The team will have an off day on Thursday, but will gather in the afternoon to select teams for the Green-White Game on Saturday, April 21. Herd Insider will cover the draft and post both teams top picks and full rosters on Thursday afternoon. Marshall will practice Friday, but some of that time will be as the Green unit and the White unit in preparation for the game, which kicks off at 3 p.m. It is a busy day, with Marshall's softball team hosting a Conference USA doubleheader at 1 p.m., the Green-White Game at 3 p.m., the Huntington premiere of "Two Tickets To Paradise," the D.B. Sweeney movie that is part of the Appalachian Film Festival at the Keith-Albee Saturday at 5 p.m. and the Huntington Heroes, with many former Herd players, playing the Pittsburgh River Rats at 7 p.m. at the Big Sandy Superstores Arena in downtown Huntington.
In softball, the Marshall Thundering Herd will return to "The Dot" (Dot Hicks Field, behind the Henderson Center on campus) for a pivotal three-game Conference USA series with the Memphis Tigers, beginning with a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday. The series will conclude Sunday at 1 p.m. Saturday will also be "Lil' Sis Day" where members of the Herd softball team will recognize members of the Lil' Sis program between games. The film, "Two Tickets For Paradise" is the story of three Marshall fans making a mid-life journey to discover themselves while heading to the Orange Bowl to watch the Thundering Herd battle the Longhorns of Texas in the BCS National Championship game. It's being promoted as the "other" Marshall movie in a reference to the "We Are Marshall" movie.
In Wednesday's practice, former Marshall head coach Bobby Pruett made a rare appearance to watch from the sidelines and chatted with Director of Athletics Bob Marcum as well as The Charleston Gazette's sports editor Mitch Vingle. Bernard Morris and Cody Slate had two long touchdowns, but Morris was picked once on a spectacular interception by senior safety Phillip Gamble, who took the ball away while he and Emmanuel Spann were in the air trying to make the catch on a well-thrown ball. The defense sent five and six men in the blitz period, occasionally recording unofficial "sacks" on the red-jerseys of the quarterbacks (who cannot be tackled), but it also led to some big runs from all three quarterbacks, including Brian Anderson and Wesley Beardain, and running back Chubb Small had his third consecutive outstanding day rushing the ball. Darius Passmore continued to make big plays, and the receiving corps continues to gain confidence in their ability to not only get open but make the catch and the all important "YAK" or yards after catch.
From Tuesday's Practice:
"I think it has more to do with consistency," said Snyder, remarking on today's effort. "We need to become consistent, week in and week out. That's what championship teams do and we're not quite there yet." As far as the offense being ahead of the defense, which has not been the case the past few springs at Marshall, Snyder thinks there are a combination of reasons. "Obviously, with the way our numbers are here right now, the offense has more scholarship players. Our numbers are good at receiver, the best they have been. We have some injuries on defense, that compounds their problems. I can't get real concerned as long as the guys playing for us are getting better, especially the guys who are going to be playing for us in the fall. That's my pet peeve. But I do think the offense is getting better."
One of the players who will be playing this fall would appear to be senior quarterback Bernard Morris, who has really appeared to take a leap forward of the other quarterbacks, especially with the emergence of an 'X' receiver in Darius Passmore. Morris has found the junior college receiver with the 4.3 spped for a number of long plays in the last week, and is taking full advantage of the new depth in the receiving corps and at tight end. In the last two scrimmages, Morris has hit for 24-of-41 for 475 yards, with no interceptions and two touchdowns, a 80-yard toss to tight end Cody Slate at Charleston and a 66-yard bomb to Passmore last Sunday. Both of those scrimmages were hardly in the best of weather with cold, wind, rain and snow. "The offense has been playing pretty good," said the Orlando, Florida native who hit for 1,346 yards (116-of-188, 62 percent) with eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season. "I don't think we have lost a beat from last season." Many Herd fans thought the Herd would struggle with the loss of Ahmad Bradshaw, who declared for the NFL draft after gaining over 1,500 yards his junior year, but Morris doesn't see it that way.
Marshall quarterback Bernard Morris, shown leaping over Hofstra CB DeWayne Whitaker while rushing for 151 yards in that game, is throwing with much more consistency this spring while still running well.file photo by Greg Perry, Herd Insider
"We have kind of upgraded ourselves. We have Passmore out there, a legitimate 'X' and he is running past nearly everyone out there. Ahmad was a great player and everyone likes what he has done here, but that season is gone and best of luck to him in the draft. I'm still playing for Marshall and so is everyone else who is still on the team. We've got to go into August with focus." Morris is aware of the inconsistent play that has plagued him at times in the past two seasons, with more interceptions than touchdown passes. "I've been pretty good the past couple of days, but there is always room for improvement. I still need to improve playing catch with my receivers, there were a few balls I overthrew or that were dropped. We have a few more days to improve (before the summer and fall practice begins)," Morris added.
Morris also said the expanded passing game, with Slate, Passmore, Edmonson, plus Emmanuel Spann, Bryant Milligan, E.J. Wynn and William Barber, among others, have opened up the offensive playbook "It's a combination of a lot of things. If you have guys out there who can be in one-on-one coverage, the defense has to back off and respect you. It opens up the run and we can get the ball to Chubb (Small), or for me to take it and what not. It makes the defense give us a balanced look, we don't have those guys over there jumping around and that will open up some things for us."
Outside of the normal areas of concern for spring practice, many coaches across the country are playing catch-up on is the rules handed down this week by the NCAA regarding this year's college football. The clock will go back to starting when it is touched by the kickoff receiving team, but college teams will now have to kick from the 30 yard line, like the NFL does, instead of the 35, and is expected to bring the kickoff return back to prominence in college football. "We'll work a lot more kickoff and kick return," said Snyder, "in fact, we'll work on that (more). We put in some kickoff today, but (Wednesday) kick return will take precedent. It's going to become an offensive play. You know the ball is coming out, so you'd better be good on kickoff and you'd better be good on kickoff return becasue the ball will be returned." Snyder said the weather conditions may determine whether you receive or defer at the coin flip. Snyder will wait and see about the timing rules and backing up the kickoff. "We'll see. It gives the offense back some plays, which makes the offensive coaches happy, but makes the defensive coaches unhappy."
Action from the 2006 Green-White game, at which Marshall set an all-time record by drawing over 17,000 to the game that featured appearances by former Marshall stars and Hollywood stars, who were in town to film "We Are Marshall" the movie.
The Green-White Spring Game this Saturday is quickly becoming an event at Marshall, and that's the way Snyder envisioned it when he took over just before the 2005 spring game. "We want all our former players to come back each year. This year it is the 1971 team, but we'll have more than the '71 team. We would like to get this thing to the point where all generations are here with us every Spring." Snyder will have the 1971 "Young" Thundering Herd accompany this year's team for the "Thunder Walk" at 1 p.m. through the West Parking Lot of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium to the dressing room and members of that team will act as honorary team captains. Also attending will be other former Herd players and a number of Marshall stars from the National Football League.
Snyder will run the game like last year, with the teams selected by the players for the Green and the White. "We have the draft on Thursday. We'll have the seniors up front, divided into teams and figure out who has the first draft pick. Then we'll make a decision on how we'll do game." Fans can park on the West Lot for $10 or in the Third Avenue garage for just $5. Tickets to the game are $5, and season tickets will be on sale from Noon to kickoff at the stadium. WRVC 930 AM will broadcast the game in Huntington, making the podcast available after the game at www.wrvc.com, and the pre-game show from the tailgate will start at 2 p.m. Fans can pickup a special football-only edition of the Herd Insider at the tailgate, as well as a poster of the 1971 Young Thundering Herd. The QB Club will be selling a program with rosters of the teams, this year's schedule and other news.