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Marshall football: Penn State transfer Thomas makes debut at practice for MU

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- One of the reported transfers from Penn State, defensive back Derrick Thomas, made his debut at Marshall's Thursday afternoon practice.

"We're excited about him," Herd Coach Doc Holliday said. "He's a great young guy. He's a talented young guy and we're happy he's part of our program."

Thomas, a 6-foot, 181-pounder from Greenbelt, Md., recorded four tackles last season for the Nittany Lions and left the team in June for "personal reasons," according to Penn State. Holliday said Thomas and his family contacted Marshall.

He joins a secondary that includes two other BCS-conference transfers, safeties Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha, both of whom transferred from Boston College.

Okoroha was a teammate of Thomas' at Eleanor Roosevelt High School and a year ahead of him in school. He said Thomas' footwork and coverage ability will make him a good addition to the secondary. He added that Thomas was happy to be in Huntington.

"There's nothing better than getting that outside drama away from you and being somewhere where they appreciate you and you appreciate them," Okoroha said. "He told me (Thursday) he's comfortable now and he wants to get more comfortable with the plays."

Thomas will have two years of eligibility, as he redshirted the 2009 season. He was eligible to transfer immediately and not sit a year due to the sanctions the NCAA levied against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. The punishments include a four-year postseason ban and crippling scholarship limitations, and the NCAA relaxed transfer rules for Penn State players.

Thomas was not made available for interviews Thursday. Holliday still had no comment on the other reported Penn State transfer, wide receiver Devon Smith, saying he couldn't comment on recruitable athletes.

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IT WAS evident that defensive coordinator Chris Rippon was not pleased with his unit's play Thursday morning. Both freshman running back Kevin Grooms and redshirt freshman running back Remi Watson broke long touchdown runs, while freshman receiver Chris Alston split two defensive backs on a short pass for another score.

So the entire morning defense spent a few minutes rolling the length of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium turf.

"We have a system in place where there's positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement," Rippon said.

"We love to give the positive and I think the kids appreciate and enjoy the positives that we do. But there's also ramifications for things that are not acceptable. We're going to be very aware of giving up points."

But Rippon knows the defense will use those field-long rolls as motivation to improve moving forward.

"They'll bounce back," he said. "That's what I know about our kids. They'll be mad and all that other business ... and we'll put this thing behind us and move on tomorrow."

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ONE DEFENSIVE highlight came from an unexpected source - true freshman long snapper Matt Cincotta. Playing at linebacker in seven-on-seven drills, he picked off a pass and ran it back for a touchdown.

Cincotta played linebacker at Charlotte Catholic at North Carolina, but Holliday said no one should expect him to play linebacker much longer.

"I told (Rippon) don't get his tail hurt," Holliday said with a smile. "After today, he's no longer a linebacker. He's a long snapper. Just don't get him hurt in daggone acclimation period."

The team will come together for one practice in full pads today. The practice is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

 Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at


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