Herd hopes experience, stars help break four-season losing streak
The Marshall University football program will rely on three household names and a plethora of experience to try and bury a streak of four straight losing seasons.
The Thundering Herd return seven starters on offense and another eight starters on defense from a squad that finished 4-8 last season. Tight end Cody Slate, running back Darius Marshall and defensive end Albert McClellan are among the headliners.
Despite missing two games with a leg injury, Slate caught 40 passes for 510 yards and hauled in a team-high eight touchdowns. The senior ranks among the school’s top 10 career leaders in receiving touchdowns (19) and receiving yards (2,012). It won’t take more than a week or two for him to become Marshall’s all-time leading receiver among tight ends.
Darius Marshall finished his sophomore year with 1,095 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Those numbers earned the 5-foot-10 189-pounder second-team honors for Conference USA.
Sitting out the 2007 season with a knee injury didn’t seem to phase McClellan, who was recognized on the C-USA first-team. Last year as a junior, he started all 12 games and recorded 58 total tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. His 17 career sacks rank seventh all-time at Marshall.
The defense also welcomes back linebacker Mario Harvey, who recorded a team-leading 107 tackles as a sophomore. Another familiar face will be in the lineup at linebacker with senior Brandon Burns.
Joining McClellan along the front line are veterans Michael Janac at end, and Delvin Johnson and Johnny Jones at tackle.
Returning to the cornerback position are DeQuan Bembry and T.J. Drakeford. Bembry enjoyed an outstanding freshman campaign with 80 tackles, a team-high 7.5 sacks and 11 pass breakups.
Offensively, Marshall is still trying to pin down a starting quarterback. As a freshman Mark Cann threw for 1,767 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 starts. An injury hampered Cann for the regular-season finale against Tulsa, and Brian Anderson stepped in admirably by completing 14-of-19 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
Not only are Cann and Anderson potential candidates, but toss in junior college transfers Press Taylor and Jacob Laudenslayer and the Thundering Herd are embroiled in a quarterback battle.
Whoever wins the quarterback sweepstakes, they will have to find a new favorite target. Darius Passmore, who led the Thundering Herd with 945 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, graduated. That leaves Courtney Edmondson, Bryant Milligan and Tavaris Thompson as the main targets.
Providing protection once again in the trenches are tackles C.J. Wood and Ryan Tillman, along with Chad Schofield and Josh Evans at guard.
Marshall opens the regular season Sept. 5 against the Salukis from Southern Illinois University. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. The Thundering Herd’s non-conference schedule also includes road games against Virginia Tech (Sept. 12) and West Virginia (Oct. 17) and a home contest against Bowling Green (Sept. 19).
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