HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- For most of last season, you could find running back Essray Taliaferro's name on the Marshall football roster, just not on the two-deep.
As the Thundering Herd begins game-week preparations for its season opener against Miami University, the redshirt senior finds his name among the four team captains for that contest.
Marshall will release a depth chart today, so it's still not known exactly where Taliaferro stands in that regard. But he knows for sure that when the first coin is flipped at 7 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network, he'll be at the 50-yard line.
"It's an honor to be seen in that manner," Taliaferro said. "He didn't just surprise the team. He surprised me, also. I'm happy to see that hard work pays off."
The best day of Taliaferro's college career ended on a very sour note. But it was that bad moment which spurred an entire offseason of hard work that has pushed him back into the offensive mix.
When Marshall Coach Doc Holliday unveiled the first depth chart of 2012, Taliaferro was listed as the No. 2 running back behind Travon Van. That order didn't last long. Van was moved to the secondary by the fourth game and a trio of freshmen - Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson - had leapfrogged Taliaferro in the lineup. Grooms played well enough to win Conference USA Freshman of the Year honors.
But in the Herd's regular season finale against East Carolina, injuries had moved Taliaferro to starter, and despite carrying the ball just 31 times in the first 11 games, the 5-foot-9, 183-pound Ashburn, Va., native responded with 130 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
His final carry, however, haunted him for the entire offseason. In the second overtime against the Pirates, he fumbled the ball away after a 5-yard run. ECU scored on the next possession, won the game, 65-59, and knocked the Herd out of bowl contention.
Taliaferro didn't want that play to be fans' lasting memory of him. He wanted a chance at redemption, which meant a climb back up the depth chart. So he attacked offseason training harder than ever, through the spring, mat drills, summer workouts and preseason camp.
"That fumble wasn't a blessing, but a blessing in disguise, kind of," Taliaferro said. "It made me drive myself more to be better.