Marshall Coach Mark Snyder said McClellan had spent the last few days seeing specialists, having a MRI done and meeting with the coaching staff and his family to decide what course of action to take for the torn ACL. He made the decision to have the surgery late Thursday night, as doctors hope to repair the damage and have the 6-foot-2, 225-pound from Lakeland, Florida, return at 100 percent for his now junior and senior seasons in '08 and '09.
"Albert will remain with the team this year," said Snyder. "He is a big part of this team, many of the younger players look up to him. He will remain as a leader." The injury will also give McClellan two additional semesters to address academics and the Nagurski and Outland Trophy pre-season watch list player hopes to not only leave Marshall with a degree but with a shot at the National Football League. That is why he will have the surgery instead of trying to play this season at 80-90 percent physically, which was one of the options looked at this week since he was hurt in a drill on Tuesday.
In the morning workout, the defense seemed to rise to the occasion of losing McClellan and had an outstanding workout. "The kids know we'll be fine," said Snyder. "It's an opportunity for some young kids to step up and have some playing time. I think they are excited, I would think you would have to be dead not to be. We did some things aimed for the defense this morning, things that hurt us last year and I was pretty pleased with this mornings practice."
McClellan, who was using crutches in and out of the building but threw them aside to meet with the media after practice, was in good spirits despite the setbacks. "I thought about (trying to come back this year) and I wish I could play but it's too bad for me to play and get out on the field." McClellan was also happy to have a red-shirt year to use for the injury, playing as a true freshman in 2005. "I don't lose anytime, I think I'm gaining time because I get to sit on the sidelines and watch the game from a different view. I get to learn the schemes a little bit more. To see why we have to be in this gap or drop in coverage a certain way in a game. So, I think I'm gaining more than I'm losing."
McClellan realizes him being out of the lineup also puts the onus on the red-shirt and true freshmen to step up this season. "I'm doing as much as I can to help Vinny Curry, Johnny Jones and Michael Janac to get their plays down-pat and get them ready for the big games we will have this season," said the soft-spoken McClellan. He also spoke highly of his running mate at the other end, sophomore John Jacobs. "John Jacobs had come up a lot, he understands the defense well and he is helping out the guys as well. He's doing his thing." McClellan mentioned Jacobs helping with the other freshmen, even adding DeMetrius Thompson, a walk-on from Capital who has shown some real promise this week, and Jacobs could be heard during practice yelling at Curry, "Vinny, quit walking around. Everyone's tired, we're all tired, but there is no walking around."
"Running" is what's expected out of Marshall's defensive ends, according to McClellan. "That's our motto. In the past couple of years, in the pre-games, Shavar Greer and I would run up and down the field after (Emmanuel) Spann and (Ahmad) Bradshaw and I guess we are going to try to keep that going. We always run to the ball." McClellan stopped short of adding the title of "coach" to his name this season, however. "I'm not a coach. I will give (the freshmen) all the techniques, all the little cheat plays, all the sneak play tips to see the pre-snap reads, that's what I can help with when it comes to the big games we have this year.
When the injury happened, McClellan did not think he was hurt that bad as his cleat grabbed the turf during being locked up with MU left tackle, and maybe McClellan's best friend on the team John Inman, during team drills on Tuesday. "I didn't think it was all that bad at first. I got off the bench and walked to the huddle (at the end of practice). But then the MRI...season." Inman talked about the injury to McClellan Wednesday at lunch, before the team knew just how bad the knee was. He smacked his hands and called for a trainer as soon as McClellan yelled during the block. "Albert is a great guy," said Inman. "He is a great guy on, and off, the field, and a good friend. When Albert came up here as a freshman, I hung out with him and we were workout partners. He got a lot stronger and a lot faster. He is a hard worker and we enjoy competing against each other in practice. It's just one of those things that happens in football. I heard the scream, and I knew immediately what that meant."
Inman is also high on the young defensive linemen. "Those guys have great promise, they all hustle and when they make a mistake, they try to make up for it on the next play," said Inman. "They hustle and you can't cover that up. There are a bunch of great young d-ends." Snyder does have some options with depth this season the Herd has not had in his first two seasons. Red-shirt freshman Michael Janac has been working with the ones and was expected to fill the role of "third" defensive end after McClellan and sophomore John Jacobs, who was the third man behind McClellan and departed senior Shavar Greer in 2006.
Marshall has also had a great recruiting year on the defensive line. Montel Glasco joined the team in spring, and is working with the number one until in practice. This fall, line coach Thielen Smith has true freshmen like Vinny Curry, Johnny Jones, Shane Moore and DeMetrius Thompson show great potential at defensive tackle and guard in the first week of practice in pads. Curry, especially, has been working with the ones and twos and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash.