Herd Back To Work On Gridiron Tuesday

Marshall football got back to work on Tuesday in temperatures quite a bit improved from the below freezing weather of Saturday in Charleston. The Herd will work three more days this week, including a rare Sunday scrimmage this weekend at 10:30 a.m., and all practices are open to the public. The offense proudly sported the green jerseys they won in the workout at Laidley Field by a score of 45-34.

After a couple of days off since Saturday, many expected the Herd to be a little less than sharp. But head coach Mark Snyder said they put some new things in today and they will basically spend Wednesday going over those same things. "I think we put in some new things, and I debated to open practice or not," said Snyder, who has opened all of this week's practices - Wednesday and Friday at 3:30 p.m., Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. - to the public. "We put in our open sets (no running back) and the defense put in some blitzes. You have to invite the blitz offensively. We took the next step today and moved on past the scrimmage (on Saturday). We'll repeat this practice tomorrow."

Snyder was again eager to talk about the hitting of his secondary, but once again was cautious about their ability to cover the deep ball, as tight end Cody Slate and Emmanuel Spann and E.J. Wynn at receiver got behind the secondary at times. "Yeah, they will hit," said Snyder. "But we still have work to do on the long ball. Ashton has had a pretty good spring. Last fall, he was our nickel and we had to get him ready to do that," said the coach of sophomore corner Ashton Hall. "He's doing OK, Kevin Perry is doing OK, Nate Robinson is doing OK (DeNathian Robinson) and Z (Zearrick Mathews), he and Ashton have got to continue to get better."

Snyder was also happy with the nice weather, but still not happy with the quarterback play. "We are inconsistent. We have to get better at throwing the ball and catching the ball. It wasn't all on the quarterbacks today, we had some dropped balls. When it's live, its interesting how those "alligator" arms come out." Putting in some new formations on offense, the tight ends were open and making some big plays down the seam route in the fashion of former Herd tight ends like Sean Doctor, who played with Snyder in 1987, Eric Ihnat or Mike Bartrum. "Cody has had a good spring." Tight end coach Phil Ratliff has also liked what he has seen out of the young group of players at his position, with the exception of senior Brian Shope. "Shope bring toughness to the table and his mentality is great for our room. He's been out there awhile so these younger guys learn from him.

"He and Cody are different guys. One thing Cody can learn from Shope is toughness and so far this spring he has really improved upon. We know about his pass catching skills." Despite the amount of young players, Ratliff is happy with where they are at to this point. "We have thrown alot at them. They are a good group who seem to complement one and other, push one and other," said Ratliff, the former All-American lineman at Marshall. "It's making each one of them better and so far they have responded well. They are learning, their heads are spinning but we definitely have some talent in that room. Coach Kueck is doing a good job of working the tight ends into the system. It's good to see some guys step up and try to get to the level of those guys like Bartrum and Doctor and Ihnat."

Marshall will mostly review what they put into the schemes today in the Wednesday practice. Friday, the Herd will hit. "On Friday, we are going full bore," said Snyder. "Different situations, red-zone, put in our red-zone pass coverage. This is a long week and hopefully, we'll put it all together, throw it up against the wall and see what sticks (in Sunday's scrimmage). We implemented the empty today and asked the defense to blitz it and knew we would struggle a little bit. If you can handle empty and blitz as an offense, you have a chance to be pretty good."

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