Herd Works Hard Tuesday, Two Wednesday

Marshall football is heading down the stretch when it comes to camp, as just three more days and five more practices remain. Head Coach Mark Snyder has decided to move up his "walk-through" scrimmage to Friday afternoon (closed to the public) and give the team 48 hours off to get the dead weight out of the legs the weekend before the opener with Illinois State on Aug. 30 at 4:30 p.m.

Originally, the Herd was to have a hard workout on Wednesday morning and a late afternoon special teams scrimmage later that day, but the closed to the public kicking and coverage work will now go at 3 p.m. Snyder and all 15 of the members of his senior class will head for Charleston after the afternoon session for "Paint The Capital City Green" at the Embassy Suites, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for $35. each. First up is lots of kicking for junior Craig Rantanamorn, sophomores Cody Ochoa and Calvin Purchase and for true freshmen Tyler Warner and Kase Whitehead, as well as a busy day for junior long-snapper Sean McClellan.

"We'll script up the kick scrimmage," said Snyder of Wednesday afternoon's work. "The Friday, we'll script that up and it will be very game-like. We'll get some work done and it will be scripted like the game, kicking off even at 4:30 p.m. (on Friday). We'll handle both live situation a different way." This is the first time the kick scrimmage and the final walk-through have not been open to the public under Snyder, but it is one of many things different this year: limited live contact, lots of "thud" in practice, stretching after each practice with large rubber bands to hold down hamstring and other injury problems that reared their heads over and over last season.

Snyder expects to come out of the "camp" phase on Thursday, as the Herd will turn its attention to the Redbirds of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Illinois State, 4-7 last year, made the FCS Playoffs in 2006 and head coach Denver Johnson is in his eighth season. In last Saturday's scrimmage, ISU ran the ball very well and got great defensive play from lineman Keenan Wimbley, in an 111-play scrimmage to wrap up camp in Normal, Ill. Two blistering runs by senior tailbacks Walter Mendenhall and Geno Blow highlighted the 100-plus plays of the Illinois State football team's annual "Passages Scrimmage" Saturday night at Hancock Stadium.

Illinois State prepares to face the Marshall Thundering Herd for the first time since 1984 when they travel to Huntington, W.Va. for the opener for both teams on August 30 at 4:30 (EDT)/3:30 (CDT) p.m. photo from Illinois State University Athletics

"We've been through a tough camp and we have had a lot of contact, so I'm kind of relieved (to be done with camp)," said Johnson. "I wanted to get some things accomplished (Saturday) night and I wanted to do it without injury, and I think we did that. This concludes camp. We will step back a couple of days; get class started, resume practice Tuesday and focus on Marshall." Wimbley led a strong ISU defensive effort with four quarterback sacks and two additional solo tackles, as he helped the Redbird defense stifle the offensive unit for the first half, and the defense had 18 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and eight quarterback pressures.

Blow, the returning starter at running back was the leading rusher with 116 yards on 10 tries, including a long of 69 yards. Clifton Gordon finished with 73 yards rushing, while Mendenhall, a transfer from Illinois, added 64 yards on the ground, including a 56-yard touchdown run.

Senior quarterback Kevin Brockway was only 10-for-24 with an interception and 126 yards passing as he looks to hold onto the starting job after being a three-year reserve. Red-shirt freshman QB Drew Kiel continues to push for playing time and was 5-of-9 for 81 yards with one picks. The defense stopped the offense on five of the first six series.

Marshall freshman Jordan Taylor got work in Tuesday running "live" behind the first team photo by Greg Perry, Herd Insider (file)

Back to the Herd, and on Thursday there will be one practice then one more hard workday on Friday morning before the walk through later on Friday. The team will then have 48 hours off, just like ISU took, to get their legs back and get ready to start classes next week. "You'll see here in the next couple of days we'll have some live periods, two of them each day," said Snyder of special teams. "We'll go kicking, two shots live...punting, two shots live. Kickoff return (Wednesday), two shots live...rangers (cover team), two shots live." The Herd also got some live work in on Tuesday with the young running backs, Martin Ward and Jordan Taylor, going live behind the first team line. Ward took a big shot to open the period by linebacker Andre Portis, then Phillip Gamble laid a big hit on tight end Matt Parkhurst. The Herd worked about ten minutes on the "live" hitting to, in Snyder's words, "liven it up a little bit." Antawn Booker might have had the hit of the day, however, as the former linebacker turned tight end laid the wood to true frosh linebacker Tyson Gale.

Fans are reminded to take in the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield from 4-8 p.m. on Saturday for the free MU-WVU Tailgate, with prizes for fans who are most enthusiastic, trivia, water slides and paint guns to blast Mountaineer (and Herd) targets. There is no alcohol allowed, but food and drinks are available. On Saturday night at 8 p.m., the Quarterback Club will host its reverse raffle at the Marshall Memorial Student Center. Tickets are $100 by calling the football office (304)- 696-6464.

Fans are also reminded the Marshall Hall of Fame inductions are coming up August 29, and the tickets ($30) are available from the MU ticket office (1-800 THE HERD or www.HerdZone.com). Coach Jim Donnan and captain Phil Ratliff of the Herd's 1992 National Championship team in football are joined by "double-double" machine J.R. VanHoose of Marshall basketball to head up the class of seven for the Hall's 25th Anniversary Class. Other outstanding former players and members of the Thundering Herd family includes pre-1960s pick Bill Harris (who lettered eight times, coming in baseball, football and wrestling); four-time first-team All-MAC tennis star Anna Mitina; soccer All-Region, All-MAC and all-time leading scorer Byron Carmichael; and All-American and three-time All-SC golfer Tom Kies. The banquet is also at the Student Center at 7 p.m., with Keith Morehouse of WSAZ TV-3 as master of ceremonies.

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