There was nothing "lite" about the way the defense ruled team, unless you meant "lit-up," especially during the third-and-long period of 12 plays. Maurice Kitchen started the drill by making a great play to break up a Bernard Morris pass to Cody Slate, one of about seven players who returned from slight injuries or heat-related problems in today's workout. Coverage on Shawn Lauzon caused a incompletion on the next third down before Brian Anderson, continuing to get some snaps with the ones, hit Emmanuel Spann on a crossing route for a first down. As Anderson found Spann on third-and-12, Ashton Hall made the big tackle to stop the offense short with an 11-yard gain.
The defensive intensity was good for the coach's spirits as well. "The kids, the kids are (able to bounce back)," said Snyder of the workout. "We did some things for the defense this morning, some things that we didn't do very well last year and some things we needed to clean up." Marshall allowed 76-of-162 on third down conversions, nearly 49 percent last season.
It was more of the same for the twos, as Vinny Curry and James Burkes broke through on third-and-nine to sack Mark Cann. Curry then sacked Cann on the next play as well, a good sign for a Marshall team who lost a starting defensive end for the season. Curry, Johnny Jones, Shane Moore and DeMetrius Thompson will all have a chance to earn the right to burn their red-shirts, according to Snyder. "It's time to grow up. Those guys have got to play," said the Herd's third-year coach. "I think you would have to be half-dead to not be excited about the opportunity. I hope they're excited and I think they are." As far as red-shirts, there is a way to go in camp. "We'll see, I hate to assume anything right now. Somebody on that defensive front is going to have to, we'll have to take somebody's red-shirt off."
With Wesley Beardain at QB, the second first down was hit when Beardain found Bryant Milligan on a crossing route, but on the next play a pass to tight end Lee Smith came up short when Lee fell short of the first. Morris came back with the ones and had to settle for a seven-yard gain on a full blitz, but there was excellent blocking up front by a line that regained Josh Evans. A quick pass to Lauzon led to the hit of the day, when Josh Johnson cleaned cornerback Ashton Hall when trying to assist on the tackle of Lauzon. "We are talking to (Johnson) in terms of being one of the better ones in the country," said Snyder of his junior, who came to Marshall via Georgia and Georgia Military. "You guys know I don't say things like this much, but I've coached a lot of good linebackers and Coach (Steve) Dunlap has coached a lot of good linebacker and I challenge you to find a better one than Josh in this conference."
Morris would scramble for a wide-open 15 yards on the next play, giving the offense its third first down of the drill in 12 plays, but after that the defense ruled. Anderson was sacked by Michael Janac, who is now first team in place of McClellan. Beardain overthrew Smith in the face of a tremendous rush the next play, then had a pass broken up by linebacker Antwan Booker on the next pass to Smith. Frosh corner DeQuan Bembry finished the drill by breaking up Anderson's pass to Spann.
Earlier in the day, Morris had almost a perfect day in pass skel, hitting four-of-five from the 43-yard line, including a 20-yard rope to Lauzon. His only incompletions was on a pass intended for Darius Passmore, and Aaron Johnson was draped over his fellow junior college player. Johnathan Garner was picked off by linebacker Will Albin, while Anderson was picked by new corner D.J. Wingate. Anderson also threw a rope to Lauzon for 13 yards, and hit three-of-five. Passes were broken up by J.J. Johnson, who returned to full-go, Wingate, Booker, Kevin Perry and Bembry in skeleton. In the red-zone portion of skel, the offense was one-for-eight, a 10-yard touchdown from Anderson to Spann, although Morris had a scramble that might have scored in live drills.
NOTES: Jake Fields continued to improve, nailing a 60-yard, high, arching punt in special teams, which will be an emphasis this afternoon...Returning to full-go today were tight ends Cody Slate and Brian Shope, wide-out Tavaris Thompson, cornerbacks T.J. Drakeford and J.J. Johnson and Josh Evans at guard...Wearing a gold non-contact jersey, but going full-go, was tackle Montel Glasco, who will scrimmage Saturday...Expected back Saturday or Monday, after having Sunday off, are defensive tackle Shane Moore, running back Terrell Edwards and Matt Altobello at guard...Center Doug Legursky is expected to be back by the end of next week...Freshman tight end Hunter Hamrick has his right arm in a sling, but the extent of his injury has not been reported...Matt Parkhurst was back at fullback today, with Slate and Shope back...Speaking of tight ends, former Herd TE Jeff Mullins was out running Alpines (the stadium steps) and leading the injured players on runs around the field before he heads back to the Marshall University School of Medicine on Monday...Even with an open morning practice, the heat was taking its toll on the fans. Only about 20 were in the stands for the morning workout. This evening's practice, from 5-6 p.m. is open, but the Saturday scrimmage will be closed to the public. No word on what days will be open next week, as the Herd will have two-a-days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and single practices on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, August 18. That will also be "Choose-A-Seat" Day at the stadium.