TKL, TFL, 1.5 QBS;
OLB-Dennis Thornton 13 TKL, 2 TFL, PBU;
FS-Chris Royal 13 TKL, PBU, INT, FR;
OLB-Scott Wilks 12 TKL, 2 TFL, QBS;
DE-Demarcus Thomas 12 TKL, TFL, 2 QBS, 2 QBP, FR;
SS-Curtis Keyes 12 TKL;
DE/DT-Adrian Davis 12 TKL, 2 QBS, QBP;
DT-Roger Garrett 11 TKL, 2 TFL, SAF;
DE-Jason Kaminski 10 TKL, 1.5 QBS, QBP, FF;
CB-Jeremy Frazie 9 TKL, INT;
SS-Jon Moravec 8 TKL, PBU;
DE/DT-Byron Tinker 7 TKL, 2 QBS (two scrimmages);
CB-Chris Hawkins 6 TKL, 4 PBU;
LB-Ian Hoskins 6 TKL, QBS;
DB-Terick Thomas 6 TKL, QBS, INT;
CB-Ivan Clark 4 TKL, 3 PBU, INT, FF, FR;
DE-Gavin Herscher 4 TKL, 2 TFL, QBS, QBP;
CB-Willie Smith 3 TKL, PBU, FF;
DB-Terry Easmon 2 TKL;
DE-Shavar Greer TKL, QBS, QBP, PBU, FR;
TE-Joe Bragg TKL;
OLB-Travis Noel TKL;
MLB-Adam Lee TKL;
DB-Kyle Echols TKL
(Key: TKL-tackles; TFL-tackles-for-loss; QBP-quarterback pressures; QBS-quarterback sacks; INT-interceptions; PBU-passes-broken-up; SAF-safety).