Possibly no league in American had more turnover than Conference USA following the 2006 season. Rice, Tulane, Tulsa and UAB all welcomed new head coaches, this after Rice went to its first bowl in over 45 years and Tulsa went to a bowl for the third time in four years. In fact, the new Golden Hurricane coach in Oklahoma is the coach who just took the Owls to a bowl last year in the form of Todd Graham. He replaces Steve Kragthorpe, who went to Louisville (a C-USA school from 1996-2005) to replace Bobby Petrino, who is now head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Also new are Neil Calloway at UAB, Bob Toledo at Tulane and David Baliff at Rice and Marshall will play UAB, Tulsa and Rice this season. Marshall has a new defensive coordinator in Steve Dunlap while Memphis has a new DC in Rick Kravitz. The Herd will also meet new head coaches at Miami, Florida, and Cincinnati.
The schedule was one of the first things to come up when MU head coach Mark Snyder, center Doug Legursky and tight end Cody Slate appeared on CSTV from the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street in New Orleans on Monday. Legursky was matter of fact about facing the Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl to open the season, then returning home for the Joan C. Edwards Stadium 2007 opener with top five-ranked West Virginia. "We're going into the season looking forward to the challenge," said the senior center who was named last week to the 2007 preseason All C-USA team. "We go into each game, no matter the opponent, with the same mindset...to win."
Legursky, who has started in 23 straight games and played in all 35 in his career at Marshall, was called "Strong, Mean, Nasty, Demanding" by the CSTV team and agreed with that to a point. "I don't need a break," said the Beckley native of taking some time off. "I expect a lot of myself, and my teammates, and they expect a lot of me." Legursky and Slate, another 2007 preseason C-USA pick, both hope the MU offense can put up big numbers with a revamped receiving corps. "We were supposed to have Darius Passmore last year, but he opened up the offense tremendously in the spring," said Slate, who led the Herd with 43 catches for 684 yards and six scores as a true freshman. "Bernard Morris and I have a good rapport, we pushed each other this summer," added the tight end about the Herd senior starting quarterback.
"Bernie will start," said Snyder, beginning his third season as the head coach of the Herd. "We had a couple of young guys who stepped up at quarterback in the spring (red-shirt freshman Brian Anderson and sophomore Wesley Beardain) and we have a couple of more coming in," said Snyder of true freshmen Mark Cann and Chris Smith, of nearby South Point, Ohio. He also addressed the running back position, which was not addressed during the spring as the offensive line needed extensive work on pass blocking and the quarterbacks got a good deal of passing in to the receivers. "I wish I had a crystal ball for running back," said the coach. "Chubb Small and Kelvin Turner will start, but we also have a couple of young guys there I feel good about.
Chubb Small, shown in the spring game, is one of many who will get a look at running back in August by Herd staff. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
"We are talking about people reaching their full potential this year," added Snyder about the 2007 squad. "The last two (recruiting) classes have been very strong. I like our team's character. Things are bright in Huntington." Small and Turner are both juniors, but Small has just 102 carries over two seasons for 390 yards and one touchdown, while Turner has only had five carries for 17 yards, including 15 yards versus WVU, last season. Incoming freshman backs are Terrell Edwards, who is 6-foot-2, 205-pounds out of Mobile, Ala., and Darius Marshall, a 5-foot-10, 188-pound speedster from Milledgeville, Ga.
Zearrick Matthews returned this interception of Tulane for a TD versus Tulane on the way to being on the All C-USA Frosh Team. photos by Greg Perry/HI staff
NOTES: Interviews by the rest of the print and electronic media will be Tuesday morning and Herd fans can here many of those interviews on the Insider Sportsline at 4 p.m. on WRVC Tuesday...the Herd will report on Wednesday, then practice Thursday afternoon. While that workout is closed to the public, fans are encouraged to bring their cameras to the stadium Friday at 6:30 p.m. for Media Day, while Saturday's and Monday's practices at 3:20 p.m. are open to all...the 2007 Marshall football media guide features Legursky, Slate and Albert McClellan on the cover. McClellan is also preseason All C-USA and the projected Defensive Player of the Year, which he also won in 2006...on the back cover is senior tight end Brian Shope and sophomore corner Zearrick Matthews, who was named a Freshman All-Americanshonorable mention and made the All C-USA Frosh team last year...the inside front cover features Snyder, linebacker Josh Johnson and Morris, while the inside back cover has linebacker Ian Hoskins, offensive tackle John Inman, defensive back C.J. Spillman and receiver/returner Emmanuel Spann...McClellan is also one of 12 C-USA players featured on the league's media guide...Did you know 11 of the league's 12 teams have played in at least one bowl in the last five years (the lone exception is SMU, who last was in a bowl in 1984, when they went to the Aloha). Southern Miss ( and Houston (7-9-1) lead all current C-USA teams with 17 bowl appearances each. Marshall has eight, and is 5-3 (including six in a row from 1997-2002). UH is just 7-9-1 in bowls, losing seven in a row back to the Sun Bowl in 1981, and USM is 8-9 in bowls, having won three in a row. ECU is 7-6, Memphis is 4-1, Rice 4-4, SMU 4-5-1, Tulane 4-6, Tulsa 5-9 (plus first team to play five in a row, 1942-46), UAB and UCF are both 0-1 and UTEP is 5-7 all-time in bowls.