Snyder is happy with practice after a week. "It's been a good week. I've been pleased with the tempo, and until we get to our blitz period it's been pretty equal," said the fourth-year head coach. "Defense wins some, and we are being very aggressive in this period." That period is the blitz period, which puts stress on both the quarterbacks and the offensive line, but that hasn't changed since Snyder and the 1987 Herd defense were ahead of the Tony Petersen-led offense for coach George Chaump. "That's the nature of the beast," said Snyder of the defense almost always being ahead of the offense in fall camp.
While practice was cut back about 20 minutes, the level of hitting and contact will come back on Monday mornings practice, then reduced for Monday afternoon. "Tomorrow morning we'll go, then tomorrow afternoon we might cut back, depending how the morning goes. It's an every-other day kind of thing," said Snyder. "We are going to try to keep it that way. I said from the beginning we are going to be smart, and still get our work done, but be smart about how we handle practice."
Snyder had a scout from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he commented about the Herd's work today. "I was talking to the NFL scout, and it's the name of the game today. With the amount of games we play, the numbers we have, even some of my peers who went at it back in the day have scaled back."
He is pleased with the way both the line and the quarterbacks are handling the pressure. "You know, I think (the quarterbacks) are handling it well," said Snyder. All three quarterbacks got work today during the blitz period, and sophomore Brian Anderson may have had the best day in blitz pickup. He hit 4-of-5 passes against the pressure, finding the "hot" receiver in freshman Demetrius Thompson for 20 yards, Darius Passmore for nine yards, spiking the ball against pressure instead of taking a sack, hitting Tavaris Thompson for 10 yards when the defense showed the blitz too soon, hit freshman Jordan Taylor in the hands on a swing pass only to have the back drop the ball then finished with a short but effective read to E.J. Wynn.
"It's kind of back-and-forth," said Anderson, the one Marshall quarterback with starting experience among Mark Cann and Johnathan Garner. "One day the defense gets the upper hand and the next day its the offense. We are out here trying to give the best we can to each other and win the day." The quarterback from Louisville is pleased with the work he and the other quarterbacks are getting daily. "It's about even now on the reps we are getting. Every chance we get, we just want to go out and show what we can do. I feel we are definitely ahead of where we thought we would be when he (John Shannon) came in."
Anderson believes the summer program outlined by Shannon and led by all the quarterbacks has given Marshall a valuable head start to the season. "The tempo is up, we're running good plays and trying to execute." Cann echoed what Anderson said about the summer and the offense to date. "We're picking it up good," said the red-shirt freshman from South Carolina, "and moving forward. The tempo is good and we are looking forward to the first game." He is excited about the progress of the offensive line as well in the first week. "We are seeing a lot of looks, but we're getting better. They are getting a lot better."
QB Mark Cann, shown during the spring, is one of three quarterbacks battling for the starting job at MU. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Cann is impressed with the way Chad Schofield and Landis Provancha have picked things up at the center. Coach Shannon has stated on more than one occasion that the Herd must have at least three centers, and the position is key to the offensive line. "They are the guys that have to make all of the line calls," said Cann of the centers, where Brian Leggett is the starter, John Bruhin is still out and Matt Altobello can also play. "They have to know different defenses and what to call on passes and runs."
Garner, a transfer who sat out last year after coming to MU from Georgia Tech, knows it doesn't matter who is the starter and who is the back-up, all the quarterbacks have to be ready to play at a moments notice. "We could be put into the game in any situation," said the junior, "and so we all have to be prepared to go in an play to the best of our ability. As a back-up, you have to prepare like a starter." Garner thinks all three quarterbacks have work to do, but likes where the group is one week in. "We still have things to put in, but as a whole we are progressing real well. If we continue to do that, we'll be real effective this season."
Summer work was on Garner's mind too when he talked about where the offense is at a week in. "We came out here, and there wasn't a big transition from the teaching to the learning phase. We just came out and started practicing. Tempo-wise, the defense is helping us, too. The running backs and the receivers are getting after it, and the defense is getting after it, making practice fun."
Darius Passmore, shown last season in his old No. 88 jersey, continues to impress the coaches and media during the August camp to date. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff
Garner had a couple of nice reads in the team period, finding Bryant Milligan for about a 26-yard gain, then Passmore for 12 more yards. Cann had the best pass of the day, a 25-yard strike right on target to Passmore that was broken up perfectly by defensive back DeQuan Bembry. Cann later overthrew a wide-open Passmore in blitz, then was sacked on three consecutive plays by Omar Brown, Mario Harvey and Kellen Harris. He did then find Passmore, who is becoming the go-to guy, for a 12-yard hook-up before giving way to Anderson. Craig Ratanamorn ended practice with a "game winner," as Snyder calls the last kick, from 37-yards for a field goal to end the day.
NOTES FROM THE ERNIE SALVATORE PRESS BOX "CAT-BIRD" SEAT: Sunday's work began with kicking, then the kickers, snappers, punters and injured players picked up the trash left in the stands by the 500 or so Herd fans who were at Saturday's open practice...walk-on receiver Chris Maxwell dressed out for the first time in pads today...number changes included Jo Jo Cox taking 49-green, Tyler Shick moving to 25-green and Demetrius Thompson moving his No. 32 jersey from running back to receiver. He had some nice catches during skel...no change on injured players, although Cox was limited in reps with a heavily taped right hand. Phillip Gamble had his ankle taped up and ran the steps, as did Shick and Corey McCutcheon. Charles Walker and Maurice Graham are still out for now, and Zearrick Matthews and John Bruhin are still using crutches...Wes Beardain still has not returned from "personal" business back home in Winona, Mississippi...blogs were very limited Sunday, with the Marshall wireless internet down campus-wide, limiting Doug Smock of The Charleston Gazette; Jacob Messer of the Charleston Daily Mail; Anthony Hanshew of The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington (columnist Chuck Landon was a no-show Sunday, as was Dick Ash of Herd Nation/Yahoo.com); and Marshall Sports Information Director Randy Burnside. Herd Insider was able to access the web thanks to its Alltel card for the computer wireless world-wide (shameless plug, and why we are up first on Sunday!)...August's first Herd Insider goes to press on Monday. Look for it Thursday or Friday in your mailbox, or at Kindred Communications, second floor, Coal Exchange Building (above Glenn's) in downtown Huntington on Tuesday afternoon...Woody Woodrum will have Herd Insiders and Pocket Guides for fans at next Saturday's "Choose-A-Seat" Day.