Herd Gets First Two-A-Day Practices In

Marshall Football finally arrived at that day most players dread in August: the first day of two-a-day practices. The heat and humidity, combined with the hitting on days one and two in full pads, led to a morning practice that was somewhat sluggish at first. By the team period Marshall had picked up the tempo and Coach Mark Snyder was very pleased with the workout, despite losing three players to heat-related problems. The Herd went in "shells" this afternoon to combat the heat.

Marshall saw receiver Shawn Lauzon return to practice today, while Antonio Leath was held out due to heat-related problems on Monday. Leath did return for the afternoon session. During the practice, receiver Wilbur Hargrove, safety Geremy Rodamer and defensive tackle Blake Merritt were overcome by heat and humidity. Also, defensive end Shavar Greer all had to call on the sports medicine staff for a foot sprain much like Curtis Keyes' suffered on Monday. Expected to miss three or four more days, Keyes returned on Wednesday afternoon. Hargrove was looking much better, however, at lunch on Wednesday afternoon. "I feel OK now," said Hargrove, "but it was rough out there this morning." He, Merritt and Rodamer sat out for the afternoon practice, which temps reached 97 degrees and the humidity was around 40 percent.

Receiver Marcus Fitzgerald concentrated on catching this pass during Wednesday afternoon's practice at Edwards Stadium.

Snyder sent the team out in the afternoon in shoulder pads and shorts. Still, he was impressed by his team fighting through the heat in both sessions. "They did good today," said Snyder. "We got a lot of good reps in the heat today. I thought we practiced hard and we will work ourselves into shape." The head coach was also pleased with how the offense came back in this mornings practice, following the domination of the defense late in Tuesday's goal line practice. "The offense came back a little today, and that's good. The defense was coming with the blitz and the quarterbacks read the "hot" reads well today."

There is still the concern about players missing practice, but Snyder still feels it is good for others who are getting reps. "Devine getting reps helps us," said Snyder of his QB, Bernie Morris, being held out for a sore shoulder again. "We have a feel for Jimmy (Skinner) and Bernie Morris. Now we are getting a feel for Derek Devine." One area Snyder was not happy with was the two-minute drill. Skinner hit Ahmad Bradshaw for two gains of 33 yards and nine yards, but then missed a wide-open Marcus Fitzgerald in the endzone. The first unit settled for a Ian O'Connor field goal. Devine threw an interception to John Saunders on the twos first play and, although he returned the pick for a TD, Snyder made the defense do it over because in the two-minute drill, you want to kill the clock on a turnover. Devine then missed on five more deep throws. "We have a long way to go in the two-minute drill," said Snyder to reporter Chuck Landon after the practice. "It was ugly."

Defensive back Chuck Roberts went up high during pass-tip drills during afternoon practice on Wednesday.

The offensive line remains a concern for Snyder, following a 1-for-15 scoring in goal line yesterday. "The offensive line has to step it up. I don't think they understand the pace, the tempo we are looking for," said Snyder. "That said, it was night and day today for them. They have just got to work through being hot and tired." Center Doug Legursky agreed with his coach about the improvement from Tuesday. "We had some problems yesterday," said the sophomore center from Beckley, "but we got in our meetings last night with coach (Mike Cummings) and got them corrected for (this morning)."

Skinner and Devine continued to throw the ball well today, while Morris took some snaps at wide receiver as he did in 2004. Tight ends Matt Parkhurst and Jeff Mullins continue to catch the ball well while sophomore wide out Uranius Johnson may have had his best ever day. Johnson caught 4-of-5 passes thrown his way in team and skel and showed good speed for yards after the catch as well. Matt Morris continues to impress on the outside, making catches and yards after catches. Morris got some time with the ones with Lauzon out Tuesday and Hargrove and Filer on Wednesday afternoon.

On the defensive side, most of the action came in the morning practice in full pads. Ivan Clark forced a fumble that was recovered by Terrick Thomas, while C.J. Spillman, Jeremy Frazie and Travis Noel had passes-broken -up and Chris Hawkins broke up a pass and picked off frosh QB Wesley Beardain. On the front seven, Greer had a sack before cramps forced him out, as did opposite end Jason Kaminski and later shared a sack with tackle Chris Terrell. Terrell had a couple of tackles with his half-sack and one quarterback pressure. Linebacker Scott Wilks had two tackles-for-loss.

Marshall continues to emphasize special teams, spending the first five periods on punting, field goals, kick returns and kick blocks. "Special teams are the glue that pull the offense and defense together," Snyder told the media day audience last Friday and the Herd coach intends for Marshall to put the special in special teams. Junior Ian O'Connor was 2-for-4 on kicks in the morning, hitting from 30 and 36 yards away, and a much better 4-of-5 in the afternoon between the 20 and 40-yard line. Freshman David DeFatta hit one of three in the morning, 3-of-3 in the afternoon, also between the 20 and 40. O'Connor punted well all day, hitting punts in the 40-55 yards range, while freshman Marty Biagi averaged about 42 yards per kick on the afternoon. O'Connor's kickoffs were sailing over 75 yards, which would be out of the endzone, and he hit a 58-yard field goal before practice.

NOTES: Offensive lineman James Siems has left the team...Junior college safety Timmy Jones did not report to camp...Nate Howard was in class this morning...At various times, players either pushing or pulling the sled this morning, with strength assistant Joey Stepp sometimes on it, or pushing the "Gator" up the ramps with strength coach Mike Cochran on it in the afternoon, included Emanuel Spann, Zerrick Matthews, Adrian Davis, Dennis Thorton, Wilbur Hargrove, Jermaine Filer, Blake Merritt, Albert McCelland and Brian Shope...Donte' Newsome, Gerwin Williams and Matt Altobello practiced in gold (no contact) jerseys...Former tight end, now wide out, Matt Morris was reportedly timed this summer for a 4.47/40-yard dash, an amazing time for a 6-3, 210 pounder...Thursday morning and both practices Friday are closed to the public, but the scrimmage on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. will be opened...The Marshall Women's Clinic is set for August 20 at 4:00 p.m. Call Mark Gale at 696-2408 for details, the cost is $10..."Paint the Capital City Green" is Wednesday, August 17, at the Embassy Suites in Charleston. Cost is $25 and tickets are available through MU Alumni and the Big Green Scholarship Foundation.

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