Snyder was happy with the workout again, the first day of helmets and shoulder pads for the Herd. "I think most of the freshmen are swimming a little bit, and that‘s to be expected," said Snyder of the youngsters trying to take in both the offense and defense in the first three days. "We got to go inside and learn and continue to work at it. I was pretty pleased with the first two groups, not too bad. There are some things we have to clean up but there weren't a ton of busts.
"We worked on some movement stuff with our defense and worked on our offense picking up some of the movement. It started raining really hard, so we by-passed seven-on-seven and went right to team. Then it cleared back up, so we went on through team and got some good film to teach off tonight." One thing that continues to bother Snyder is drops by some receivers. "You've got to catch the ball," said the coach of drops, especially when the teams are not full-go in shells. "Exactly, we got to catch the ball. Not a ton of guys but we have got to play catch."
Someone who caught a bunch of balls was junior college transfer Darius Passmore. Bernard Morris found the 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior for a number of long completions, including a 60-yard touchdown near the end of practice. "I told Bernie I don't think you can overthrow that guy, throw it as far as you can. When it came out of his hand, it looked overthrown but Darius can run a little bit." On the day, Passmore caught nine passes for 166 yards and the score, and Snyder said that's more than they would realistically like to throw to the wide out, who is nursing a sore hamstring.
Marshall QB Bernard Morris had a nice day passing the ball in the first day in shells on Sunday. photo by Greg Perry, Herd Insider
Morris on the day was an impressive 12-of-18 for 216 yards and the long touchdown. Brian Anderson was 5-of-9 for 46 yards, with a long of 20 yards to Courtney Edmondson. Wesley Beardain was 6-of-11 for 40 yards, with a long of 15 yards to E.J. Wynn. The frosh quarterbacks struggled some in the first team period in shells. Mark Cann hit 2-of-3, including a 60-yard touchdown to Kyle Echols, but also was picked on a poor pass by John Saunders. Chris Smith mis-fired on a couple of attempts and was sacked once by Antwan Booker, a sophomore linebacker.
Also picking up sacks were red-shirt freshman linebacker Howard King, red-shirt freshman end Michael Janac, true freshman end DeMetrius Thompson, true freshman end Vinny Curry - who also stripped the quarterback on the play - and had a couple of pressures, sophomore linebacker Daniel Wells and junior middle linebacker Josh Johnson. Johnson also flattened Beardain on a mis-handled snap during team. Janac is running with the second team at defensive end and is backed up by Thompson, with Curry (who and fellow true freshman Johnny Jones getting time at the opposite end. With the lack of experienced depth, Snyder knows some of these freshmen will have to play.
"He's got to play for us this year, he has got to grow up in a hurry," said Snyder of Janac. "He could still be the second guy, but he definitely has to be the third guy. He's got to keep working, there is no facet of the game he has down yet." Albert McClellan and John Jacob have continued to run with the first team at end, but the young ends are guys you can't help but notice. "They are just athletic, that's why you notice them. I don't know if they know what they are doing yet (in the defensive scheme), there were a ton of busts in there, but that's why you practice."
C.J. Spillman, shown on his 85-yard interception for a score in the fourth quarter of Marshall's 41-27 win over Memphis last season, is one of five experienced safeties Coach Shannon Morrison is counting on for 2007. photo by Greg Perry, Herd Insider
Also coming along is the MU secondary. While the starting corners are for now are 2006 starter Zearrick Matthews (who broke up three passes in team) and Ashton Hall (one pass broken-up), both sophomores, the safeties are rotating at will during the early part of camp. There is a great deal of experience at safety compared to the corners, where cornerback Coach Paul Nichols has only one junior in J.J. Johnson among his top seven players. Safeties coach Shannon Morrison, on the other hand, has a senior in Phillip Gamble; juniors in C.J. Spillman (who nearly intercepted a pass in team), Jon Moravec and Aaron Johnson; and sophomore John Saunders (who did pick-off Cann) to work with, along with a number of freshmen.
"I've got some older guys and I've got to find out who can play and who can't," said Morrison after Sunday's practice. "Between the guys at safety, I've told them there is no depth chart. I've told them to just be ready for me to say, ‘You two guys get in there.' I'm mixing and matching, to see who is comfortable with whom and what group of guys can work better together, who can get us lined up and who can make plays. The combinations will be different to see who works well and who doesn't. You look at the guys I'm working with, back to the spring, I've got five guys who are all older and it's a luxury right now. I can go faster installing the defense with my guys than Coach Paul Nichols can, because he has a lot of freshmen there. I've got three freshmen and, to be honest, I'm not looking at them this year because we don't need them right now. It's been an easy fall for me, because I know what and who I've got at safety from the spring. Now we will find the best combination that will work well together and make plays."
Snyder echoed his position coach about the secondary. "We've got to see what they can do, and the only way to do that is to get them in there," said Snyder. "If they can help us at a position we're not very deep at, they will have to play. We've only got about a week and one-half or two weeks until we have to make a decision on who we will work with." All in all, the head coach is very pleased with the first three days of workouts. "It was good to see," said Snyder of a crisp practice even in the rain which came down in buckets at time during the session. "We are further ahead than we have been (in years one and two at Marshall), and I think you guys see it too. We are further ahead with the guys that have been here."
NOTES: Punting continues to be a question mark for the Herd. During the early punting, Jake Fields followed up a 45-yard, high-hanging punt with a 15-yard effort. The same was seen out of fellow frosh Cody Ochoa and Calvin Purchase, who is one day behind on the schedule having missed Thursday. He will put on shoulder pads Monday, then full gear during the first two-a-day on Wednesday. During team punt, Fields had three for a 35.6 average with a long of 40 yards; Ochoa had three for a 30.0 average and a long of 45 yards; Purchase kicked twice, going just 25 and 17 yards...During kickoff, Anthony Binswanger kicked to the nine and the four-yard line, with the kickoff being moved back to a team's 30-yard line this year. Freshman Elliot Boyd kicked to the 22 and the 17-yard line...Still out today were T.J. Drakeford, Bradley Roberts and Taravis Thompson. Returning to action was C.J. Wood, but David Ziegler was back in the blue jersey he spent most of the spring in following shoulder surgery. Chad Schoefield moved up to the second team with Eric Vint with Ziegler out. Sergio Glenn and Ryan Tillman are the three guards for now, while Wood is opposite of Branden Curry at third-team tackle...Quote of the day, from Defensive Coordinator Steve Dunlap, while Vinny Curry and about ten other players had "grass drills" after practice: "Vinny, you look like Coach Snyder diving for balls on the racquetball court," during Curry's 100-yard up/downs. Dunlap is acknowledged as the best on the coaching staff at racquetball. The players, including Aaron Johnson, J.J. Johnson and others, were reportedly late for a meeting called this morning at the last moment by the coaching staff...Matt Baker, an offensive lineman from Portsmouth, Ohio, may be asked to report to MU's camp this week. He was on the team in 2006 as a red-shirt freshman...Marshall will have a closed practice on Monday. Fans are invited to come to Tuesday's practice, the first day in full pads, starting around 3 p.m. The Herd's first two-a-day is Wednesday. Other open practices besides Tuesday's will be announced by the coaching staff at a later date.