Marshall football: Injuries could keep at least three seniors out for Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- At least three Marshall seniors could be in street clothes when they're honored before Saturday's noon home finale against Houston.
Injuries have a good chance of keeping wide receiver Aaron Dobson, linebacker Devin Arrington and receiver/returner Andre Snipes-Booker on the sidelines for the CSS-broadcast game, Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said Tuesday.
"We've got eight seniors," Holliday said. "Dobson's got an issue and is probably really questionable. Booker has a little bit of an issue and got hurt in that game (against UAB), and with Arrington, three of them might not even be dressed."
Arrington injured his knee against Central Florida and hasn't played since.
Dobson injured his right knee against Memphis and spent the loss to UAB out of pads and in a brace. Snipes-Booker returned three kicks for 77 yards versus the Blazers, but on the last return, he took a hit that had him on the ground with his helmet off and his hands on his head. He missed the UCF game with a concussion.
Holliday said that sixth-year guard John Bruhin, who missed last game with a sprained ankle, should be able to play.
Demetrius Evans started in place of Dobson against UAB and caught two passes for 18 yards.
Marshall juggled the linebacker lineup against the Blazers, moving Billy Mitchell from middle to weak-side linebacker and putting Jermaine Holmes back in the starting lineup in the middle.
He started the Herd's first six games in the middle as Mitchell recovered from a concussion. D.J. Hunter started at his normal strong-side linebacker spot.
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IF SNIPES-BOOKER sits out the Houston game, Holliday said he'll likely go with redshirt freshman running back Kevin Grooms at kick returner and sophomore wide receiver Tommy Shuler at punt returner.
Grooms, whose 40-yard dash has been clocked at 4.27 seconds, has returned six kicks this season for an averages of 18.5 yards a return. Shuler has subbed at punt returner for Snipes-Booker this season, though he's only returned one punt for five yards.
While Shuler is known more for his work underneath coverages as a slot receiver, Holliday said the sophomore has the ability to put a foot in the ground, cut up the field and get some yards.
"As a punt returner, if you can average 10 yards a return, you're pretty high up there in your league," Holliday said. "Tommy Shuler can catch that thing and find a way. He's pretty good in space, so he'll be fine."
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HOLLIDAY acknowledged the problems Marshall has seen on special teams in the past few games, especially on kick and punt coverage.
Marshall is 113th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in kickoff return yardage allowed with 25.05 yards a return, and 86th in punt return yardage allowed with 9.81 yards per return.
Both averages are worse than last season, and the Herd has given up three kick returns and one punt return for touchdowns.
Holliday said this is what can happen when injuries deplete the roster, and it can affect special teams as much as it can offense or defense. He said to expect some familiar names on special teams this week, mentioning players like D.J. Hunter, Dominick LeGrande and Derrick Thomas.
"Your defensive players are also your guys who are your good special team players," Holliday said.
"So I think this week you're going to see a lot of starters out there, because we have no choice. I'd rather start our starters and run them down there and start at the 25, rather than start at the 40. I'd rather rest them on defense. You're going to see really good guys running down there."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.