Dandelions? Nope. Dandy Players.

EVERY spring something new blooms in my yard. The same thing happened this spring in Marshall's "yard." Sprouting right before our very eyes from the artificial turf in Marshall Stadium were a blossoming quarterback, a budding linebacker and a blooming offensive guard.

And that's just a few of the sprouts.

Here's a look at the players who really flowered during Marshall's 2002 spring drills.

* Stan Hill -- The second-team quarterback probably improved more than any other Herd player. That statement might surprise fans, based on Hill's less than spectacular performance in the Green-White game.

Granted, he was just 8-of-16 for 76 yards with three interceptions, four sacks and only one touchdown. But, trust me, that was no indication of how much Hill blossomed this spring. Just ask MU Offensive Coordinator Mark McHale.

"The group he had to go with, mostly the No. 2s," said McHale, "that was tough for him."

When Hill did get to quarterback the first-team, he wrapped up the game with a 15-yard scoring strike to Darius Watts.

And, then, there's this unsolicited comment from Marshall Coach Bobby Pruett.

"I went down to Southern Miss during our spring break and watched them practice," he said. "Stan is No. 2 for us, but he was better than any quarterback they had."

* J.T. Rembert -- When spring drills began, the sophomore was backing up Charlie Tynes at "rover" linebacker. When it ended, Rembert had bloomed into MU's starting inside linebacker.

"Rembert already was a good player," said recruiting coordinator Bill Legg. "The day he was moved to inside linebacker he immediately became a very good player."

That was obvious almost immediately. Rembert has a unique blend of athleticism and big-hitting ability. He routinely turned in the biggest hits of the day.

Look for Rembert to be an impact player. And I do mean impact.

* Luke Salmons -- The 6-foot-3, 295-pound junior was the final piece of the offensive line puzzle. Once he stepped into the vacant left guard position, the entire line reached another level.

In fact, I believe this offensive line will be the best in Herd history. And Salmons is the key. He brings a bite, a nastiness, a mean streak to Marshall's offensive line.

* Marcus Hairston -- The incredibly quick defensive end had two sacks in the Green-White game, including one on Byron Leftwich in the end zone for a safety. It wasn't a fluke.

The only thing quicker than Hairston's first-step is his rise on the depth chart. After making the unheard of move from running back to defensive end, Hairston already has established himself as MU's "pass rushing specialist" on obvious passing downs.

Don't be surprised if he eventually joins fellow Martinsville, Va., native Jamus Martin as the Herd's starting defensive ends.

* Jason Rader -- It isn't always easy to live up to advance billing. Especially when the billing is as high as the St. Albans native's was when he transferred to MU from the University of Georgia.

But Rader proved he is indeed as good as advertised during the spring. Look for him to be Marshall's most prolific pass-catching tight end since Sean Doctor.

* Kevin Atkins -- There's only one reason why he isn't starting at middle linebacker. Senior Duran Smith. Otherwise, the job would belong to Atkins. And there's no doubt in Defensive Coordinator Bill Wilt's mind that Atkins would get the job done.

"There was one practice," remembered Wilt, "that I saw Atkins make an adjustment that was so athletic, I couldn't believe it."

I don't know what kind of fertilizer Marshall uses on its artificial turf, but it certainly is working.

My yard has dandelions.

Marshall's yard has dandy players.


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