Enemy Lines

Entering his second year as head football coach, Marshall's Mark Snyder's comfort level is far above what is was last year at this time.

"The comfort level is a lot greater now," said Snyder after being with his team through a full season and offseason. The coaches know what to expect. The players know what comes next. They know where the meetings are and what to expect. This year's camp was much better than last year's."

Snyder has already mastered one of the keys of being a head coach – say little, praise the opponent, and get off a wisecrack or two. In meeting the obligation of the middle item, he had several words of praise for WVU.

"West Virginia has the #5 ranking, and it's well deserved. Coach Rodriguez does a great job -- they play with a lot of toughness.

"Everyone knows about their skill players, Patrick White and Steve Slaton, but I think the fullback (Owen Schmitt) is not talked about enough. He is a really good player. They have a really nice wideout in Brandon Myles, and Dan Mozes is one of the best centers I've seen in a while, and I've played against some good centers in the conference I came from. I think he is something special. You always want to be strong down the middle, just like in baseball, and I think West Virginia is very strong with Mozes, White, Slaton and Schmitt. I think he is a really, really good football player.

"Defensively, I think they have a good linebacker. They are a little bit young in the secondary like us, but they have some speed. The big Dyes kid on the defensive line is very good. They are a physical team, with good team speed. I think the key for us is to stay patient and be consistent."

"I've played a few teams that run the ball as well as West Virginia, but they do it extremely well. They do what their players do well. We have a heck of a challenge in front of us. This will be the best rushing team we will face all year. I think our defense has improved, but we will find out how good we are, really quick."

Snyder on:

* Marcus Fitzgerald (brother of former Pitt standout Larry Fitzgerald) – "He is a great kid from a football family. His heart is the size of the state of West Virginia. He has a great work ethic. We were going to count on him, but will have to count on him more now [since the suspension of wide receiver Hiram Moore]. I wish I had about 30 of him."

* The game – "It's exciting. It was the talk of the state, and I think it will be great. It will bring national exposure to our state. There's a trophy – the conference I just left has one about every week. I'm not sure how West Virginia feels about it but we are excited to play this game."

* Playing WVU in the opener – "I sure hope it is a good time to catch them. We should be a lot better, but so will they. I think you'll see a different West Virginia team [from last year's opener vs. Syracuse, when WVU fumbled five times and stuttered offensively].

*Facing a team with a combination like White and Slaton – "When we played Kansas State with [Darren] Sproles and their quarterback, that was similar. But West Virginia can bring big Owen as a change of pace, kind of like Wisconsin. The key is our skill has to tackle their skill."

* Unavailable players due to suspension and injury – "We have what we have in, and we'll go with it. That doesn't put more pressure on Bernie Morris. We're going to go play with what we have. We're pretty healthy. We've tweaked some things and changed some things. I'm not sure from an X and O standpoint that we did what our players did best last year. Time will tell. But we can't turn ball over. Penalties and turnovers killed us last year."

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