Preview 2009 - Offense
2008 CFN Marshall Preview |
2008 Marshall Offense
2008 Marshall Depth
2007 CFN Marshall Preview |
need to know:
Second-year coordinator John Shannon welcomes back seven
starters, a good nucleus from a group that averaged just 20
points and largely underachieved. His up-tempo, one-back set
never got off the ground, struggling badly in the passing game.
In his defense, QB Mark Cann was only a redshirt freshman, but
he’ll have to work hard to keep his job. The competition at
quarterback is going to be the story around Huntington until
Mark Snyder makes his choice in the summer. The playmakers will
once again be RB Darius Marshall, a 1,000-yard rusher as a
sophomore, and TE Cody Slate, the one standout in an otherwise
unproven receiving corps.
Passing: Mark Cann
154-307, 1,767 yds, 14 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Darius Marshall
224 carries, 1,095 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Cody Slate
40 catches, 510 yds, 8 TD
of the offense:
Junior RB Darius Marshall
Player who has to step up and become a star:
Sophomore QB Mark Cann
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore
RT C.J. Wood
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Cody
Top three all-star candidates: 1)
Slate, 2) Marshall 3) Wood
Strength of the offense: Running
game, Pass protection
Weakness of the offense:
Passing attack, Red
Projected Starter: Marshall is
preparing for an extended quarterback controversy that might not be resolved
until late in August. By default, the favorite would have to be 6-4, 238-pound
sophomore Mark Cann simply because he
was the starter for all but one game in 2008. However, he left the door open in
2008, going 154-of-307 for 1,767 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. A
traditional pocket passer with limited mobility, he made typical rookie
mistakes, like telegraphing his passes and failing to read coverages. How well
he progresses from that first year will dictate whether he gets a second chance
to lead the offense.
Projected Top Reserves: When
Cann was injured in the finale, 6-3, 217-pound junior
Brian Anderson made a statement that he plans to be in the mix in
2009. In his most significant action of the year, he carved up Tulsa for three
touchdowns and 177 yards on 14-of-19 passing. It was a complete reversal from
when he got an opportunity to play in 2007. More of a touch passer than a
flame-thrower, he has questionable arm strength on deep balls.
The newcomers in the competition are junior-college transfers
Press Taylor and
Jake Laudenslayer. The 6-2, 205-pound Taylor comes from Butler
County (Kans.) Community College, where he led the Grizzlies to a national
championship, and has two years of eligibility remaining. He moves well around
the pocket, has adequate arm strength, and displays the leadership that’s
desired in a quarterback.
Laudenslayer did his apprenticeship at Mendocino (Calif.) College, and will also
have two years left to play in Huntington. The bigger of the two JUCOs at 6-3
and 225 pounds, he has a little more zip on his passes, but didn’t face the same
competition as Taylor. He was named conference MVP in 2007, and threw 30
touchdown passes a year ago.
Watch Out For… Cann to evolve.
No, he wasn’t sharp last year, but no one should forget that he was just a
redshirt freshman starting for the first time in his career. He’s a very smart
quarterback, and played most of the second half of the year in pain. With
experience, Cann should only get better.
Strength: Competition. The
signings of two JUCO veterans, Taylor and Laudenslayer, will provide the kind of
competition that makes Cann and Anderson. Not your typical newcomers, both are
mature and have played a lot of football in the last two years. Even if neither
wins the job, their presence is sure to make everyone else elevate the level of
Weakness: No sure-things. Not
unlike last year, the position remains a glaring uncertainty. Cann was supposed
to add stability, but he’s back to once again fighting for the job. Anderson?
One game against a really bad Tulsa D proves little. And Taylor and Laudenslayer
haven’t proved anything yet.
Outlook: Wow, has it really
been almost seven years since Byron Leftwich was with the program? Marshall
doesn’t seem to be much closer to restoring its fading reputation as a producer
of NFL quarterbacks. Cann figures to be much improved from last year’s baptism
under fire. He better be because he’s suddenly the vet of this unit.
Projected Starters: Junior
Darius Marshall took the next step in
his evolution as the feature back, rushing for 1,095 yards and five touchdowns
on 224 carries. At 5-10 and 189 pounds, he’s neither the biggest nor the fastest
back around, but he runs with great vision and patience, waiting behind his
blockers until just the right moment before darting through an open hole.
Deceptively quick in space, he can make people miss in the open field, and has
soft hands when used as a receiver out of the backfield.
Projected Top Reserves:
Sophomore Terrell Edwards provides
some pop for the running game, using his 6-2, 208-pound frame to drive for extra
for yards and move the pile in short yardage. The most powerful of the backs, he
provides an ideal complement to the shiftier Marshall. He only had 28 carries
for 154 yards and two scores last year, but will get much more work now that
Chubb Small has graduated.
The program can’t wait to remove the wrapper from redshirt freshman
Martin Ward, one of the big prizes of
the 2008 recruiting class. Similar to Marshall in many ways, he’s just 5-9 and
188 pounds, but is an instinctive all-purpose runner, who’ll make people miss as
a runner and a receiver on swing passes. He had offers from SEC, Big East, ACC,
and Big Ten schools, which begins to explain the excitement surrounding his
Watch Out For… more receptions
from Marshall. The Herd would like to develop new ways to get its star in open
spaces this fall. One way is to increase his visibility as a pass-catcher, which
has happened only about once a game in his first two seasons.
Strength: Depth and talent.
Marshall is a 1,000-yard rusher, but he’s hardly alone. Edwards is a viable
second option, who can carry the load if necessary, and Ward is just itching at
the opportunity to show why he received so much attention on signing day.
Although the Herd has a good stable of backs, none of them will break the backs
of opposing defenses with their scary speed. Marshall may be very quick in tight
spaces, but he can be caught from behind fleet-footed defensive backs.
Outlook: For the second
straight year, the Herd, once known only for its passing attacks, will be guided
by a deep and talented group of runners. While Marshall will again get top
billing, Edwards has value as a change-of-pace, and Ward is the wild card if he
shows he’s ready to contribute right away.
Projected Starters: The Herd
receivers are taking a big hit from graduation, including the loss of all-star
and leading pass-catcher Darius Passmore. What remains of the veteran players
will be led by 6-0, 187-pound senior
Courtney Edmonson and 6-1, 197-pound junior
Bryant Milligan. Edmonson has plenty
of experience, which is at a premium this year, lettering the last two seasons
and starting four games in 2007. Buried on the depth chart, he only managed six
catches for 55 yards and a score last fall. He has good speed and the ability to
be the team’s deep threat when he shakes loose from jams at the line of
Milligan was a mild surprise at Z receiver last year, finishing third on the
team with 17 receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown. While he won’t blow past
defenders with his speed, he’s a skilled receiver, who runs good routes and is
especially good at picking up yards after the catch. A reliable target on the
intermediate stuff, he has an innate ability to always pick up a few more yards
than he should.
The undisputed star of this group is senior TE
Cody Slate, a perennial fixture on the All-Conference USA squad. He
caught 40 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, an off-year by his
standards, attributable to a leg injury and an inexperienced battery mate. At
6-4 and 220 pounds, he’s a rare field-stretcher at the position, combining good
speed with the agility of most wideouts. When he gets locked up with most
linebackers, it’s a mismatch that’s going to favor the Herd.
Projected Top Reserves: Depth
and inexperience is going to be a concern in Huntington until proven otherwise.
The closest thing the Herd has to a battle-tested backup is senior
Tavaris Thompson, and he caught one
pass for eight yards in 2008. At 6-2 and 198 pounds, he’s loaded with natural
ability and physical tools, but has never put it all together. Now would be as
good a time as any to come through with a productive season that’s commensurate
with his skills.
On a bunch of programs throughout the country, 6-6, 258-pound junior
Lee Smith would be the starting tight
end. On Marshall, he’ll have to accept a diminished role until Slate graduates.
In his second season since transferring from Tennessee, he caught a career-high
12 passes for 89 yards. A much more physical option at the position, he can
catch passes if needed and impersonate a guard on running downs. He has one more
year as a reserve before using 2010 as a chance to impress NFL scouts.
Watch Out For… the depth chart
battle at wide receiver. While Edmonson and Milligan are safe bets on the
two-deep, after them, it’ll be a free-for-all for playing time. Transfers
David Alexander, Julian
Poindexter, and Charles Walker
will be trying to distinguish themselves from the underclassmen, like
Demetrius Thomas, and
Strength: The tight ends. You
could argue that the Herd has one of the ten best groups of tight ends in the
country. Slate is an All-America candidate, and Smith is a hidden gem buried on
the second team. Oh, and massive transfer
Maurice Graham is ready to play after missing last year with an injury, and
redshirt freshman Jamie Hatten was
last year’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
Weakness: Depth and talent at
receiver. Passmore’s graduation leaves a gaping hole at wide receiver, which
will be difficult for any of the holdovers to fill. When the leading returning
receiver had 17 catches a year ago, it’s a clear sign that inexperience will be
a season-long issue.
Outlook: The tight ends are
outstanding. The receivers? Not even close. Edmonson and Milligan are fine as
third or fourth options, but when they’re the front-line players, it could have
an impact on the development of the passing game. It’s incumbent on one of those
anonymous players, like Bonner or Wilson, to emerge as playmakers early in the
Projected Starters: Sure, a
couple of regulars need to be replaced, but the core of the offensive line
remains intact. Excitement abounds regarding the future of the tackles,
sophomores Ryan Tillman and
C.J. Wood, who started all 12 games
for a unit that allowed just 13 sacks all year. At 6-5 and 282 pounds, he has
the big frame and light feet needed to excel at left tackle. While raw and in
need of a few more pounds of bulk, he’s already proven capable of handling some
of Conference USA’s speedier edge rushers.
Wood is almost a carbon-copy of Tillman, tall, lean, and very athletic for his
size. At 6-5 and 288 pounds, he’s actually even lighter on his feet than
Tillman, and guarded the blindside a year ago since Mark Cann is a lefty. He
gets off the snap quickly and uses his hands well, keeping defenders as far away
from his space as possible. While early, to be sure, he’s already showing
flashes of a next-level performer.
The big question mark will be in the middle, where 6-5, 303-pound sophomore
John Bruhin is the favorite to
replace all-leaguer Brian Leggett. Once he gets some reps, he actually has more
upside and a much better frame than Leggett. A powerful run blocker with
outstanding upper body strength, the staff is cautiously optimistic that he’s
the next really good center to play in Huntington.
Leading the way at guard will be 6-4, 305-pound junior
Josh Evans and 6-4, 316-pound junior
Chad Schofield. The two split starts a year ago and have the game
experience to perform well, especially as run blockers. Evans is the better of
the pair, a road grader on running plays and arguably the toughest and most
physical of the Herd blockers.
Schofield has terrific size and strength, and his lack of mobility won’t be
exposed as long as he’s confined to a box. Last year’s experience was the first
of his career, so he still has plenty of room for growth, particularly as a pass
Projected Top Reserves:
Marshall boasts a couple of veteran tackles, 6-9, 310-pound senior
Daniel Baldridge and 6-5, 310-pound
Brandon Campbell, to provide quality depth on the second team.
Baldridge actually started 11 games as a sophomore, and won’t be rattled if
forced into the lineup. He’s got the long arms needed to fend off edge rushers,
but still needs to get more assertive at the point of contact.
Once considered the future at tackle, Campbell has fallen far behind Tillman and
Wood. Still, he does offer outstanding size and a couple of years of experience,
a luxury as the team’s No. 4 tackle. As a freshman two years ago, he received
on-the-job training, starting a pair of games.
Keeping the heat on Evans and Schofield at guard will be 6-4, 302-pound senior
Jimmy Rogers. A valuable reserve in
his first year out of Mississippi Delta Community College, he earned a letter
and got acclimated to his surroundings. With that year of work, he’s better
positioned at making a charge up the depth chart.
Watch Out For…Bruhin. As the
lone lineman without starting experience, he’s obviously the key to the unit in
2009. The staff loves his demeanor and potential, but it takes a unique young
player to excel in his first year at the pivot.
Strength: Pass protection. Even
with an immobile redshirt freshman at quarterback and a pair of rookies at
tackle, the Herd still finished an improbable No. 11 nationally in sacks
allowed. Now that those tackles, Wood and Tillman, are a year older, no drop-off
is expected in keeping the pocket secure.
Weakness: The pivot. Bruhin is
going to be a good one, but how much can be expected in his first year on the
job? Unless he’s truly special, the occasional blown call or misfired snap will
be difficult to avoid, especially in the first few games.
Outlook: The line has depth and
talent, and is adept at both run blocking and pass blocking. What’s not to like?
Wood and Tillman are budding Conference USA stars at tackle, while Evans should
be ready to deliver his best season in the program. As long as Bruhin doesn’t
implode in the middle, the Herd has a chance to roll out the league’s best front