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Marshall football: Austin has attention of new Marshall punters

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Either true freshman Tyler Williams or redshirt freshman Austin Dumas will be Marshall's punter Saturday (Noon, FX) at West Virginia. The Thundering Herd had not released a depth chart as of Monday, and the two had been battling to replace four-year starter Kase Whitehead. Either way, the new starter could get a rude welcome to college football in the form of Mountaineers punt returner Tavon Austin.

"He's fun to watch because he's like (former Oregon running back) LaMichael James or (former Florida International receiver) T.Y. Hilton," Williams said. "He can get the ball and go and break tackles. But the biggest thing with him is you can't give him a chance."

When he does get a chance, it can be bad news for the opposition. Austin ranked sixth nationally in punt returns in 2011, averaging 14.1 yards per return, and was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year.  The key to neutralizing Austin, Williams said, is to make sure he doesn't get the opportunity to break a big play. For the most part, that means making sure Marshall's punt team has enough time to get down the field.

"A lot of it is just hang time," said Williams, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native. "Get the ball in the air so our missiles can get down there. If you hit a line-drive punt to that guy, he'll get 30 yards on it. He'll go. He'll break tackles.

"You've got to get hang time so he can't do anything with it," he continued. "You have to stop him dead in his tracks."

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THREE ACADEMIC non-qualifiers began classes at Marshall on Monday - defensive lineman Josh Brown, defensive end Larry Jefferson and athlete Gary Thompson. Brown is a 6-foot-5, 273-pound former Clemson commitment from South Aiken High in Aiken, S.C., who was rated a three-star defensive tackle by both Rivals and Scout. Jefferson, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect from Banneker High School in College Park, Ga., also earned three stars from Rivals and Scout. He was a former Louisville commitment.

Thompson, standing 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, committed to Marshall in January from Helix High School in La Mesa, Calif, the high school of Herd running back Travon Van. He earned two stars from both Rivals and Scout.

A fourth newcomer, tight end Byran Attaway, began practicing with the team during Saturday's scrimmage. Attaway is a 6-foot-4, 240-pound prospect from Camden County High in Kingsland, Ga. He was a former Florida International University signee.

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MARSHALL NAMED five captains for its 2012 football team on Sunday - senior receivers Aaron Dobson and Andre Snipes-Booker, sixth-year guard John Bruhin, senior linebacker Devin Arrington and junior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor.

Taylor is the third junior in the last four years to be named a captain. Linebacker Mario Harvey was named a captain as a junior in 2009, and safety Omar Brown was named a captain as a junior in 2010.

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



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