Marshall used this format last year, and despite former Herd starting quarterback Bernard Morris throwing an interception to Chuck Roberts on the opening play for the White's only score, the starters rallied to blow the sub-Varsity off the field by a score of 43-6. While Morris will be paying more attention to the NFL Draft on this Saturday and Sunday, all eyes will be on quarterbacks Mark Cann and Brian Anderson as they get a chance to impress the fans.
"No, not yet," answered Mark Snyder when asked if he was ready to name a starter on the next to last day of practice this spring for the Herd. Cann has clearly, however, to observers from the Marshall media, got the greater amount of reps with the first team and Anderson has passed both Johnathan Garner, the transfer from Georgia Tech, and junior Wesley Beardain as the No. 2 in new offensive coordinator's John Shannon wide-open offense. The Herd not only worked on the basics on Friday, they added a few wrinkles and trick plays to the play book early on in practice.
"I think we got better," Snyder once again said, and that's not a bad thing certainly when a head coach is speaking about the spring. "That's what we were looking to do. Now we have got to come back and continue the progress in the fall." Marshall players will now have a couple of weeks to prepare for finals, and in some cases graduation like Brian Leggett. Leggett, a two-year starter at right guard who moves to center to replace Doug Legurski (another former MU player who will watch the draft closely), has finished his degree in four years and will play as a grad student for his final season of eligibility.
"We got a few more bodies back today," said Snyder, as Andre Portis and Kelvin Turner went full-go. Still not ready for contact was Darius Passmore, who none the less laid-out for a 40-yard reception like the game was on the line. "That's why we went thud (hitting, but no taking down, the offensive player), to save some hitting for Saturday. My goal is to get out of here healthy. No special teams, everything will be dead (no rush/no tackling) on special teams, and the clock will run as normal in first half. But we will tackle live in tomorrow's scrimmage. Saturday is a reward for these guys."
There will also be a number of former Marshall players, like coaches Snyder, Phil Ratliff and Shannon Morrison are themselves, returning for the game. New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, who led the Herd to the I-AA title game in 1995 and then to three straight Mid-American Conference titles, three straight bowls and a No. 10 ranking in the nation his final year from 1997-99, will be holding his bowling fund-raiser at 6 p.m. tomorrow at Colonial Lanes and will be here for pre-game and until halftime. "That's one of the reasons we moved the game up to 3 p.m., so Chad could be here for his event and at the game, and we could be at (at his event)," said Snyder. "It's kind of a general invitation to former players.
"It's not only awesome for those guys, it's awesome for our players. I love the way my current team looks up to these guys, how they interact with them, and it's amazing how (the former players) go back in time as they interact with our players. You hear them remembering the old days, you hear those stories and it's very, very special." All former players are invited to a M-Club tailgate at the southwest corner of the stadium, at the backside of the stadium back by McDonald's. The tailgate starts at Noon, and the former players will join the current players on the "Thunder Walk" through the fans to the Shewey Building to get ready for Saturday's game. The Marshall Alumni will have a free tailgate as well on the West Lot, just look for the "We Are Marshall" blimp overhead.
The gates on the West Lot, Lot A and the Annex Lot, as well as the Parking Garage on Third Avenue, will open at 10:30 a.m. for the game. Parking is $10 on the lots, $5 in the garage. Tickets to the game are $5. A "Choose A Seat" at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium will be held from Noon until kickoff, and Marshall ticketing and Big Green persons will be there to assist fans with purchasing season tickets for six big games, beginning Sept. 30 with FCS member Illinois State coming in for a 4:30 P.M. kickoff to the 2008 season.
NOTES: The new schedule poster is on the back of the scoreboard facing Third Avenue on M-Club Drive (by the McDonald's on Third). Many star players and Snyder are featured, surrounding a single Marshall helmet held in the air...The 1971 "Young" Thundering Herd will be holding their annual reunion this weekend...The 1999 Herd, who were 13-0, beat BYU 21-3 in the Motor City Bowl and were No. 10 in the AP/ESPN polls, are planning a reunion for the 2009 spring game...some of the players who signed with the Herd in February are expected to be at the game, along with many players in for a recruiting trip for 2009.