D Comes With Chip On Shoulder In Rain

Head Coach Mark Snyder moved up Marshall football practice to try and miss the rain on Wednesday and almost got the workout in before the skies opened up. The defense opened up on the offense as well today, dominating the red-zone drills at the end of practice. Especially dominant was the secondary, with the young corners and safeties getting some big plays, along with the new juco nickel back.

Aaron Johnson, who transferred to Marshall from San Francisco City College in January, had a big day at the nickel (fifth defensive back) position. He picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown (juking Bernie Morris out of his shorts in the runback), batted down another pass and recorded a sack as well. "He's doing that," said Snyder when asked if Johnson is starting to find his way. "Johnson and Montel Glasco (a junior college defensive tackle who also joined the Herd in January). Johnson had a good practice today and yesterday, but we are starting to move and do some things he can do well. Aaron is coming along." Other defensive backs with big plays included a pass-breakup by Zearrick Mathews that led to an interception by safety Phillip Gamble. Corner Ashton Hall had a couple of big hits, as did D.J. Wingate and John Saunders at safety as the offense only dented the endzone about three times in 20-plus tries.

"The defense has had a little chip on its shoulder since Saturday," said Snyder. "Anytime you start moving and blitzing, it's easy to get fired up. That's what defensive players like to do. We were better than yesterday," said Snyder of the entire team effort. "Am I happy? No, but we were better than yesterday. The effort was good, enthusiasm was good but we're nowhere near where we need to be. But it was better." Will Albin, who just moved to linebacker on Friday from fullback and had 10 tackles unofficially Saturday, continues to catch the eye of the coaches. "We'll keep him there the rest of spring, with our depth at linebacker. I think he's having fun and we'll make a decision from there." Albin won the Sam Huff Award as the outstanding high school defensive player in West Virginia as a senior at Princeton High School in the southern part of the state.

So far this spring, Snyder has had practices in 80-degree days, 30-degree days with snow and near single-digit windchills, then driving rain and mid-50s today. "It is what it is. It's where we are at," said Snyder of spring drill in April. "We cut meetings short and came out to practice early today and got most of it in before the rain. We will have to play in all kinds of weather. You never know what you get in two-a-days, sometimes it's just burning hot, so this (variety of weather) is good." Despite the rain coming down, one of the highlights of the workout was a 65-yard bomb from quarterback Bernard Morris to junior college wide receiver Darius Passmore, a play that thrilled the 100 or so fans who braved the wind and rain to be in attendance and that Snyder took credit for calling.

"That was a head coach call," said Snyder of the long touchdown. "We went five plays before we went to the red-zone (inside the 20-yard line) and the players didn't even know we were going to the red-zone. The weather held off and we wanted to see Darius go deep one time. We haven't seen that yet." As far as the other receivers, there were a number of dropped balls again and some misses by all three quarterbacks in the red-zone, the same problems that have plagued the passing game all spring - lack of consistency.

The running game got Kelvin Turner back this week, but is still somewhat limited. Chubb Small has done OK, according to his head coach, but is not where the team needs him to be. "He's been adequate," said Snyder. "He's doing an admirable job, but that's not where we need him to be." Small gained 193 yards last year and 197 in 2005, backing up Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw is expected to be a fifth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the upcoming NFL Draft, according to the mock draft on Scout.com.

The offensive line made improvement in picking up the blitz package that was put in Tuesday. "They were better today. Yesterday they were like a sieve," said Snyder. "That's progress. Zigs (David Ziegler, the starting left guard for the Herd) had got to get better. I'm afraid he may need another surgery (on his shoulder), we're looking at two or three more months of rehabilitation. He has been there on game day. But that's a chance for the young guys. Josh Evans will run with the ones this weekend and we have some good young linemen coming in this fall. I might be tempted to take the red-shirt off a few of the freshmen if Zig is not healthy. I might not have the luxury, but I'm glad I kept (the red-shirt) on Josh, Brandon (Brandon Campbell) and Chad (Chad Schofield) last year."

Marshall had a number of players missing practice today, although Maurice Kitchens returned at linebacker. Safety C.J. Spillman practiced in a gold (non-contact) jersey and on the side were receiver Courtney Edmondson (hamstring), tight end David Redick, defensive lineman Ryland Wilson (who was pulling the "Gator" four-wheeler used by the MU equipment staff to haul gear on and off the field), linebacker Mahala Wiggins and Ziegler, who also got to pull the "Gator." Marshall will work out Friday at 3:30 P.M., then scrimmage Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Both practices are open to the public. The Green-White Spring Game is set for Saturday, April 21, at 3 p.m. and can be heard on WRVC 930 AM, with the tailgate show starting at 2 p.m. in the West Lot of the stadium. A special issue of Herd Insider will be available at the tailgate, with stories, rosters, schedule and recruits listed and will be free to anyone. Herd Insider will also have a poster of the 1971 "Young" Thundering Herd available, and that group will be the special guests of the MU football team for the Green-White Game as well as tailgating with the M-Club. Cost for tickets for the game is $5 each and proceeds benefit the Marshall Quarterback Club, who provide summer tuitions, computers and tutors for the football program along with other special items.

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