Blue Ribbon College Football Forecast--Marshall
The following is an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from Brassey's Inc.'s "Blue Ribbon College Football Forecast" profile for Marshall. We've included an excerpt of our position analyses, as well as of our "Blue Ribbon Analysis" for the upcoming season. For much more detail on your team and the 116 other Division I-A teams, purchase the "Forecast" today--see below for ordering information!
Defensive LineThe Herd allowed opponents to gain 4.7 yards per carry last season and any improvement this year will have to start with the men in the trenches.
"We have got to stop the run better," Pruett said. "We have got to continue to develop depth. I think we can run up front, we just have to get lined up and know what to do. "Last year was an unusual year with the suspensions and the games we played. This year we are looking to get back to play championship defense."
While only one starter officially returns on the defensive line, Marshall is actually in good shape at tackle as all three players that started are back.
Senior Orlando Washington (6-2, 265) returns at the tackle spot after making 64 tackles, including 10 for losses, and earning second-team All-MAC honors. Sophomore Josh Cordell (6-5, 298) and junior Marian Hicks (6-4, 295) split time at nose tackle in 2001 and should form a formidable tandem again this season. Sophomore Reggie Hayes (6-4, 278) and junior Toriano Brown (6-1, 270) back up Washington and junior Nathan Leslie (6-4, 268) is a reserve nose tackle.
Junior Maurice McKinney (6-3, 235), the team's top returning sack man, should move into the starting right end spot. McKinney made 45 tackles, including nine for losses, and four sacks last season. Backups Paul Sinclair (6-4, 250), a senior, and Jonathan Goddard (6-1, 250), a junior, are long on potential but short on experience. Sophomore Jamus Martin (6-3, 235) leads a group of contenders that also includes juniors Kingsley Clark (6-5, 225) and Marcus Hairston (6-2, 231) at the other end spot.
Blue Ribbon AnalysisOther teams around the country showed what they really thought of the Marshall football program as the Herd scrambled to fill its schedule this spring. The teams that said "thanks, but no thanks" in order to avoid a possible loss were Maryland, Notre Dame and TCU (even though the Horned Frogs had a contract). Having teams of that ilk refuse to play you, now that's respect.
Not that the Thundering Herd doesn't deserve its props. Marshall's offense is talented enough to put up points against any defense in the country and improvement on defense and special teams could lead to a special season. Truth be told, if Marshall is good enough to win at Virginia Tech on Sept. 12, it is probably good enough to run the table in the regular season.
"We want them to expect to be a top 25 team," Marshall coach Bob Pruett said of his players. "No one's perfect, but we set the goals very high. We try to win them all."
Leftwich is among the most talented quarterback in college football-and some think he's the best-and is surrounded by playmakers on offense. Receivers Watts, Davis, Marriott and Jones are all capable of making big plays, running back Wallace seems on the verge of a 1,000-yard season and the offensive line returns four starters and is anchored by Playboy All-American Sciullo.
An inadequate run defense haunted Marshall last season and improvement has been emphasized throughout the off-season. MAC Defensive Player of the Year Yates will be missed at middle linebacker, but senior Crocker leads a veteran secondary that will be the strength of the defense.
One of the few ways to beat Marshall seems to be by controlling the clock, so teams figure to run. If the Herd can avoid being pushed around up front, that will be difficult to do considering the number of points Marshall figures to score.
Leftwich may not win the Heisman Trophy, but you'll hear his name plenty of times throughout the season and up until the NFL draft next April. You'll also see plenty of Marshall highlights as the Herd rolls to its share of lopsided victories.
This is the first off-season in four that the Herd did not have a conference championship to look back on, and they weren't happy about it. Don't expect Leftwich and Co. to fall short of that goal this fall.
There were plenty of off-season rumors about the Herd jumping to Conference USA for football, but Marshall isn't going anywhere, yet.