Final Thoughts From Spring Practice

With Marshall spring drills coming to the final forte' in the Green-White game tomorrow night, here's my final report of various (and sundry) observations from this week's early-morning practices...

…Luke Salmons has not missed a beat on the offensive line. Salmons, a 6-3, 295-pound left guard from Cottageville, WV, has stepped in to fill the spot that Steve Content held until his graduation last year. In practices, there are no missteps, no blunders, nothing wrong anywhere at all on the offensive line. They are so good, it's just as scary as it was in 2001. Salmons may be the unsung hero in 2002, in my opinion.

…And speaking of the offensive line, tackle Steve Sciullo is fresh off being named to Playboy Magazine's All-American team. When one thinks of All-Americans in recent Marshall history, it's usually the pretty boys (running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers, etc.) who are usually up for that presitigous level of recognition.

Which is why it is refreshing to see one of the Trench Warriors --Sciullo-- get in on the action.

"It's a big accomplishment," Sciullo said. But immediately, he deflected the praise onto his other linemen. "It's just a testament to this program and our stature, and what we're coming to."

Sciullo battles Jamus Martin in practice earlier this week.

Sciullo then went on to say that he won the honor because of the exposure that his quarterback, Byron Leftwich, brings to the program. Not so fast, my friend. I reminded Sciullo that, had Leftwich spent all of the 2001 series on his back, Sciullo wouldn't make anybody's All-American team. Sciullo finally confessed that it may have something to do with his abilities, yes.

"That's true," Sciullo said. And then again, he deflected the praise. "With his exposure comes respect for us as a unit."

And that's what I like about Sciullo: He's this big, lovable lug of a guy who would rather point out his team than accept an honor for himself.

But this one honor is all about Steve Sciullo, as it should be. He might be the best lineman ever in Marshall history. That's a loaded statment, but the 2002 season ahead just might validate that statement.

…The conversation with Sciullo didn't end with talk of his All-American selection, though. All spring, Sciullo has been battling with three guys --Jamus Martin, Kingsley Clark, and Marcus Hairston-- who have all been trying to win a starting spot at defensive end. The departure of Ralph Street and Kelvin Smith left a gaping hole (literally) at the end spot.

Sciullo noted that Hairston --a running back last year-- has all the athletic abilities to really be something at defensive end. "He might only weigh 230 or 235, but he's taking it on pretty well," Sciullo said of Hairston. "He's a strong kid, he's physical and athletic. You can't teach that lesson."

…What's coach Bob Pruett looking for at the Green-White game on Saturday? Pruett had a fast answer for that question: "Who is going to compete," Pruett said. He's not looking for show-stopping plays or any flashy moves. Rather, he wants to see who is willing to step it up and be a player. Who will make a statement, in other words.

"The winner's going to eat steak, and the loser is going to serve it," Pruett laughed. The 24-point deficit that will face the #1 offense and defense was done specifically to get the question above answered in a way the coach can understand. "Make them compete. Have a little fun with it," was Pruett's answer to placing Leftwich and Company three TDs (and a FG) down from the get-go.

…And last but not least, junior college transfer and 2002 signee quarterback Graham Gochneaur arrived two days early for the Green-White game, with his family in tow. Gochneaur is doing all the little things --finding and apartment, etc.-- while in town, and as of Friday morning absolutely could not wait to begin practicing later on this summer. This Gochneaur family takes their football seriously, it appears

Final note about Gochneaur: He is eye-to-eye (maybe even a half-inch taller in his Texas boots) than Byron Leftwich.


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