2009 CFN Marshall Preview

Marshall DE Albert McClellan

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall Thundering Herd

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By Richard Cirminiello    

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Head coach: Mark Snyder
5th year: 16-31
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 20, Def. 25, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Herd Players
1. DE Albert McClellan, Sr,
2. RB Darius Marshall, Jr.
3. TE Cody Slate, Sr.
4. LB Mario Harvey, Sr.
5. CB DeQuan Bembry, Soph.
6. OT C.J. Wood, Soph.
7. OT Ryan Tillman, Soph.
8. DE Michael Janac, Jr.
9. CB T.J. Drakeford, Soph.
10. LB Brandon Burns, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Southern Illinois
9/12 at Virginia Tech
9/19 Bowling Green
9/26 at Memphis
10/3 East Carolina
10/10 at Tulane
10/17 at West Virginia
10/24 UAB
11/1 at UCF
11/14 Southern Miss
11/21 SMU
11/28 at UTEP

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

2008 Record: 4-8

8/30 Illinois State W 35-10
9/6 at Wisconsin L 51-14
9/13 Memphis W 17-16
9/20 at So Miss W 34-27
9/27 at West Virginia L 27-3
10/3 Cincinnati L 33-10
10/18 at UAB L 23-21
10/28 Houston W 37-23
11/8 at E Carolina L 19-16 OT
11/15 UCF L 30-14
11/22 at Rice L 35-10
11/29 Tulsa L 38-35

Marshall is staring at a crossroads…again.

Last season was supposed to be do-or-die for head coach Mark Snyder. He didn’t deliver, yet still survived to get one more crack at getting this right. It’s been four years, and he’s produced only 16 wins and countless groans from restless fans. From 1997-2002, the Herd created lofty expectations for a non-BCS school, winning five MAC championships and five bowl games. In the seven years since? How about no league titles and a single bowl game, a 32-14 loss to Cincinnati in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl?

The expectations have been lowered under Snyder, but not by that much. They still expect to win titles in Huntington, which is why the coaching staff is under such intense scrutiny. And why a four-game losing streak at the tail end of a respectable 4-4 start still lingers around campus like a bad odor.

There’s still a good core of talent at Marshall, including the return of eight starters to each side of the ball and most of the special teams unit. Put differently, there’s enough talent to manufacture seven wins in a wide-open league that has no immovable objects. Plus, both coordinators enter their second seasons with the program, presumably facing fewer roadblocks to success. If the Herd can’t parlay all of this into a December bowl game, it’s hard to imagine Snyder or his assistants getting a second reprieve from the governor.

What to watch for on offense: The battle at quarterback. Like it or not, it’s going to make headlines around Huntington until Mark Snyder names his starter in the summer. Maybe even beyond that point. While Mark Cann is the incumbent, he failed to close the door on the competition. Brian Anderson was lights out in his only audition of 2008, a three-touchdown, mistake-free game. Press Taylor and Jacob Laudenslayer weren’t brought in from junior college just to mimic the other team’s quarterback on the scout team.

What to watch for on defense: A more cohesive unit. Too often last year, the defense appeared lost, blowing coverages and allowing big plays. While those days aren’t completely over, they should be less common. It’s going to help having defensive coordinator Rick Minter in the system for a second year. He knows his personnel much better, and his system is no longer foreign to the players. It’ll also help having eight starters and a slew of letterwinners back on campus. If DE Albert McClellan can regain his pre-ACL injury form, he’s good enough to ignite and inspire the entire D.

This team will be far better if …the passing game significantly narrows the gap on the running game. A year ago, Marshall was 95th nationally through the air and 50th on the ground, an unbalanced attack that cannot continue. To be successful, coordinator John Shannon needs to keep teams guessing and opposing defenses from ganging up on RB Darius Marshall. Throughout its history, Marshall was at its best when it was able to go up top to make plays. No one expects the second coming of Chad Pennington, but the team has to perform much better at quarterback this season.

The Schedule: There's the in-state rivalry against West Virginia and the nasty game against Virginia Tech, but Southern Illinois and Bowling Green aren't bad non-conference dates. The big break comes in interdivision play getting Tulane, SMU, and UTEP; three teams that didn't go bowing. Getting the stars of the East, East Carolina and Southern Miss, at home is big, and playing three home games in four dates, with a bye week in the midst, should mean a nice finishing kick. However, the back-to-back road games against Tulane and West Virginia will anchor two stretches of three road games in four weeks.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Darius Marshall. Senior TE Cody Slate would also make sense in this space. Marshall, however, gives the Herd a consistent running threat and its best back since Ahmad Bradshaw left for the NFL. A slippery, fundamentally-sound runner, he ran for 1,095 yards and generated 165 all-purpose yards a game, en route to a spot on the All-Conference USA second team.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Albert McClellan. Was McClellan all the way back from his ACL tear last year? No. Can he get to that spot this fall? You bet. A little rusty in 2008, he still earned first team all-league honors, requiring plenty of attention from opposing blockers and getting routine pressure on the quarterback. When he’s at peak performance, No. 96 is one of those lightning-quick edge rushers, who’s capable of taking over games.   

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Mark Cann. Or whoever wins the starting job. Yeah, there are question marks elsewhere on the depth chart, but none that even approaches the significance at quarterback. The Herd needs to better than average behind center, which it’s been ever since Byron Leftwich graduated earlier in the decade. If there’s a revolving door at the position because no one can seize the job, it’ll be another quiet postseason in Huntington.

The season will be a success if
... the Herd sneaks above .500 and bowls for the first time since 2004. Hey, this is Marshall, where the locals used to expect titles when Bob Pruett was on the sidelines. A measly December bowl game isn’t asking for too much, right? Only two of the 12 games, at West Virginia and at Virginia Tech, go right in the loss column, so seven wins is achievable for a squad that returns 16 starters and all of the special teamers.

Key game: Sept. 26 at Memphis. This is a crossroads game early in the season against an East Division rival. The Tigers are also one of those middling Conference USA programs, which will be scrapping for bowl eligibility late in November. The winner gets to take some much-needed momentum into October. The loser could easily fall a win shy of the postseason when the final results come in.

2008 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Marshall 22 for 174 yards - Opponents 13 for 90 yards
- Turnovers: Opponents 23 - Marshall 17
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 10-of-12 (95%) - Marshall (50%)

- 2009 CFN Marshall Preview | 2009 Marshall Offense  
- 2009 Marshall Defense | 2009 Marshall Depth Chart
- 2008 MU Preview | 2007 MU Preview | 2006 MU Preview


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