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Marshall football: Depth issue on offensive line

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Sixth-year guard John Bruhin wasn't sure if he'd see the field Saturday night versus Ohio.

When his bruised sternum kept him on the sidelines through halftime, his participation looked even more in doubt. That doubt increased once the third quarter passed and he still hadn't played.

"Then it started getting down to the wire and I was like, 'Oh, I'm probably going in,' " he said.

And Bruhin thinks that, when he entered the Ohio game for the last couple of drives of the fourth quarter, he was the first offensive lineman to come off the bench and relieve a starter.

A six-lineman rotation is a bit smaller than what the Thundering Herd is used to this season. And when the team travels to Rice on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff (CSS/WCHS telecast), Coach Doc Holliday said that should change.

"We have to play more guys," Holliday said. "The thing is, (tackle) Garrett (Scott) didn't practice and Bruhin didn't practice a lot and we were limited as far as who we had. Lovell went in and played when he hadn't played the week before.

"In doing what we're doing offensively," he said, "we've got to roll two or three more guys and that's going to happen this week."

The rotation shrank, Holliday said, because Scott (ankle) was out and the team was hesitant to play Bruhin.

That left tackles Jordan Jeffries and Gage Niemeyer, guards Alex Schooler and Josh Lovell and center Chris Jasperse to take the majority of the snaps.

Marshall has a number of younger offensive linemen, but Holliday said coaches decided to stick with proven linemen against the Bobcats.

The numbers should improve by Saturday. Bruhin said he'll be ready to play and Holliday said Scott would practice this week. Yet the reduced numbers didn't bother the offensive linemen who did play.

Schooler said the offense's speed from play to play works in the line's favor. The mission in the weight room and in preseason conditioning was to make sure the bigger bodies can keep up with the pace.

"It's almost like you want it to be like that," he said. "You want to say, 'Hey, just bring the pressure on me.'

"I think most of us go into the game thinking 'I'm going to have to play every snap,' " Schooler continued.

"You just have that mindset already. You just prepare yourself for ... I wouldn't say the worst, but to play the whole game. So if you get to roll in and out, you're even fresher."

Marshall's small line rotation against Ohio didn't hurt quarterback Rakeem Cato's passing numbers. He set a school record with 44 completions, a Joan C. Edwards Stadium record with 65 attempts and a personal best with 432 yards.

Cato said the group did a great job against the Bobcats and, while things should be back to normal Saturday, he's not worried about which or how many different offensive linemen play in front of him.

"I trust all of them," Cato said. "Whoever's in at the time, I trust all of them. When Garrett Scott went out at West Virginia, Gage came in and I trusted him from the jump. I never really try to over-protect myself or try and throw the ball quick or run quick. I trust them."

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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