The Marshall Thundering Herd football team is down with camp and Mark Snyder is pleased with where his team is, depth-wise, work-wise and, most importantly, health-wise. "I do feel good. I think fundamentally we got better," said Snyder. "I feel like we got better as a team, in a whole lot of aspects. We got through a lot of situations to prepare us for the year. Now, it's time to hunker down into one-week seasons, all year." Season one starts Sunday for the Herd as full attention is turned to Illinois State University, the FCS program Marshall opens with Saturday, August 30, at 4:30 p.m. in Huntington. The Redbirds, like the Herd, are looking to rebound from a 4-7 season under eight-year Head Coach Denver Johnson.
The Marshall defense will face an opening opponent that will have an inexperienced quarterback at the helm but with a very good, deep corps of running backs. Seniors Geno Blow, who led the team in rushing in 2007 is back, along with Illinois transfer Walter Mendenhall and newcomer Clifton Gordon. The three combined for two touchdowns and over 260-yards rushing in the Redbirds final scrimmage last Saturday, so the Herd defense knows it will face an efficient running game a week from Saturday.
Albert McClellan, the '06 C-USA Defender of the Year, returns along a deep defensive front for the Herd in 2007, and Head Coach Mark Snyder is excited about the return of No. 96. 2008 file photo by Greg Perry, Herd Insider
On the Herd defensive depth is apparent, as it is up and down the lineup compared to last year. Albert McClellan is the leader of a deep group of good players who will rotate and move around in Rick Minter's scheme at defensive end. "It's great to have Albert back," said Snyder of 2006's Conference USA Defensive Player of the year. McClellan missed all of 2007 with a knee injury. "He does a good job of coaching those young guys." Those players include sophomore Vinny Curry, who missed last season due to NCAA Clearing House issues, and true freshman John Youboty.
"I saw him coaching the young guys today, especially Vinny," said Snyder. "With kid gloves off, and from the leadership standard, that's tremendous. McClellan knows Vinny has a lot of talent." Another young player working hard in camp is red-shirt sophomore Michael Janac, who is playing both end and tackle at 280-pounds. "Michael is another player trying to get on the field, and Jerry (coach Jerry Azzinaro) is not having to push him much to be a dual role guy for us this year." Other ends include junior starter John Jacobs, who at times was limited with injuries to his hand in '07, and sophomores DeMetrius Thompson and Josh Wallace.
Snyder talked once again about how important the walk-on program is to his team and to the history of the Marshall program, producing players like current starting tackle James Burkes of Charleston, W.Va. and starting guard Matt Altobello of Keyser, W.Va. and other Herd greats like Randy Moss, Billy Lyon and Ron Lear. "Your recruiting base is...the heart and soul of your program," said Snyder. "It's been my experience that the guys from the local area take a lot of pride, because Mom and Dad are right there, everybody from their high school is right there (at the games) and they take a tremendous amount of pride because they are close to home. No where for them to hide." Chris Bowers of Cabell Midland is the one true freshman on this year's offensive line, and has played at both guard and center as he tries to establish himself as a college player where his Dad, Rob, was a player and captain in 1983 and 1984 after transferring back to MU from Maryland.
"Chris is doing good, and all those guys are doing good," said Snyder of this year's walk-ons. That list includes safety Tyrone Carper from Bluefield, Va., a transfer from D-III Ferrum, a junior college in the 1960s and 1970s that sent many players to Marshall; quarterback Shay Dunnigan of Pulaski Co. (Va.) High School; receiver Ryan Smith; linebacker Tyler Torlone of Cabell Midland and Huntington; wide receiver Chris Maxwell; defensive back Stuart Lips, who played in high school at Paintsville, Ky., but was raised in New South Wales, Australia; tight end Robert Henry, from Bluefield, Va.; kicker Tyler Warner from Parkersburg, W.Va.; defensive back Pete Culicerto of Charlotte, N.C. (with a number of relatives in the Beckley, W.Va. area); Tyler Shick from Youngstown, Ohio; punter Cody Ochoa from Bridgewater, Va.; linebacker Scott Gray from Union, Ky., near Cincinnati, Ohio; Charles Gilkerson, a linebacker from Spring Valley H.S. and from Huntington; kicker Calvin Purchase from Beaufort, S.C.; Wallace, a defensive end from Richmond, Va. who transferred from I-AA non-scholarship Morehead (Ky.) State and who is originally from Richmond, Va.; D. Thompson, a defensive end from Capital H.S. in Charleston, W.Va.; receiver Antavious Wilson from Pahokee, Fla; and Dakota Dishman, a defensive lineman from Huntington High School.
Fans are reminded the Putnam County MU-WVU Tailgate is Saturday from 4-8 p.m. at the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield. No alcohol is permitted, but there will be food, games and prizes all day for Thundering Herd and Mountaineer fans. Saturday night at the Marshall Memorial Student Union is the QB Club Reverse Raffle at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the MU Football office until 5 p.m. Friday and at Stadium Framing/Rivals Sports Bar on Third Avenue, across from the JCE Stadium, and cost $100.
The Marshall Hall of Fame induction is next Friday, August 29, at the MU Student Center at 7 p.m. Jim Donnan, Phil Ratliff, J.R. VanHoose, Byron Carmichael, Anna Mitina, Tom Kies and Bill Harris will be inducted, and tickets are available at the MU Ticket Office in the Henderson Center for $30. Call 1-800 THE HERD or go to www.HerdZone.com to purchase with credit card at anytime.