Mark Snyder was pleased with the Herd's progress up until now, and the best surprise was really no surprises at all. "I can't think of any real big surprises," said Snyder. "That's a surprise. Nothing makes me go wow, one way or another." Snyder is also happy the Herd will get into the routine of going to class and practicing in the afternoons a full week before game week, starting August 27. "I always hated game week being the first week of school. The kids are getting settled in, especially the young kids."
The Herd had another crisp workout Friday morning, with Bernie Morris driving the offense to scores on both series in the red zone with touchdown passes to tight end Brian Shope. "We worked on goal line, our passing, different phases of the game at practice today." Snyder also commented publically for the first time on losing junior receiver Shawn Lauzon, who was really having a very good camp in the coach's opinion. But, Snyder was philosophic. "We've got a little more depth this year, but you've got to play with the ones you've got. Injuries are part of the game. We've got a lot of guys back and its not a one-man game. We should be a better football team so we should be better able to withstand injuries."
Part of the depth is there are still some unsettled position battles, even after two weeks. "I'd have to say corner still," said Snyder of the main battle for the spot opposite J.J. Johnson. "I think everything else is pretty solidified. The one place I don't know which way we'll go is corner. I think we're pretty deep on the defensive line. We're deep at O-line, just much of it is inexperienced. They are getting better, though. We're not totally deep anywhere, except maybe the quarterbacks." Marshall can add players to the roster on Monday, when classes start, and can carry as many as 116. Snyder was not sure how many will be added, outside of some players like Ivan Clark or Colin Kelly who were on the spring roster. He is also not sure how many players will get to travel to West Virginia for the opener, but knows how many he would like to take. "We'll see. With the hotel rooms the way they are, the focus we want (with all that), sitting here today, yes I would like to have my whole football team there."
That means perhaps all the freshmen would get a chance to attend this opener with in-state rival West Virginia, but Snyder was sure of a few newcomers, starting with tight end Cody Slate. Slate joined the Herd for spring drills from Fork Union and has been an impact player from day one. "Yes, Cody, for sure. Courtney (Edmondson), Bryant (Milligan), they are on the bubble. They will bus to West Virginia and we'll make a decision that week." Snyder also mentioned young cornerbacks Ashton Hall and Kevin Perry. "They are going to play. (Offensive guard) Josh Evans will have to travel and play. (Offensive tackle) Brandon Campbell will travel. We have got to get both of those guys ready to play. (Running back Kelvin) Turner, he will play. (Receiver William) Barber, he will play, and when we get (Travius) Thompson back at receiver, he will play."
Bryant Milligan is one of those freshmen who will probably see time with the Herd this year, either at receiver or running back punts. The 6-foot-1, 195 pound speedster out of Glenville HS in Cleveland, Ohio is very surprised to possible be on the travel team as a true freshman. "Coming in as a freshman, I never thought about playing. I thought about red-shirting," said Milligan between practices. "I thought I would red-shirt and get bigger, because I'm only about 200 pounds and in college there are 250 pounders running 4.4s and full force, so I never thought about it. But I will try to help the team as much as I can." Lauzon's injury has forced some of those freshmen to move up at receiver, but Milligan said Lauzon is still contributing to the Herd wideouts. "He went down, but he is a great player. He has helped all the freshmen a lot, with the plays and with the routes, how to catch the ball with our hands. With him down, somebody has to step up."
Being a freshman is hard enough, plus possibly making the travel team. First, however, Milligan has to find his classes on Monday and that is as daunting as playing football. "Right, you are never loud about that," said the receiver who played in high school for the father of Ohio State All-American Ted Ginn, Jr., Ted Ginn, Sr. "Coming to college, you have to mature, to be a grown adult. I'm ready for the pressure." While opening at WVU might seems like pressure for some players, Milligan is taking it in stride. "I'm looking forward to the experience. Back at home, in Cleveland, we have 30,000 fans (at many of our games). When I play, you have to tune out the fans, concentrate and execute your assignments." Milligan thinks there are many comparisions between Coach Ginn at Glenville and Mark Snyder at Marshall. "Coach Ginn is a great coach. All he talks about is discipline, working hard and executing. Coming from that program to Marshall, with Coach Snyder, it's like I'm home again. If I can just make one big play this year to help the team, that's what I want to do."
Snyder is encouraging fans to come out, tailgate, pick up their season tickets and have fun in the final Choose-A-Seat Day of the year, beginning at 9 a.m. He also wants to get the team their first run through on game day operations, so it will be routine on Sept. 2. "We want to put on a show for the fans, go through our game day routine and get out of (the scrimmage) healthy. We will go through the game day functions so it's not foreign to the team." Sndyer and the coaches will divide the team into two sidelines on Saturday. "Tomorrow will be ones versus twos. We'll split the team up into varsity and the rest. We might have some of the young kids (with the travel team members), who need to get work with (the first team), and others on the far sidelines to make sure they get plenty of work. Send GAs over, do our communications, what we do in a game.
Snyder will give the team 48 hours off after the scrimmage to get ready for classes on Monday and to get their legs back for Monday with a extended rest. "We hope to be at full strength on Monday," said Snyder, hoping to see the return of Doug Legursky, Ahmad Bradshaw, Slate and Barber to practice to begin preparing for the opening game.
NOTES: The Dawg, 93.7 FM, the home of the Herd on radio in Huntington, will be at the event Saturday with Thundering Herd/ISP Sports Network members Rocky Smith leading the remote. The Planet, 92.7 FM, will have Luke Beach of the Insider Statewide show there as well, passing out items from "The Planet Prize Dumpster" from 9-11 a.m. All available seats for season tickets are marked for purchase and the ticket office and Big Green will be at the stadium from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. There will also be an inflatable play area for children...Tonight is the Kindred Communications Coaches Caravan. Join Snyder and his staff from 6-7:30 at the Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe', with a live broadcast of the Insider Statewide show. Then at 7:30, the group moves over to Football Fest at Pullman Square. The Huntington Heroes will be there, Marshall's award-winning cheerleaders and former National Mascot of the Year, Marco, along with some representatives of local high schools including the new Lincoln County HS. At 9 p.m., the caravan makes it final stop at The Union on Fourth Avenue, a yearly stop for four or five years now...Speaking of Fourth Avenue's top supporters of the Herd, look for Jake's to reopen next week, across from The Upper Classman student apartments. Jake's has the second-most Herd memorabilia in town to only the HOF Cafe'...Sirius Satellite Radio will pick up a number of games from Conference USA this year, but is currently only scheduled to carry Marshall-Tulane, which will also be on CSTV. Herd officials are working to expand that coverage, as well as to find out which games will be carried on computers on CSTV All-Access, using the feed from the Herd Vision board at the stadium and the ISP Sports Network radio feed...It appears Herd fans will have some double-headers in November. When football is at East Carolina for a 1 p.m. start, basketball will play UNC-Greensboro, later that day, at the Henderson Center, possibly at 4:30 p.m.. Also, the Great Alaskan Shootout in November wraps up the day MU football is at Southern Miss, while the men's team will play its third game in Anchorage before taking the "red-eye" home to Huntington.