HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team's thinning offensive line got even thinner with Coach Doc Holliday's announcement Tuesday that redshirt senior offensive tackle Jordan Jeffries' Thundering Herd career is over.
"He's got a hip where the doctors have told him every time he steps back on that practice field, it's going to affect him as far as his quality of life down the road," Holliday said. "He's made the right decision."
Jeffries' absence takes away a veteran tackle with 15 career starts and reduces Marshall's offensive line rotation even further as the team prepares for Saturday's 5 p.m. game at Florida Atlantic University (Fox College Sports).
The Herd (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) played 11 offensive linemen at least 13 snaps in both of the Herd's first two games, blowout wins over Miami (Ohio) and Gardner-Webb. As the season progressed, that rotation began to shrink. Eight linemen played against Ohio, seven played against Virginia Tech and just six played against the University of Texas at San Antonio. Only starting guards Sebastian Johannson and Alex Schooler, starting tackles Gage Niemeyer and Garrett Scott, starting center Chris Jasperse and reserve guard Michael Selby played against the Roadrunners.
While some of that might have been preference, in some cases, the Herd didn't have a choice. On top of losing Jeffries, who played just nine snaps against Ohio and none against Virginia Tech and UTSA, Josh Lovell left the team to focus on his degree, Cam Dees (concussion) has yet to play this season and Clint Van Horn has been recovering from a concussion.
It's an issue that isn't foreign to Marshall's offensive line. Depth issues plagued the group last season. Against Ohio, the Herd's starting five played almost the entire game and no one caught a break until John Bruhin, who had been nursing a bruised sternum, entered the game in the last couple of drives.
"It's something we have to roll with," Scott said. "We have the experience with it. It wasn't a shock on game day. It was pretty much known throughout the week."
The Herd should catch a little bit of a break in preparing for the Owls, Holliday said. Van Horn should be ready to play and he continues to be impressed with Selby.
"We'll be able to roll Garrett and Gage and Van Horn at the tackles," Holliday said. "And the Selby kid, we were rolling Van Horn some at guard, but that doesn't need to happen anymore because Selby's playing really well."
True freshmen aren't usually called upon to play significant roles on the offensive line, but Selby has risen quickly up the depth chart. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound, Sandersville, Ga., native has the most snaps of any non-starter on the team with 141, and has recorded 3.5 knockdown blocks.
"He's extremely tough, he's extremely smart and he likes ball," Holliday said. "The kid likes to play. Physically, he's a gifted guy. He's a guy that could play for anybody and he's a guy the kids love because he goes so hard."
Selby said everyone on the line has been very helpful in his growth as a college football player. He knows it takes a lot of trust to give a young player so much responsibility, and he's proud of the faith the coaches have in him.
"It's good that the coaches trust me and the other players trust me to be in there, just being a freshman," Selby said. "But I just want to go in, help the offensive line and help the team win. If that means playing early, I'm good."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.