Herd Plays "Shell" Game On Day Three Of Practice

On another hot August day in Huntington, Marshall sponsored "Choose-A-Seat" Day at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday. While the Thundering Herd faithful came all day to buy tickets for the 2005 season, about 1,000 fans chose a seat to watch the first Marshall practice of the year that was open to the public. The Herd played the old "shell" game with the fans, donning shoulder pads, or "shells" in coach-speak, for the first time and Coach Mark Snyder liked the toughness displayed by his team.

"In one word, what I liked was the toughness they displayed," said Snyder following the third practice for Marshall in the pre-season. "Each day we have a "word for the day" and toughness was today's and they showed that." In fact, some of the defensive players were a bit too tough as Snyder had to remind them to not go to the ground on tackles. "Our guys are not scared to go to the ground and that's due to the great new turf," said Snyder of the FieldTurf now covering the stadium. "They don't get burns, like they did on the old turf and we had to remind our defense not to take the offensive players to the ground when we are in shells. That comes Monday, when we put on full pads."

About 1,000 Marshall fans took in the first practice open to the public on Saturday, and also got their first glimpse of the new FieldTurf at Edwards Stadium.

Snyder is more worried about the mental aspects of practice in the heat of August. "They have to tough it through the practices. They get tired, and we are throwing quite a bit at them (in the way we want things run). The mental toughness is the hard part and at times we have been inconsistant in our play," Snyder said. The Herd newcomers also still need to work on conditioning, another area that aids in working through the tough times.

"The freshmen, the junior college guys, are not in the condition we would like," Snyder continued. "Here in the one-a-day practices, we lift in the mornings but we are having to go 50-50 on lift and run; that also leads to tired legs in the afternoon and our legs are a little dead due to the running. The older guys, however, they are in pretty good shape and that, and their experience, is why they are ahead of the new guys. Some guys, like Hiram (Moore, the receiver from Huntington) or Hawk (Chris Hawkins, the cornerback who transferred from North Carolina), they can run all day."

WR Robert Surratt.

Hawkins is a guy who jumped out at Snyder in Saturday's practice, which included a 30 minute team where players rotated in for three or four plays each with their unit on offense or defense. He stripped Ahmad Bradshaw of a reception from quarterback Jimmy Skinner, then recovered the fumble. In the next series, Hawkins broke up a Skinner pass intended for Shawn Lauzon and later in the period broke up a pass from Skinner to tight end Jeff Mullins. Senior safety Chris Royal, who had six interceptions last season to rank among the national leaders, also came up with a pick when Marcus Fitzgerald let a Skinner pass slip through his hands and straight to Royal. Although they could not tackle the QBs, sacks were registered by DE Demarcus Thomas, LB Maurice Kitchen, DE Shavar Greer and freshmen defensive linemen Cam Stokes and Albert McClellan, while safety Geremy Rodamer and LB Scott Wilks also had passes-broken-up. Big hits were recorded by LB Donte' Newsome and by freshman J.J. Johnson and Cabell Midland's John Saunders.

Derek Devine, Bernard Morris and Jimmy Skinner at QB in Saturday's practice.

Not to say it was all defense today, however. Skinner started the team period with a swing pass in the flats to Fitzgerald that went for a 40-yard score. He also hooked up with Mullins later for a 20-yard gain. Gerwin Williams broke a 15-yard run on play three and ran over Royal to gain extra yardage. Fitzgerald also later made a nice catch across the middle with cornerback Willie Smith draped all over him for a big gain. Bernie Morris also looked sharp again, hooking up with Moore for seven and 12 yard gains and ending the practice with a 35-yard strike to freshman E.J. Wynn to end the practice.

NOTES:Donte' Newsome and Dennis Thorton returned to practice from injuries, but Thorton still wore a gold (no contact) jersey...junior college tackle Chris Terrell was running with the first team line, along with Adrian Davis at the other tackle and Jason Kaminski and Greer at the ends...In one-on-one drills, Terrell bull-rushed over freshman center Brian Leggett...another juco defensive tackle, Juan Underwood, also had a good session with the offensive line, although Doug Legursky, Ryan Baynes, David Ziegler and Wesley Jones, another juco, had good moments for the OL...Terrick Thomas, who missed last year for academics, and freshman Phillip Gamble made some nice plays to break up passes in wide receivers versus defensive backs drills. Lots of "smack" was being talked by Thomas as well as wideout Lauzon...Derek Devine hit freshman Robert Surratt for what should have been a touchdown in those drills, but the wide-open receiver dropped a ball right between the numbers. All three of the older QBs: Skinner, Morris and Devine; threw well for the first day in shoulder pads since last April...Mark Snyder said of the offense, "For day three, we were inconsistant and the timing was off, but I'm not worked up about it. Offense is often behind the defense early and I'm pleased where they are now. I know they will be ready later this month, when we expect them to be."...Sunday's practice is closed to fans and media alike, but fans will again be allowed to watch Monday's practice, when the Herd puts on full pads for the first time, starting about 3:00 p.m. at "The Joan."

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