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Marshall football: Hunt gets time with Herd starters

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.

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THE HERD'S first-year offensive linemen took part in a belly-busting tradition this past weekend. The elder statesmen of the offensive line took the group to Hillbilly Hot Dogs so they could partake in the "Homewrecker Challenge."

For the uninitiated, the restaurant's "Homewrecker" is a 15-inch hot dog weighing more than 3 pounds. The challenge for the young linemen was to finish the behemoth in 12 minutes or less. Redshirt junior lineman Chris Jasperse said Tom Collins was the winner, with Tyler Combs in second - though Combs wondered if there really was a winner.

"I'm paying for it today," he said Sunday. "I just had it in my mind that I had to get it done."

The young linemen might have been grabbing the antacids after that excursion, but they still considered it a good time. So did Jasperse, who remembers when he was in their seat at the table, staring down a hot dog the size of an SUV.

"It's just fun," Jasperse said. "It's just a lot of fun to get everyone out there. When they first see it, they're like, 'Oh, it's not that big.' Five minutes later, they're just done."

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HOLLIDAY SAID that linebacker Billy Mitchell missed practice Monday after suffering a concussion during Saturday's scrimmage. The Herd will be careful with Mitchell's recovery. He missed the first six games of the 2012 season due to a concussion. ... Freshman receiver Josh Knight had the red stripe removed from his helmet Monday, signifying he's no longer considered a newcomer. Holliday said Knight was the first to lose his red stripe, but others might be in line to earn the honor later.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.



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