And Snyder got exactly what he wanted on the first day of practice: enthusiasm. Marshall players hit the field and practiced with high spirits, and the introduction of some new drills only added to the atmosphere.
"A lot of enthusiasm, I was not disappointed," Snyder said afterwards. "We're a little rusty. It's typical for first practices. That's why you practice; they get better. "
"Now, we get to hone our skills and get better."
Freshman tight end Cody Slate eyed a pass from quarterback Wesley Beardain on the first day of practice.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
And the most visible example of honing skills was none other than kicker Anthony Binswanger. The 6-2, 193 pound junior transferred to Marshall from Diablo Valley Community College after kicking one year at the University of California. After Marshall's up-and-down 2005 season (with regards to the kicking game), Binswanger enters spring drills with a viable shot at both kickoff and field goal duties.
And on the first day of practice, everybody wanted to see exactly what Binswanger brought to the kicking table. He only got in six kicks, but Binswanger's leg strength didn't go unnoticed.
"Coach Snyder got me ready for it," Binswanger said of the high expectations placed on him before practices had even begun. "I knew what I had to expect, coming in."
"He'll get more and more looks as we go along here," said Snyder of Binswanger. "We'll heat him up here in a couple days."
"Once we get our timing down, we'll be golden," Binswanger countered.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw looked for room during drills on the first day of spring practice.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Also new in practice was freshman tight end Cody Slate. The 6-4, 212 pounder from Chatham, Virginia (via Hargrave Military Academy) spent most of the session just trying to adjust to the speed of the college game.
"It's a lot faster than what I'm used to. A little more than I expected," Slate said. "A lot more enthusiastic than I expected."
Slate expressed a desire to add another 15 pounds to his 6-4 frame by the time September rolls around, this after already adding 15 pounds over the winter.
"I'm trying to get some playing time this fall," Slate continued. "I need to gain weight before I do too much more. About 15 more pounds." Slate said he would be comfortable at 225 pounds by the start of summer practice in early August.
One of the hottest contests expected this spring is for the role of number two running back. With Ahmad Bradshaw as the de facto starter, both Gerwin Williams and Chubb Small are set to battle it out this spring. The duo will have Snyder's eye at every practice.
"Push the starters, push the envelope. Try and go get their job," Snyder said of his expectations from Williams and Small. "When we do those kind of things, improvement happens."
Coach Mark Snyder addressed his team at the conclusion of the first practice on Tuesday afternoon.photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
And in the big picture of sorts, Snyder admitted that his goals for the spring are short, sweet and to the point: Improvement and execution. Snyder and staff have simplified some aspects on both sides of the ball, and in turn Snyder wants to see the execution get better as a result.
"We had a lot of mental busts last year, and we want to eliminate them," Snyder summed up. "Everybody has to step up a level."
Marshall continues spring drills on Thursday afternoon at 3:30pm at Edwards Stadium. Practices are open to the public.