The Marshall defense is still earning starting and backup positions, and Snyder was asked specifically about the safety position battle between C.J. Spillman and John Saunders at the free safety position. "They are doing OK, they have a long way to go," said Snyder. "Those jobs are wide open. Whoever plays the best day to day will get those jobs, because they are wide open." Snyder also has some offensive areas he wants to address.
"We've got to be better in the red-zone, we have got to get better in the red-zone. Third and long has been an achilles heel for us. We're working on the kicking game, we're working on the punt game, working on everything." Anthony Binswanger continued his impressive work both place kicking and punting in special team period today. He sailed another 60-yard, high, hanging punt among a number of long kicks and was five-for-five from 20 to 37 yards away on field goals. Marty Biagi, still on the mend for his injured knee in the spring but out in full pads for the first time this fall, punted consistently in the 40-45 yard range with excellent hang time. Biagi is busy with getting well, but also with classes as he is carrying 21 hours this semester of undergrad and graduate work and will be a student-teacher in the spring for his degree in secondary education.
Over on the offensive side of the ball, coordinator and quarterbacks coach Larry Kueck is very pleased with the offensive performance in the face of a number of starters being missed at different positions during August. "We feel we are pretty well where we want to be," said Kueck, in his sixth-consecutive year as a coach at Marshall and seventh counting one season in 1996 when the Herd was National Champions in its final season in I-AA football. "We getting back the guys who got a little dinged up in two-a-days. They are all getting well and I think everybody is getting more comfortable with what we're doing. We've got seven, eight more days of work before we play somebody besides ourself.
Kueck sees a silver lining in the dark cloud of injuries during camp. "That kind of falls under the category of the Lord works in mysterious ways. You've got one guy hurt and you shuffle people around, then you get another guy hurt and you shuffle people around. What happens is you develop a little more depth, and sometimes you develop a starter who maybe wasn't a starter."
Kueck is very happy at the progress by both No. 1 quarterback, senior Bernard Morris, and the No. 2 QB, red-shirt freshman Brian Anderson, during the spring, into the summer and all during camp. "I've been pleased with both of those guys," said Kueck. "They both worked hard over the summer and we feel pretty good about where both of those guys are right now." But while Morris and Anderson are set, at some point in the next few days a couple of the other quarterbacks will be shuffled over to the scout team to run Miami plays against the starting defense of the Herd. While Georgia Tech transfer Jonathan Garner is probable, the question is if the others will be sophomore Wesley Beardain or freshmen Mark Cann and Chris Smith.
"What I try to explain to them is my situation in college (at Stephen F. Austin, where Kueck was a three-year letter winner as an offensive lineman and a All-Lonestar Conference selection as a junior and senior). My first day of practice, I spent an hour and one-half working on the scout team defensive line against our offense. Then they brought the first team defense out, and I spent another hour and one-half playing offensive line. We try to explain to these players that has happened to many of our older players, and most of us as coaches. We all went through that, and we try to get the older kids to explain it to them and take it from there.
"It's a tough adjustment." Most high school players recruited to Marshall were all-something in high school - all-city, all-league or all-state, and stars on their scholastic teams. It is quite a comedown to become a scout team player, running the oppositions plays, and not Marshall's plays, to get the defense ready for the upcoming team on the schedule. "It's kind of compounded because some positions are much tougher (to learn) than others. When you're a young guy coming in, there is no way to comprehend how much more difficult (in college) until you are in the middle of it. Then, you've got to pin your ears back and fight it every day."
Today in practice, running back Kelvin Turner, who had slipped behind fellow junior Chubb Small and true freshman Darius Marshall at the tailback position, got a number of reps today with the ones and responded with his best practice to-date. He both ran and caught the ball well, including taking a pass for a 24-yard touchdown in team, and did not have any of the turnovers that have plagued him in camp. "We hope all of those kids can play (at tailback)," said Kueck. "Then we've got a fresh guy out there every series, and fresh running backs in the fourth quarter. Kelvin started out real good, then he got nicked up. He has come back real good from that and I think he has shown some resilience in bouncing back." Kueck, like every coach, stresses hanging onto the ball. "Everybody in football stresses it. I think the difference is we are a little more mature and when we stress it, they take it and put that load on their shoulders. That has helped more than anything."
NOTES: Trooper Tony Bolland of the West Virginia State Police stopped by the football offices today. Bolland and Cabell County Sheriff Kim Wolfe provide security on the Herd's sidelines and for head coach Mark Snyder. Bolland was a starting defensive tackle for the Herd from 1985-87...The equipment room remake is nearly complete, as the Space Saver cabinets have been being installed since Monday. The move will more that double the existing shelf space in an equipment room built in 1991-92 to service only a I-AA football team...Dick Worner, father of MU equipment manager Rich Worner, is one of the installers on the Space Saver job...Checking on StubHub.com today, a Marshall-West Virginia ticket is going for between $165 to $1,000 each. Marshall closed season ticket sales at 6 p.m. Wednesday with nearly 19,800 sold, and the rest will go on sale Thursday morning to Big Green Scholarship Foundation donors at MU in a three-game package: WVU, Southern Miss (a Sunday night, 8 p.m. ESPN game) and UAB (on Thanksgiving weekend), for $80 each in the end zone and $100 each on the sidelines. Any tickets left will be available to the general public on Monday, August 27, in the same three-game package...Turner's touchdown came in red-zone drills. Binswanger also converted on a 35-yard field goal in the same drill. Morris connected with Turner on a number of plays for positive yardage (no live tackling) and also found Courtney Edmonson for a 11-yard gain. Anderson and Morris threw well again today, as did Beardain at times...Maurice Kitchens had a nice interception off the hands of Shawn Lauzon, while Saunders (two) and Ashton Hall broke up passes in team...Mario Harvey (two) and Montel Glasco recorded sacks.