Marshall football: Snipes-Booker joins fellow receivers in NFL
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - All three of Marshall's senior wide receivers from 2012 will find themselves in NFL rookie mini-camps this spring.
Andre Snipes-Booker became the third after accepting a rookie camp invitation from the Detroit Lions. He joins former teammates Aaron Dobson, a second-round draft pick of the New England Patriots, and Antavious Wilson, who signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent.
"I'm just grateful to have the opportunity," said Snipes-Booker, who heads to the Lions' mini-camp on May 8. "It went from having nothing to being able to have this opportunity."
Snipes-Booker was the Thundering Herd's primary kick and punt returner as a senior, averaging 20.8 yards per kick return and 5.2 yards per punt return. He also caught eight passes for 91 yards. The wideout played in nine games and started two, missing time with a concussion.
It makes Snipes-Booker happy to know that he and the two teammates who stood beside him in the Herd's receiving corps his entire career all will get a chance at making an NFL roster.
"I feel like all three of us, it's something we just dreamed about and something we were dedicated to since we were six years old," he said. "We all played four or five years, going through workouts together knowing how everyone was, we all fed off that. We all wanted to make it."
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THE HERD is still looking for outside receivers to step into the shoes of Dobson and Wilson, who combined for 1,420 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches last season.
Rising senior Demetrius Evans was one of the players most in the mix during the spring for one of those spots. The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Belle Glade, Fla., native started three games last season, catching 32 passes for 284 yards - both fifth-best on the team in 2012 - and two touchdowns.
He spent the 15 spring practices working with the first string, and said the opportunity to build a stronger bond with starting quarterback Rakeem Cato has been essential to his progress.
"The most important thing is that I'm in there with Cato," Evans said. "He's going to be our quarterback, so it's best to build a rhythm with him. It's been great, watching film and getting him used to seeing me out there and throwing the ball to me."
Evans also credits new strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair for improved strength that's allowed him to shed tacklers easier.
"It makes things more instinctive," Evans said. "Instead of going out and trying to bully people, it happens. Breaking tackles just happens. You'd never know, but then you see the film and you're like, 'Oh, I broke that tackle, didn't I?' "
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MARSHALL'S OFFENSIVE LINE played a significant part on the offense's meteoric rise up the Football Bowl Subdivision rankings last season, but rising senior lineman Gage Niemeyer said there still was room for improvement during the spring.
That improvement came, he said, thanks to new offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, who stressed intensity and nastiness throughout the 15 practices.
"He's just brought that punch that we needed," Niemeyer said. "He's always telling us to finish, be nasty, go down and chase the ball. Last year, the whistle blows and we were like, 'all right.' Now the whistle blows and we're 25 yards down the field chasing someone and putting them in the dirt."
Niemeyer admitted that when Mirabal first arrived, it was a new experience taking instruction from a coach who, standing 5-5, didn't have the usual look of an offensive line coach. It didn't take long, though, to learn that image isn't always everyting.
"As soon as we got out on the field, we knew who was in charge really quick," Niemeyer said. "When somebody knows what he's talking about to the caliber that he does, you don't question it."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.