Herd Football Checks In For 2008

It was time to check into the Twin Towers East residence hall for Marshall's 2008 football team on Sunday morning, and rookies along with with fourth and fifth year veterans were ready to move into the dorms along with new locker rooms and meeting areas in the Shewey Athletic Center. The Thundering Herd is looking for a return to its winning ways and a bowl games as 2008 gets going August 3.

Not only is the Herd's locker room re-done, but there are new individual meeting rooms downstairs along with a theater-sized meeting room for the entire team. With the new rooms have also come a new computer lab for all student-athletes, a football player only room adjacent to the locker room, and a new area for Brad Helton and the video staff at Marshall. It follows the re-fit of the equipment area last fall and the new weight room and conditioning area opened a couple of seasons ago to serve football as well as other sports. According to a former Herd player who is now coaching, the weight and conditioning program have fixed the players up as well as the workmen have fixed the building at the north end of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

"Coach Mike Cochran did a great job with the conditioning this summer," said third-year tight ends and offensive tackles coach Phil Ratliff, who will enter the MU Athletic Hall of Fame the weekend of the opener with Illinois State. On Sunday, Ratliff and the other assistants were talking about a number of players who appeared to have re-shaped their bodies over the summer of lifting, running and working out on their own by the team during June and July.

Ratliff, who is coaching tight ends and tackles, was especially excited about getting his All-American tight end, Cody Slate, - who is up to about 228-pounds with no loss of his 4.4 40-yard dash speed - back on the field. "Now its time to get ready and Cody is just one of the guys who have worked real hard since spring," said Ratliff.

Tight End Cody Slate, shown last season at Memphis, is a pre-season All-Conference USA pick who is also in the running for the John Mackey Award, given to the best tight end in nation.. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

Slate and other members of the Herd were caught on the fly as they moved into the Towers on Sunday. "This is the easy part," said Slate, a pre-season All-Conference USA selection who has been named to the Mackey Watch List for the best tight end in the nation. "Just check into the dorm and check-in with the coach." Slate spent the summer working on both the mental and physical demands of being a lineman who is also a receiver, spending the summer "bulking up," but also working on video study of defenses.

"Learning better what to expect from each defense, finding holes in each defense and coverage and learn opponents from last year by watching film," Slate said of the summer work. The Herd also did team drills and seven-on-seven drills three days a week during the summer, ran by the players themselves, and one bonus of that was working on timing with the quarterbacks, who are new by and large. "We had seven-on-seven three days a week, and we created a bond. We got down the timing. Just being able to improve yourself and make yourself a better player, there is always something else to work on in the summer."

Slate is setting goals, more with the team in mind than personally. "I want to get better each year. No exact goals, but the team needs to get to a bowl this year, that's bigger than any individual goals. We have to step up and help those new quarterbacks, so we need to keep them out of third and long and just be able to throw easy passes." Slate also is very positive about his fellow tight ends, former No. 1 high school tight end Lee Smith, who originally signed with Tennessee before coming to Marshall, and juco Maurice Graham, who was the No. 1 juco tight end in nation when he signed with Marshall.

"We were starting to see what Lee could bring in the spring, and once we get Maurice on the field, he is supposed to be one of the best, too. If we can get all three of us on the field, that should be great for coach Ratliff. We mess with him, telling him he has the easiest job in America." Slate is also happy there is more depth on the offensive line, just like at tight end. "When we had someone go down, we might not have someone who knew where to go in, but now we do." The addition to the offensive line is bolstered by Jimmy Rogers, who came in the spring from junior college, and will be added to by both freshmen and juco Landis Provancha, who going to be given No. 68 for his Herd number. Provancha had to finish a class in junior college and was left off an early Marshall roster.

Other roster changes include Brandon Burns, a junior college defensive back, moving into No. 8. That number was formerly worn by J.J. Johnson, a corner who was thrown off the team by Snyder a couple of weeks ago after another incident behind the wheel, including allegedly striking two autos on Fourth Avenue in downtown Huntington. Also, there are a number of walk-ons who were coming in today, including:
7 Tyrone Carper - DB, Ferrum College, Graham H.S., Bluefield, Va., 5-foot-9, 174-pounds
8 Shay Dunnigan - QB, Pulaski (Va.) County H.S., 6-foot-2, 210-pounds
33 Ryan Smith - WR
37 Tyler Torlone - LB, Cabell Midland H.S., Huntington, W.Va., 6-foot, 205-pounds (on roster last fall, but not in spring)
40 Chris Maxwell - WR
43 Tyler Warner - K, Parkersburg (W.Va.) H.S., 6-foot-4, 230-pounds
54 Charles Gilkerson - LB, Spring Valley H.S., Huntington, W.Va., 6-foot, 210-pounds
63 Chris Bowers - OL, Cabell Midland H.S., Ona, W.Va., 6-foot-2, 285-pounds (father is former MU tackle Rob Bowers, 1981-84)
81 Tyler Jones - WR
89 Kenny Muncy - TE, Tolsia H.S., Dunlow, W.Va., 6-foot-4, 225-pounds
97 Dakota Dishman - DL, Huntington (W.Va.) H.S., 6-foot-4, 260-pounds
and there may be other walk-ons as camp begins on Tuesday

Kelvin Turner, who led Herd with seven rushing touchdowns in limited action last season, has transferred to a lower level school for 2008. photo by Greg Perry, Herd Insider

In other news, Kelvin Turner has transferred to a lower-division school, and will be immediately eligible to play one final season. The senior from Danville, Ky., ran 52 times for 158 yards last year, a 3.0 average, but led the Herd with seven rushing touchdowns. Turner rushed for 2,656 yards and 43 touchdowns at Danville H.S. Marshall returns senior Chubb Small, sophomore Darius Marshall and red-shirt freshman Terrell Edwards in the backfield, plus has three true freshman and former Clemson signee Jo Jo Cox, who sat out in 2007 as a prop but is eligible for 2008 as a sophomore. Edwards was showing off his three-week old son, Kayden Latrell Edwards, before moving into Towers

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