Marshall ready for some changes
College football teams tend to schedule a non-conference opponent or two that should guarantee them a victory.
Quite the contrary for Marshall University. The Thundering Herd opens the 2010 season with seven straight games against teams that played in a bowl game last year.
“I’m not sure of another team in America that opens with seven straight bowl teams — I would like to know if there are,” first-year coach Doc Holliday said earlier this year at the Boy Scouts of America Leadership Dinner held in Vienna.
Holliday replaces Mark Snyder, who resigned after the end of the 2009 campaign. Holliday is a Hurricane native who is widely regarded as one of the top recruiters in the nation and brings with him 31 years of collegiate coaching experience following stops at Florida, North Carolina State and West Virginia University.
As the MU Coaches Caravan made its way through its various stops throughout the summer, Holliday noticed the passion of Herd fans.
“Everybody talks about how high expectations are and that’s a great thing,” Holliday said. “I don’t want to be the head coach anywhere where expectations and standards aren’t extremely high.
“I want to be where people have a lot of passion for the football team. And it’s evident around the state of West Virginia that Marshall football is important to our fan base. I’m just excited to be the head coach here.”
MU returns 14 starters, including seven on the offensive side of the ball, who helped contribute to the Herd’s 7-6 finish. The team concluded last year with a 21-17 victory against Ohio in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, held in Detroit.
With new offensive coordinator Bill Legg and co-coordinator Tony Peterson in place, MU will give a hard look at Brian Anderson and redshirt freshman A.J. Graham as its starting quarterback. Anderson started all 13 games in his first full season as a starter, and threw for 2,646 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Joining Graham on the depth chart are Mark Cann and Press Taylor. Cann started 11 games as a freshman in 2008.
At running back, Martin Ward appears to be a logical choice to replace Darius Marshall, who declared early for the NFL Draft after rushing for 1,131 yards. Ward rushed for 393 yards and three touchdown, and contributed 75 yards on the ground and two TDs while being named MVP at the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
The Herd welcomes back the majority of its top playmakers at receiver, including All-Conference USA freshman selection Antavious Wilson, who led the team with 60 catches for 724 yards to go with three TDs. Aaron Dobson (15-362) also returns as does Chuck Walker (33-350).
As an added bonus, Courtney Edmondson was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after suffering a season-ending injury in the season-opener. Troy Evans is also expected to contribute after missing most of last season to an injury.
One of the most heralded players from last year, tight end Lee Smith (23-335), also returns. The 6-foot-6, 267-pound senior was voted a team captain last season and already has 20 career starts.
Three starters return to the offensive line — center Chad Schofield, left tackle Brandon Campbell and guard Ryan Tillman. Others figured to be in the mix for a starting nod are Landis Provancha, Erik Vint and C.J. Wood.
Returning to the defensive unit for coordinator Chris Rippon is first-team, All-C-USA linebacker Mario Harvey, who recorded 117 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Also returning to the linebacker corps are Kellen Harris, Devin Arrington, Tyson Gale and George Carpenter, along with Howard King.
Giving the Herd experience along the front line are returning starters Michael Janac and Vinny Curry. Delvin Johnson, Johnny Jones and Brandon Bullock give MU an imposing group of tackles.
Cornerback DeQuan Bembry anchors the secondary after finishing with 53 tackles and three interceptions. Also back is Ahmed Shakoor and T.J. Drakeford.
The Herd will be looking to build depth at safety where Omar Brown and Kevin Perry return.
On special teams, former Parkersburg High School Tyler Warner is one of the top candidates to replace Craig Ratanamorn at placekicker. Warner did not attempt a field goal last season as a reserve, but as a freshman he saw significant playing time and connected on 3-of-5 field goal attempts.
Junior Kase Whitehead returns at punter after averaging 39.2 yards per attempt last season.