While the players were a little more outgoing than the normally guarded coaches, Offensive Coordinator Larry Kueck could not help but smile at the difference one year has made in experience and playing time for his side of the ball. "This time a year ago, three or four kids had actually played in a game," said Kueck as the media dined on bar-b-que. "The quarterbacks had taken only 15 snaps between them. With this year's bunch, Bernie (Bernard Morris) and Jimmy (Skinner) have played extensively and Derek (Devine) has played some." Obviously, Kueck is also excited about pre-season All-Conference USA running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards on the ground and over 1,300 in all-purpose yards. "We are pretty good at running back. And I think Chubb is ready to have a breakout year," said Kueck, speaking of backup Chubb Small, who excelled on returning kicks last year and will back-up Bradshaw.
Head Coach Mark Snyder agreed about his backs. "Ahmad has to get 25-30 touches a game? Yes," said Snyder to a reporter's question. "He was good enough to be a 1,000-yard rusher last year." Snyder, who has also coached at Central Florida, Youngstown State and Minnesota in addition to Ohio State, had high praise for Bradshaw. "He could play anywhere I've been. The key is for him to continue to get bigger and be mentally prepared. He is maturing. He has great vision...uncanny. He runs a little bit like Barry Sanders, but he's got to hold onto the football. We had too many penalties, too many turnovers last year and we've got to be a smarter team."
Snyder is also excited about the progress of Morris, who won the "Ironman" award for summer lifting and conditioning, along with offensive lineman Chris Barnes. "Bernie was shaky early yesterday, then started looking good in team. We came out yesterday and were a little rusty in the first practice. In team we looked like a team. Bernie has led us all summer, he's done a full 180. He's maturing. He's a different guy." Morris was also excited about the start of practice this season. "I'm probably around 218. I feel good. My bench press went up a little bit (to 370). I couldn't even bench 180 when I came in," said Morris. As far as being the number one QB, Morris is enjoying that as well. "It feels good to come in a not worry about making a lot of mistakes. Just go out there and play and coach will let me stay there." Morris is definite about the area he wants to improve. "I only threw for about 1,100 yards last year. For us to get better, the passing game has to improve to go places where we want to go, like bowl games." Morris likes the fact the Herd will be using a fullback as well this year. "I used a fullback in high school. It's just one more guy back there to block."
As far as the opener with WVU, Morris knows Herd fans, coaches and players would love to go to Morgantown and upset a Top 10 team in the Mountaineers. "I always wanted an in-state rivalry and now we have a chance and again as seniors. We have a lot of guys from West Virginia and it's important to them. No one likes us in Morgantown, so we go there and get a win, it would be good for us." Seth Cook, a lineman from Gilbert, W.Va. echoed his quarterback when it comes to playing WVU. "It will be a lot of fun, I've really been looking forward to it," said Cook. "They are a Top 10 team this year, so it will be a great challenge. We love going into these hostile environments and playing these huge games. It's going to be fun."
NOTES: Marshall has now sold over 12,500 season tickets, according to Matt Monroe, Ticket Manager for Marshall athletics. That puts the Herd at over 2,000 ahead of last year's pace at this time and they still hope to break the single season record of over 13,000 with additional promotions this month. Those include a final "Choose-A-Seat Day" on August 19th on a scrimmage day for the Herd that will be open to the public...Marshall Sports Information puts a price on the column inches that appear on Marshall athletics in national and regional publications and only eight months into 2006, the total is over $12 million ahead of all of last year. Marshall estimates the school has received $20 million in publicity, largely due to the coming "We Are Marshall" movie from Warner Brothers. That total should continue to sprial upward as the movie comes out in October of this year...Conference USA is trying to make the media happier by joining a new service, collegepressbox.com along with the ACC, Big East, Big XII and Notre Dame. The service will give the media a password protected site that will provide quick access for game notes, game stats, quotes from coaches conferences and pictures of players, coaches and logos...Putnam County will host a MU-WVU Family Style Tailgate at the Putnam County Courthouse on Saturday, August 26. There will be games, competitions, a hot dog eating contest and a chance to "Hammer The Herd Car" or Mash the Mountaineer Car" by taking a sledgehammer to vehicles provided by C&G Auto Parts and Towing. There will be games for children provided by the Tri-County YMCA. Bring your grill and your non-alcoholic beverages and tailgate with the Green and White and Blue and Gold in Putnam County...There will be a benefit for the Curt Nethercutt family on Friday, August 11, at the Big Green Room at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Gold Star Lodge No. 65 and Kindred Communications. Curt, a former tight end for the Herd, is currently on leave from the Huntington Police Department due to his wife's cancer. The cost is $100 per couple and includes food and drink. There will be an auction by Mike Kirtner of Kindred of gear from former Herd players and items from local merchants. Call Sergeant Ray Cornwell at the HPD for information, 304-696-4470.