Snyder, Captains Meet With Media Tuesday

Head coach Mark Snyder, two assistant coaches and his four captains faced the local media on Tuesday at lunchtime for the final words from the Herd football camp before Thursday nights 7 p.m. opener with The Tribe at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Marshall held a closed workout today at the stadium and will also have a closed workout Wednesday before busing to Charleston for a night in hotel. The Herd will be dropped off Thursday at the Henderson Center for "Rolling Thunder" walk to stadium at 5 p.m.

Snyder, assistants Shannon Morrison and Jared Smith, assigned to provide the MU staff with a scouting report on William and Mary, and team captains Jeff Mullins, Wilbur Hargrove, Chris Royal and Willie Smith met with the media to discuss the Herd and The Tribe. Morrison said Herd fans can expect an explosive offensive team. "The put up points," said the former Herd All-American safety who now coaches MU linebackers. "They are a good football team. I have not faced them (while Morrison was coaching in I-AA), but I saw them on tape when we had similar opponents. They were respected in I-AA football."

Smith talked about the two defensive ends for W&M. "Adam O'Connor and Josh Wright on the other end are very good. O'Connor's height makes his standout, but both are good. Their safeties, (senior James) Miller and (senior Jonathan) Shaw are playmakers." Snyder echoed his coaches later in his talk. "When Marshall was I-AA, they felt they could play with anyone," said Snyder," and we expect same of William and Mary."

Reporters wondered about Snyder and his team's frame of mind when it came to the opener."Oh boy, it's two days to the game," said Snyder. "I think our kids are ready to hit somebody else. Coach Laycock was coaching when I played, he's still there doing a great job. They will be well coached, they have a good system and I'm sure they'll be ready to play." Snyder also talked about his decisions on quarterback Jimmy Skinner, starting in front of Bernard Morris."(Jimmy Skinner) has been there a little longer. He has the most recall. If there is a problem, Larry (Kueck) can get him on the headset and solve it. We have a plan to play both quarterbacks, but I'm not going to tell you our plan." He has also divided the kicking between punter Marty Biagi and kicker Ian O'Connor. "In a perfect world, we would have a kicker and a punter. Since we took the punting duties off Ian (O'Connor), he has become more consistent, not where we want him, but more consistent."

Asked about taking the team to a hotel the night before home games and new "Rolling Thunder" walk from the Henderson Center to the stadium two hours before kickoff, Snyder explained it was not a big deal to stay out of town, but he hoped the fans will make the walk a big deal. "Most big-time programs go to a hotel the night before games. It is a team building thing," said Snyder. "We will leave Charleston at 4:00 p.m., maybe 3:30 for the first time, and drop the kids at the Henderson Center for the "Walk" at about two hours before kickoff, 5:00 p.m. this week. I have a feeling it will bring "goose-pimples" to the players when they see our fans and, knowing our fans, it will be a rowdy environment. Then, (the team) will have time to reflect as they dress for the game, so it will be just like a game emotionally, up and down. It's a teaching tool (for dealing with those emotions)."

Snyder also introduced his senior captains and each spoke. "I've got my senior captains here today, they are a good looking group of guys. These guys have to be leaders." Mullins, a tight end from nearby Gallipolis, Ohio, also is high on Skinner and Biagi. "Jimmy has done some great things when he has gone in," said Mullins. "Marty will do just fine, no problem, he'll do a great job. He has shown in the scrimmages he can kick the ball well. I think we're ready to go." Hargrove would like to see the Marshall offense set the tone Thursday. "Getting off to a fast start is real important," said the starting wide out for the Herd. "Our defense is real good. If we get ahead, I feel real good about our defense holding them. With a lead we can relax some. It's a new conference, a new year, a new beginning. We want to win!"

From the defensive side, Royal wants a fast start also. "Extremely (important) to get off on right track," said the senior who had six picks last year. "Instilling hard work in our players has been big to coach." Royal also looks forward to facing sophomore W&M quarterback Mike Potts, who will make his first start. "I heard about his running talent, but it should be the same scheme. They will take some shots downfield. I know Elijah Brooks (the W&M back who played at MU in 2003 with Kent State) from recruiting...he's a pretty good player, catches the ball well out of the backfield." Smith, who has worn a non-contact jersey this past few days, said his health will not be a concern for the opener. "I do a lot of rehab," said the third-year starter at cornerback. "I will get in the best shape possible." He too is wary of a new quarterback from The Tribe. "We haven't seen much film (on Potts), we don't know his strengths and weaknesses. We will just take him on like any other quarterback." Smith also talked about the three seniors in himself, Royal and UNC transfer Chris Hawkins, along with junior safety Curtis Keyes, trying to help their own first-time starter, J.J. Johnson, who will play the nickle back. "J.J. is not a freshman any more. He's got to play as hard as he can, don't worry about making mistakes and just go out and make plays."

NOTES: Marshall is 2-0 all-time on September 1 and Mark Snyder will be the third Thundering Herd coach to debut on this date. Stan Parrish won his first game in 1984 on September 1, beating West Virginia Tech at Fairfield Stadium by the score of 33-10. Jim Donnan also won his first game at Marshall at Fairfield Stadium on 9/1/1990, beating Morehead State 28-14...Thad Wheeler, a senior linebacker for William and Mary, is the third generation player to play at Marshall, but the first on the opposite side. His grandfather, Ken, lettered for the Herd in 1949 for Cam Henderson and in 1950 for Pete Pederson, while his father, Paul, was a starting center for Frank Ellwood in 1976-77-78. Thad's mom, Becky, also attended MU, along with his grandmother, Betty, and Aunt Joan. The Wheelers, however, will sit in the W&M cheering section, although they will have green on for the Green and Gold Tribe. Paul told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Blood is thicker than school." Thad admitted, "There's been a lot of excitment about this game in my family since the schedule came out."


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