Marshall football: Herd running back feels fully recovered
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Running back Travon Van admits there was a little caution when he went full contact in practice this week. After offseason surgeries to repair the labrum in his hip and a sports hernia, he didn't want the wrong cut or an unnecessary hit to undo the progress he's made in rehabilitation.
But when that first hit came, so did a sigh of relief.
"It definitely feels good," he said. "The strings are off a little bit, just out there running around, knowing I will get hit and it's going to be live. You feel pretty good after your first contact."
Van, a 5-foot-10, 193-pound redshirt sophomore, made the Conference USA all-freshman team last season, rushing for 551 yards (second-best on the team) and three touchdowns on 143 carries. And with last year's leading rusher Tron Martinez's knees still being evaluated, Van could be called on to shoulder most of the rushing load.
As he took things easy in the first two weeks of practice, he watched freshman running backs Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms impress coaches with their speed and agility. It comforted him to know the two could succeed if he couldn't play, but it also spurred him to return and keep them from vaulting him on the depth chart.
"Definitely there was some motivation," he said. "I was telling coaches I was ready to come back and they were saying, 'Take your time.' But I was telling them, 'No, I'm ready.' "
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EXPECT THE Big Green-only ticket sales for marquee away games, like the Thundering Herd's season opener at West Virginia University, to continue in the future, said Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick. The university took 3,200 tickets for the Sept. 1 game and made them available only to donors to the Big Green Scholarship Foundation.
Tickets for Marshall's Sept. 29 game at Purdue also will be sold only to Big Green members. Big Green memberships begin at $50.
"In the past, we just sold them to anybody," Hamrick said. "We sold them to Big Green, but people could come off the street and buy them and we didn't know if we were selling to Marshall fans or WVU fans. We didn't ask.
"So our goal was to take our premium road games, like everyone else in the country does," he said, "and if you're not a donor, you can't buy those tickets."
One of Hamrick's goals since arriving at Marshall in 2009 was to increase the Big Green donor base, and Marshall has used methods like Big Green-only ticket sales and opening preseason scrimmages only to Big Green members. When Hamrick took the job, he said there were about 1,600 Big Green members, and that number has more than doubled since then.
With that effectiveness, Hamrick said the policy will continue.
"I've done it everywhere I've ever been," said Hamrick, the former UNLV and East Carolina AD, "and we're going to keep doing it."
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THE HERD practiced under the Joan C. Edwards Stadium lights Thursday ... because the sun had not yet peeked over the horizon.
Marshall's morning practice began at 6 a.m. to account for freshman orientation that happened later that morning, but Head Coach Doc Holliday said early morning does the team some good.
"They need it," he said. "What I told them (Thursday) morning was good teams, no matter what time or where you go, you show up and you go to work. That's what we do, no matter what time it is."
That meant a 4:45 a.m. wake-up call for the players, and offensive lineman John Bruhin was feeling lucky that he's normally an early riser.
"A cup of coffee, I'm ready to go," he said. "The ones in the afternoons are what get me more tired. A lot of people were dragging this morning, but we got out here, got some juice and kept rolling, just fighting right through it."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.