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Marshall football: For Herd, Niemeyer adapts to change

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Before Marshall offensive lineman Gage Niemeyer put his hand on the FieldTurf at Milan Puskar Stadium as a right tackle, he had never played that position in a game before in his life.

Was it tough? It was a new experience, he said, but not completely foreign.

"It's not like an alien species over at right," the junior said.

No, but it is taking everything you've known and learned in your football career and reversing it.

When starting right tackle Garrett Scott was carted off the field Saturday with a left leg injury, Niemeyer stepped into the job and helped the Thundering Herd offense to one of its most productive games in recent memory.

Heading into last Saturday's Friends of Coal Bowl at West Virginia, Niemeyer was still battling redshirt junior Jordan Jeffries for the starting left tackle job.

Jefferies started against the Mountaineers, but offensive line coach Geep Wade had told Niemeyer he would be the swing tackle for the game. He could go in at left or right tackle, so he needed to prepare for both.

That cross-training paid off after Scott rode of the field on a medical cart and spent the rest of the came on crutches with his left ankle and leg wrapped below the knee. Niemeyer had worked at both right and left tackle during preseason practice and spent time at right tackle during the team's scrimmages. Still, it took some concentration to change his perspective from left to right.

Marshall (0-1) hosts Western Carolina (1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday (Fox College Sports telecast). The Catamounts are a Football Championship Subdvision team.

"If you know what you're doing and you're prepared for it, it's not too big of a deal," said the 6-foot-6, 283-pound transfer from Mount San Jacinto Community College.

"You just have to flip everything mentally. Your footwork, that's the biggest thing. You've been kicking left your whole life and you have to kick right. It's a little bit different.

"Everything you've known -muscle memory, kicking left, don't let them beat you inside or outside to the left - now it's all flipped on the right. It's like asking a Major League pitcher to throw left-handed all of a sudden."

He seemed to handle the change well.

The Herd suffered a 69-34 loss to the No. 11 Mountaineers, but Niemeyer melded with the rest of the offensive line to help Marshall rack up 545 yards of total offense, including 413 through the air.

That was the most total yards gained by any Conference USA school Saturday and the best yardage day for Marshall since gaining 506 yards against Houston last season. And while quarterback Rakeem Cato dropped back 54 times, he was sacked just once.

Right guard John Bruhin spent most of the game shoulder to shoulder with Niemeyer and said he performed very well in his Marshall debut.

He also said it wasn't much of a surprise that Niemeyer was able to switch sides so seamlessly.

"During camp he did really well," Bruhin said. "I had a ton of confidence in him. If you can play left, you can play right. Any position on the offensive line, you should know it. I have a lot of confidence in him."

Niemeyer said working with Bruhin, a sixth-year player, makes any transition easier with his depth of knowledge with the Herd offense.

"He knows everything," Niemeyer said. "He's been here forever. So he's a guy that, if you have a question, you want to ask him about it. So being over there and having the communication with him was very nice."

Coach Doc Holliday said following Saturday's game that Scott's injury wasn't as severe as originally feared. Bruhin said Scott was in a boot Sunday, but looked pretty good. Niemeyer is happy to hold down the fort until Scott is healthy, and said the unit is deep enough to stay strong.

"That's a good thing about us right now," he said, "that we have enough depth that, if something happens, we can just keep rolling"

*  *  *

MARSHALL CONFIRMED on Monday that walk-on fullback Zach Wellman had left the team after the Herd's loss to WVU.

Wellman, a 6-foot, 237-pound redshirt freshman from Huntington, was slated this year to see work in short yardage situations. He did not take any of Marshall's 45 carries against the Mountaineers, but did play in the game.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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