HUNTINGTON, W.Va - It's not often that a freshman walks right onto campus and right into the starting lineup, but Marshall University wide receiver Justin Hunt found himself in that position at the start of preseason camp.
Hunt, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete from Memphis, Tenn., was with the first team for the Thundering Herd's first scrimmage Saturday.
"My coach told me in the meeting and I was like, 'Whoa, I'm running with (quarterback Rakeem) Cato and all the ones,'" Hunt said. "I was very excited, so at the scrimmage Saturday, I tried my best to show them I could run with the ones."
Hunt caught one pass for 8 yards in the scrimmage, and coaches have been impressed with his size and athleticism. He won the Class AAA Tennessee state title in the 110-meter hurdles for Whitehaven High School.
"I think the kid has a huge upside," offensive coordinator Bill Legg said. "You're talking about a kid who's not just a good football player, but a good athlete. He's an explosive kid who's got good hands. The kid's a smart kid. He's working really hard and it's starting to show."
But Hunt knows his continued play with the first team is nowhere near guaranteed. Both Davonte Allen and Craig Wilkins have been held back due to bumps and bruises, so that duo has not yet gone through a full practice. Hunt said trying to get the offense down wasn't easy, but his older teammates and receiver coach Mike Furrey have been helpful in allowing him to pick their brains.
"I know I have to keep working and working hard," Hunt said. "I know it's not done. We have two more weeks of camp and I still have to work for that starting job. And we have some people coming back, so there's going to be plenty of competition."
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PRACTICE STARTED a bit early for the Herd football team Monday morning. Originally scheduled for 9:15 a.m., Marshall's first practice of the day began at 7:45 a.m. Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said class scheduling conflicts played into that, but it also gave the team a small surprise it had to overcome.
"That's another deal with sudden change," Holliday said. "All of a sudden, they show up and they've got to go practice. They've got to be able to adjust to every situation and, instead of going to meetings, they have to go to practice.
The morning practice for Wednesday and Friday's two-a-days will begin even earlier, Holliday said, kicking off at 7:30 a.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.