"Time heals a lot of things," Snyder said of last year's 3-9 mark. That was accompanied by multiple injuries and shortcomings in the wins and losses, but an upswing at the end of the season with three wins in the final five Conference USA games. "I think the guys are starting to understand, each and every year, they understand better what we want to accomplish. I feel we are really coming together." He is excited about the growth of some of the freshmen and sophomores into leaders as juniors and seniors. "We have a lot of guys coaching out there who are not wearing whistles. Peer pressure is good for all of us." Snyder is happy with the older players setting the tone, on and off the stadium surface. "Not just on the field but in the Shewey Building or in the dorms as well."
On Wednesday, the Herd will have its second day of two practices, and Snyder is watching for the signs of fatigue that sometimes set in. "So far, so good, but tomorrow is another two-a-day," said the coach. "I'm sure they will hit that proverbial brick wall in the second practice, but so far its been good." Illinois State, the Herd's opening game opponent, referred to the fatigue of camp as the "camp monkey" jumping on the back of the players after the Redbirds three hour scrimmage on Sunday.
"I love it, it's what I do," said Snyder of camp, and loves how this year's depth and talent level is pushing players to perform every day despite fatigue. "They can't come out and take a day off, there are no more of those. I've been saying it forever, competition makes us all better. Competition breeds competition, and it is hard to take a play off which means you're getting better at your trade because you are working harder because there is somebody sitting right there on your heels waiting to take your job from you."
One guy not taking many plays off, especially with the first team, is red-shirt freshman quarterback Mark Cann. While the coaches go out of their way to talk about the competition for the starting role being wide open, Cann is the only quarterback taking snaps with the first team. While sophomore Brian Anderson, who has looked good for three days and is the only QB with starting experience, and Jonathan Garner, the junior transfer from Georgia Tech, are getting plenty of reps all are coming with and behind the second team.
Snyder also thinks the appearance this week of one or two scouts from the National Football League at practice this week is a sure sign that others notice what is happening with the Herd. "I think that speaks to what is happening here. Since we've been here (2005), we've had one guy drafted in three years." That one guy, Ahmad Bradshaw, did help the New York Giants win the Super Bowl last season as a rookie running back, but did not get picked until late in the seventh round. Marshall had 13 players drafted off Herd teams playing from 1997, when Randy Moss went in the first round, to the 2004 team that sent the late Johnathan Goddard to the Detroit Lions in the sixth round, including Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich also going in the first round and three others in the second rounds.
"That tells the whole story, and we've got another guy in camp (Doug Legursky is a free agent signee with the Pittsburgh Steelers, recently called back after being cut in late June after mini-camps), and scouts were few and far between, and now you see two and three a day." That included a Giants scout, possibly looking for the next Bradshaw.
"That's always the mark of a program, and other schools I've been at and most of these guys were headed to that previous program I was at, that tells you what kind of talent we have." Snyder's previous school was Ohio State, were he won a National Championship under Jim Tressel and was the defensive coordinator there in 2004 before taking the Marshall job.
Snyder said getting the talent to your school is half the battle. "It's our job as coaches to get them in the right position and those kinds of things, but I think it speaks for itself." Scouts have attended every practice this week. "And I think the level of scouts speaks for itself, too. It means you have some talent." Snyder is not sure if his players are at a point to notice scouts being in attendance, unlike OSU where seniors might have a great practice when scouts showed up. "I hope we're going full tilt every day anyhow."
Darius Passmore continued to turn in at least one big play per practice today, slipping a hit by DeNathian Robinson and turning a short slant into a long touchdown from Cann. Anderson had some drops by Antawn Booker and Courtney Edmonson, and later Edmonson dropped a touchdown in goal line from Cann. Darius Marshall, Chubb Small and Terrell Edwards continue to share time at running back. Cann managed to push in a touchdown himself on goal line, as did Garner, who passed to Tavaris Thompson for a score. Delvin Johnson and Vinny Curry, two sophomores on the defensive line who sat out last year, continue to impress those watching practice from the Ernie Salvatore Press Box...and the lettering was finished today outside the elevators saying just that.
NOTES: Marshall's HerdZone.com site has picked up a bit of traffic over the past month, according to SID Randy Burnside. There were a 100,000 more hits in the past month than last year at this time...Craig Rantanamorn nailed a 35-yard field goal to "Win The Game" and end practice on an up note again...defensive end John Jacobs had a tackle for loss on the goal line...linebacker Scott Gray and safety John Saunders dropped a sure interception try during team on the same tipped ball...no changes in injuries...Baseball note - catcher Tommy Johnson is leading first place Pulaski in hitting with a .379 average in the Appalachian League. He may run into former Herd teammate Steve Blevins with the Elizabethton Twins, who are in first in the West Division of the App. Blevins is 1-2 on the season, with 20 strikeouts against just seven walks since coming up from the Gulf Coast League (GLC) Twins earlier this summer. Pulaski is 35-20, a Seattle Mariners' club, while the Twins are 32-19 heading into last night. Bluefield (Baltimore Orioles) and Princeton (Tampa Bay Rays) are also in the East Division with Pulaski.