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Marshall football: Booker has time to adjust to position

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- With Andre Booker's speed, no one expects him to stay in one place for long.

He is so fleet of foot that, sometimes, he pedals himself to the ground without contact.  

During Marshall's spring football drills, the 5-foot-10, 176-pound speedster is finally getting his footing at a position. For a guy who likes to get places quick, no one can blame the senior for taking so long to get to this point.

"I'm finally feeling comfortable," Booker said. "I've got a chance at a starting role, so I'm taking advantage."

Booker spent his first two seasons with the Herd at running back, but under two different coaching regimes. The Sarasota, Fla., product was recruited to MU by former Coach Mark Snyder and made his most significant contributions at punt returner as a freshman in 2009.

In Doc Holliday's inaugural season, Booker stayed at running back but had to learn a new scheme, which can stunt a player's development. As a junior he had yet another playbook plopped in front of him as he shifted to receiver.

It didn't help that Booker missed last spring as he recovered from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum. His missed valuable repetitions that would have made a position change easier to swallow, and he caught just six passes for 116 yards as a junior in 2011.

Now Booker has 15 spring practices - Tuesday's was No. 10 - and the fall camp that will precede his senior season to get comfortable as, possibly, the team's starting slot receiver.

"The guy cares about what he's doing and he's a tough guy who throws his face in there and doesn't care about his body," Marshall receivers coach Gerad Parker said. "He's a team guy who has respect in that locker room and has the respect of the coaching staff.

"The thing a lot of people forget is he didn't have the spring last year when we moved him from running back to receiver, but now he's working in the slot and getting comfortable. You can tell."

Booker had seven receptions for 75 yards in last Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage. As one of six seniors - three of which are receivers - Booker has been running with the first team throughout spring ball.

He has shown a knack to turn quick screens into big yardage - "That's my game," he said confidently - and has flashed his skills downfield with a diving catch or two.

If Booker can stay on his feet, who knows where his senior season will take him?

"We're trying to keep him to keep those feet within his hips," Parker said. "If he does that, watch out."

*  *  *

JAMES ROUSE'S playing career has been beset by another injury.

The 6-5, 250-pound defensive lineman sat in a wheelchair between the goalposts and Shewey Building field-level entrance during Tuesday's practice.

The Harrisonburg, Va., native wore his white No. 92 jersey, green shorts, a camouflage hat and a protective boot that went from foot to kneecap. Rouse injured his left Achilles tendon in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage.

"He had an Achilles deal that we've got to get looked at," Holliday said. "I'm not sure exactly what they're going to do yet. He'll be out the rest of the spring."

Rouse redshirted in 2009 and played all 12 games in 2010. He made five starts and 19 tackles as a redshirt freshman. He lost all but three games of last season to injury.

With Rouse out, junior college transfer Ken Smith and junior Brandon Sparrow were the first-team defensive tackles.

"Somebody's got to step up; that happens," Holliday said. "We've got a couple guys in the weight room who will get their chance to step up."

*  *  *

D.J. HUNTER continued to practice with his left hand wrapped. The freshman safety broke two fingers in practice April 3 and missed four spring sessions before returning last Saturday.

Hunter protested a blue no-contact jersey, but still had his clubbed hand as evidence of an injury during Tuesday's practice.

"He tried to sneak on the field with a white jersey Saturday," MU safeties coach Todd Hartley said. "He's a competitor. I told him to club it up. He might have some brass knuckles or something under there."

Freshman running back Remi Watson also participated Tuesday, but wore a blue no-contact jersey as he went through drills and caught passes. He missed last Saturday's scrimmage with a left shoulder injury.

Another running back, Essray Taliaferro, dressed in full pads Tuesday but had his left foot in a protective boot after leaving last Saturday's scrimmage with an injury.

Contact sportswriter Chuck McGill at chuck.mcgill@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.

 


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