www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd pulls away from RedHawks, 42-27, to win season opener http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140830/DM03/140839914 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140830/DM03/140839914 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 20:48:55 -0400 By Derek Redd OXFORD, Ohio - Marshall's football team found out Saturday that the road to potential undefeated season could get slippery.

Leading by as many as three touchdowns in the first half, the Thundering Herd watched Miami (Ohio) make it an eight-point game deep into the fourth quarter before pulling out a 42-27 win Saturday at Yager Stadium.

The final margin came when quarterback Rakeem Cato, who already had thrown three touchdowns, scrambled for a 2-yard score with 2:01 left in the game. The Herd (1-0) converted three third downs on that 11-play drive, its longest of the afternoon.

Saturday's win had a much different look than last year's season-opening win over the RedHawks (0-1). Then, the Herd turned a 14-14 halftime tie into a 52-14 breeze. But Marshall coach Doc Holliday said Saturday that beauty wasn't necessary, and he liked how the team responded in the fourth quarter.

"You know what? It's a win, guys," he said. "You go on the road and beat a football team and you get back on the bus and go home and get ready for next week."

For a while, it looked like this season's win would be easier than last season's. Marshall's quick-strike offense overwhelmed the RedHawks and put the Herd ahead, 21-0, with 14:11 left in the second quarter. None of the three scoring drives lasted longer than 1:57 and two lasted 46 seconds or shorter. But Marshall started to sputter later in the second and into the third, as Miami finally got rolling.

After scoring three touchdowns in a little over 15 minutes, Marshall could muster just one - a 2-yard Devon Johnson run with 3:10 left in the first half - until midway through the fourth. Meanwhile, Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix went to work and led the RedHawks on four second-half scoring drives, throwing three touchdown passes.

"He didn't surprise us," Holliday said. "That kid is a heavily recruited player. If you've got a quarterback that can make the throws he makes, you're going to make some plays."

Marshall finally halted Miami's momentum on a fourth-quarter, fourth-down gamble. On fourth and 2 at Miami's 27, Cato gave the ball to Johnson and the 243-pound junior burst through the middle of the RedHawks defense for his second touchdown of the game. It was the only fourth down the Herd converted in three tries Saturday.

Johnson - who had bounced from fullback to linebacker to tight end before winning the starting tailback job after just three weeks of practicing there - finished the night with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He was stopped behind the line of scrimmage just once.

"I didn't think I had 150 (yards)," Johnson said. "When they told me I had 150, I was shocked. That surprised me."

Cato, a senior who has received some Heisman Trophy buzz entering the season, completed 20 of 32 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Two went to tight end Eric Frohnapfel, who finished with a team-high five catches for 54 yards. Among his most important grabs was the 29-yarder on Marshall's final scoring drive that allowed the Herd to convert on third and 7.

Hendrix, a graduate transfer who followed new RedHawks coach Chuck Martin from Notre Dame, completed 24 of 49 passes for 318 yards, three touchdowns and an interception to Herd safety A.J. Leggett. He also added 46 rushing yards.

Marshall has many eyes upon it this season, as most experts made them the runaway favorite to win the Conference USA title and several predicted they'd represent the Football Bowl Subdivision's five smaller conferences in one of the major bowl games. It wasn't easy to tag a 17th game to Miami's losing streak, the longest current streak in the FBS. But Cato said that winning, no matter how it looked, was most important and that his team handled a tough test well.

"I think the whole sideline, not only the offense but the defense, kept their composure," Cato said. "We knew we were going to have adversity and I think we responded great to that adversity. As long as we keep improving every day, we'll get better."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd aware of expectations as season begins http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/DM03/140829182 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/DM03/140829182 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:48:59 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team soon gets its chance to show everyone what the fuss is all about.

Nearly every magazine and website predicts for the Thundering Herd an undefeated season and a Conference USA championship. Some go a step further. They name Marshall as the representative of the smaller conferences among the marquee college bowls, their opportunity to win one for the little guys.

Those are great expectations to shoulder. Marshall's players acknowledge they're there. They've been there all along.

"It's obviously a lot of pressure," tight end Eric Frohnapfel said. "People talk about us winning them all. But, like my high school coach said, if you want to win 'em all, you gotta win the first one."

The first one comes Saturday, when Marshall visits Miami (Ohio) at Yager Stadium (3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com).

The Redhawks gave Marshall a few problems early in last season's game, but couldn't keep it up, and the Herd belted Miami, 52-14, behind five Rakeem Cato touchdown passes. Miami has a new head coach, former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. It has a new quarterback, former Notre Dame backup Andrew Hendrix, who followed Martin to Oxford, Ohio, as a graduate transfer. And, after Thursday night, it has a new dubious distinction.

After Georgia State beat Abilene Christian on a last-second field goal Thursday, the Redhawks became the owners of the longest active losing streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, at 16 games. While that might make for a tempting opportunity to pour on the points and impress the new selection committee charge with picking the small-conference representative to the major bowls, Frohnapfel said that's a pressure the team needs to ignore.

"I don't want that to turn into us pressing on the field or taking shots we don't need to," Frohnapfel said. "I think there's a pressure element like we've never had before, but I think we have the mature team and the leadership in effect that we're not going to let it affect how we play and affect how we prepare."

That maturity is something Marshall coach Doc Holliday has noticed throughout the preseason. It is rare for a coach not to have at least one day during the weeks preseason practice where his disappointment in the team's energy doesn't spur him to march up to reporters and scold his players for their lackadaisical effort.

Holliday hasn't done that this August. He's said he hasn't seen a day where he's walked off the practice field confident that his team was better than the day before. That's the benefit of returning 59 letter-winners and losing just 14 from a 10-4 Military Bowl championship team that also won the C-USA East Division. Even as game preparations began this week, Holliday still saw the necessary focus.

"This is a business-like group," Holliday said Tuesday. "We met at 7 o'clock this morning and they were all there, all on time and all ready to roll. I like this football team. They understand the expectations, but they also understand the responsibility, and that's critical."

That understanding comes not just from age among the roster, but in-game experience. Cato, the preseason C-USA offensive player of the year, enters his fourth season as a starter. Senior Tommy Shuler is a two-time all-conference slot receiver. Senior Chris Jasperse has logged more snaps in his career than any other active offensive lineman in the country. Defensive lineman James Rouse, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility for 2014, is the preseason conference defensive player of the year.

There is plenty of young talent, too, including starting redshirt freshman receiver Angelo Jean-Louis and starting redshirt sophomore defensive backs Corey Tindal and A.J. Leggett. But with so many key players in their fourth, fifth and even sixth years with the program, the Herd won't be short on veterans.

"It's huge," Jasperse said. "It's really going to help us, especially down the road. Our leadership and everything we have is going to be tremendous, because we have guys who have been there. Something might not be going right, and we know how to address it."

Those stumbles may happen. Miami and every other opponent on Marshall's schedule read the same prediction the Herd does. They all know what others expect from Marshall and they'd all love to be the team to ruin that quest. With Louisville moving its Joan C. Edwards Stadium visit from 2014 to 2016, there is no spotlight game on the Herd's slate, so perfection might be the only way Marshall can earn its chance to face a power-conference school in a major bowl.

Marshall players know every team they face will try to keep them from realizing those lofty expectations. They know they'll always get the other team's best.

"They're going to get our best, too," linebacker Neville Hewitt said. "We feel like we'll go after them just like they're going after us."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Chuck McGill: This is Marshall's chance to be C-USA's 'bellcow' http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/DM03/140829186 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140828/DM03/140829186 Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:36:55 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - College football's extreme makeover seems complete. The 65 power conference schools will get a shot at a new postseason format and new championship trophy.

The rest of the sport's major programs are just looking to make a commotion on the front porch.

Knock, knock. It's Marshall on the other side of the door ... and what timing the program has arriving as a re-emerging power.

Conference USA could use a jolt.

The league with the giant geographic footprint has been hit hard by realignment. Of the league's 18 champions, 12 are in other leagues now. Of the 11 teams in the league's history to finish in the final Associated Press top 25 poll, eight are gone.

Southern Mississippi owns five of the six C-USA titles left in the league. Rice nabbed the other last season. Southern Miss is the only current C-USA team that has finished in the top 25 (three times) while in the league, but the program is 1-23 the past two seasons.

UCF, Houston, Memphis, Tulsa, East Carolina, Tulane and Southern Methodist are gone. This is Marshall's opportunity to become the league's power, the Boise State this side of the Mississippi River. It's the coast-to-coast attention the league needs, and one the Herd is bringing. Heck, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News had Marshall ranked higher than anyone in the preseason poll - No. 15.

San Jose is about 2,500 miles from Huntington.

"It's great to have a team like Marshall that is highly regarded going into the season," said Britton Banowsky, Conference USA's commissioner. "It varies from year to year, but some years we have a bellcow and some years we have a lot more parity. It depends on the circumstances.

"To have Marshall and the quality of program with its history emerge as one of our best teams is a positive."

Now, one must understand how Banowsky has to tip-toe around this subject. It behooves him if all Conference USA teams prosper, not just a Marshall or Rice. But he also understands there is an opportunity for all league members to flourish, and that parity won't garner headlines.

"What's really interesting is when Houston and UCF came into the conference they were really down," Banowsky said. "They were able to use the league as a springboard and they emerged. Tulsa emerged in that same window. Southern Miss is in rebuilding mode, but they've been a top 25 team on numerous occasions.

"It is important to have a team like that to kind of set the tone of excellence for the conference."

The preseason prognostications have pushed the bar high in Huntington. In the AP poll, the Herd accumulated the 32nd-most points in the media poll. Only former C-USA brethren UCF had more points among the non-power five schools.

The media attention heaped on record-setting quarterback and Heisman candidate Rakeem Cato is a bonus for the league, too.

"It's important for us to try and have those kind of programs," Banowsky said. "It brings positive attention. The work Coach (Doc) Holliday is doing there and his entire staff and the leadership has been tremendous. They have a lot of momentum."

Indeed, and Marshall takes the first step in its journey while carrying the league's banner this Saturday in Oxford, Ohio, where the Herd meets former Mid-American Conference counterpart Miami. Marshall's detractors have been and will be quick to point out the strength of schedule, but Banowsky scoffs at that.

"Getting road wins in college football is a difficult thing," he said. "Anytime you can do that, no matter where it is, it's a good thing."

That's true, but the Herd will need to wallop its share of opponents this season to make noise on the national stage. If that happens, they'll be ahead of the curve when it comes to blossoming as a C-USA giant.

The league was last pillaged a decade ago, when Louisville, TCU, Cincinnati, USF and Army departed after the 2004 season. Louisville finished No. 6 that season, and the league didn't have another top 25 finisher in the end-of-year poll again until 2010 when UCF and Tulsa accomplished the feat. Houston and Southern Miss did it again the next season, but it took it took five seasons for those programs to do what Louisville and TCU did from 2001 to 2004.

If Marshall can finish where Wilner has the Herd ranked in the preseason, it'll be the best final ranking for a C-USA school since Louisville jumped to the Big East.

"Our goal is to be at the top of the league and we're going to do what we can do within our means to be at the top of the league," said Mike Hamrick, Marshall's athletic director. "Our goal is to be the best team in the 'other five' conferences. I like to call it non-publicized conferences.

"Every decision that we make here concerning football is with that in mind. One example is our indoor facility, there's none better. Our academic center, there's some just as good but none better. Everything we're doing from here on out to try and be in those big bowls."

Marshall is in line to do it ... if the Herd can navigate four non-conference games, eight league games and a C-USA championship. If that happens, it'd be hard to not open the door for the Herd.

"I've had other ADs call me and say 'Hey Mike, what's happening at Marshall right now is great for our league and I wish you win 'em all but one.' I've gotten three of those calls," Hamrick said.

"Whether it's Marshall or not, we've got to have someone every year that's knocking on the door."

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Derek Redd: Johnson runs, trucks, blocks his way to top of depth chart http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM03/140829275 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM03/140829275 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:31:46 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - It was no real surprise to anyone who watched him practice this August where Devon Johnson's name appeared on the Marshall football team's depth chart at running back. But the question remained: How often does a 243-pound former fullback/linebacker/tight end become the primary ball-carrier on one of the nation's most prolific offenses after less than a month of work there?

Now it's happened at least once. When Marshall coach Doc Holliday revealed his depth chart for Saturday's game at Miami (Ohio), there was Johnson, after just three weeks, atop the running back chart and ahead of players who have been at that position for the last two years.

Now he can turn the energy he's spent this month in winning the job toward someone wearing a different jersey.

"It feels good to finally go against someone else," Johnson said. "We've been going against each other for three weeks, and finally just to be able to go against someone else and be running and trucking and going full speed and not having to worry about the whistle blowing, I can just go for the end zone."

The running and trucking and full-speed barreling toward the end zone may not be the biggest reasons Johnson now is Marshall's No. 1 running back. They sure played a part, as the Marshall defenders unfortunate enough to get in front of him could attest, but it wasn't the largest part.

The blocking, that was the deciding factor. Marshall has employed plenty of running backs who can streak in for six points. In the last two seasons, though, it's been the ones who best protect record-setting quarterback Rakeem Cato who see the most time.

It's why Essray Taliaferro, a fourth-string back in 2012, became a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013. He was the best at keeping defenders away from Cato, so he earned the most playing time and the most carries. Marshall coach Doc Holliday said that's why Johnson will jog out with the starting offense versus the Redhawks.

"He's brought a physicality to that position that we haven't seen for three or four years," Holliday said. "I know Cato likes him because if he gets an A- or B-gap blitzer, he has a shot of sticking it up in there and that guy not getting him. Cato likes him back there and so do I."

Johnson doesn't shy from contact as a runner or a blocker. This August, the running backs ran a blocking drill where the defender came off the edge and the back's mission was to keep him away from the dummy standing a few feet behind him. For some of those running backs, it was hard labor and not always successful. Sometimes they'd block air. Sometimes they'd be lunging at defenders as they charged past.

But there was Johnson, feet moving, shoulders square, arms pistoning. Rare was the time when a defensive player got around him.

Marshall's running backs will line up alongside a Heisman Trophy hopeful and Sports Illustrated story subject at quarterback who has the potential to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. He eclipsed that yardage total in 2012 and was one shy of that touchdown total in 2013. Holliday needs that guy to stay upright and healthy, and he feels Johnson can do it better than any back on the roster.

He's still a little surprised, though, that Johnson has advanced this far this quickly. It's not that Johnson has never been a running back before. He gained more than 4,300 yards and scored 63 touchdowns at Richlands High School in Virginia. He's just never been a college tailback outside of goal-line jumbo packages.

Offensive coordinator Bill Legg admitted he was a little surprised, too, but it was with the component of Johnson's game that ultimately won him the job.

"My surprise was the protection stuff," Legg said. "I wasn't totally shocked in the run game and I wasn't shocked with his eye discipline and I wasn't totally shocked in how he ran the ball, because I've seen him run the ball when we threw it to him. The thing I was most pleased with was how quickly he picked up on our protection schemes, because they're relatively entailed. He's done an excellent job there."

The success of Johnson's crash course at tailback has been a team effort. Johnson has the skills to run the ball and the willingness to learn the rest. And the coaches, especially running back coach Chris Barclay, have worked closely with him to get him up to speed.

"Coach Barclay did a good job this whole camp in getting me ready to take on this task," Johnson said. "I'm a veteran. I've been on the field at other positions and the coaches wouldn't have made this decision if they didn't think I was ready for it. They trust me, so I've got to go out there with everything I've practiced hard on in camp and put it on the field."

There, you'll see the running and the trucking and the blocking. And there's no whistle in the world that will stop him from that.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Inaugural start worth the wait for Miami QB Hendrix http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM03/140829280 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140827/DM03/140829280 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:28:03 -0400 By Derek Redd Andrew Hendrix felt like he did pretty well as a Notre Dame quarterback and student. He never became a Fighting Irish starter, but played some. And he was leaving South Bend, Ind., with a bachelor's degree in science pre-professional studies.

"It definitely was a great run," he said.

Yet as his fourth year at Notre Dame drew to a close, he decided he didn't want his dream of being a starting Football Bowl Subdivision quarterback to die just yet.

"There was still that fire burning," he said. "That's when I knew. I wasn't ready to stop. I felt too good. I felt too fresh as a 23-year-old collegiate athlete."

When Hendrix's offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Chuck Martin, took the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio), he found his chance. And now the graduate transfer will make his first collegiate start Saturday, when he leads the Redhawks into their home opener versus Marshall (3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com).

The move to Miami was the best of all worlds for Hendrix. A star quarterback at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, his first start comes in Oxford, just 45 minutes from where he grew up. Plus, he moved to a team with a familiar system, as Martin has incorporated what he used with the Irish into his Miami offensive scheme.

Because of his background with Martin, Hendrix has spent plenty of time helping the rest of the Redhawks get more comfortable with their new system. Playing the role of mentor has helped his own performance.

"Honestly, speaking for myself, it really has heightened my play," Hendrix said. "When you're teaching the offense to these guys and you have to be more aware of what's going on around you, I found that it really has elevated my play to a different level that maybe I didn't think it could get to, but it has.

"So I'm excited for that to show on Saturdays throughout the fall," he added. "The team has been working really hard to get this offense down, and we're excited."

Hendrix played sparingly through three seasons at Notre Dame. His most prolific season was his first, which included an 11-for-24, 192-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception performance in a loss to Stanford. In the nine games through 2012 and 2013 where he threw at least one pass, he never threw more than five. He ended his Notre Dame tenure completing 25 of 58 passes for 360 yards and one touchdown.

Martin said Hendrix has plenty of attributes that can lead to success as a starting quarterback, but the Redhawks coaches still are trying to figure out what the team can do around him.

"Andrew's a big, strong kid," Martin said. "He's athletic. He's got a strong arm. He's an NFL-style quarterback and kind of that prototype. You want to do things to his strengths, but you've also got to evaluate the pieces around him and make sure you're giving everyone else a chance for success."

It's been a long wait for Hendrix, but it ends Saturday against a Marshall defense that finished 2013 with 32 sacks, tied for 31st nationally, and 18 interceptions, tied for 13th nationally. The Thundering Herd doesn't plan on making his starting debut easy, but Hendrix said he's ready for whatever comes.

"It really is an unbelievable feeling," Hendrix said. "I'm so ecstatic for it. It's been four years that I've been waiting for it and I couldn't be more excited. At the same time, I'm not going to let the big picture be a distraction. We have a ball game to play and I'm preparing just like I did the last four years when I wasn't the starter."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Not much can surprise experienced Cato http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM03/140829371 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM03/140829371 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 23:23:19 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Rakeem Cato hasn't just seen nearly everything an opposing defense can throw at the Marshall football team. He's experienced it.

The senior quarterback enters his fourth season as the Thundering Herd's starter when Marshall visits Miami University on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com). Since he made his first start in the 2011 season opener versus West Virginia University, he's started 35 games under center.

The strategies other teams employ to slow Marshall's offense aren't just things he's observed over the years. He's been in the fray for the vast majority of it. So even though the Redhawks and new head coach Chuck Martin will toss a new scheme at him that he didn't see from them in last season's 52-14 Marshall win, he's not nervous about it.

Cato has seen so many, that it's become easier to decipher them.

"I think it really helps me a lot to understand a defense and break down a defense," Cato said.

Those years of experience also have allowed him to develop a synergy with offensive coordinator Bill Legg. As their relationship has grown, so has Legg's trust in Cato with the playbook. Cato has gone from having Legg make all the play checks as a freshman to having several post-snap reads as a senior.

"I'm trying to base my mind on his mind," Cato said of Legg. "I have to be thinking the same way to get us in the best situation possible."

The quarterback on the other side of the field, Miami's Andrew Hendrix, will be making his first career start as a fifth-year graduate transfer from Notre Dame. Cato can't imagine that feeling, especially that wait. He started nine of Marshall's 13 games as a freshman, all 12 as a sophomore and all 14 as a junior.

"That's where it all starts," said Marshall head coach Doc Holliday. "I've said many times, whenever I've been places where you win championships, it starts at that position. When you've got a guy there who has a total understanding of the offense that's a good player, then you've got a shot."

Holliday isn't a stranger to four-year starting quarterbacks. He was a North Carolina State assistant when Philip Rivers started four years from 2000-03 and finished with 95 touchdown passes and three wins in four bowl games.

Cato's first three years have been memorable, too. He's been named the 2012 Conference USA MVP and 2013 C-USA offensive player of the year for his work on the game field and guided the Herd to two bowl wins in three seasons. He also feels he's grown in his work in the locker room and on the practice field.

"It was hard as a freshman just trying to win the team over," Cato said. "It was a tough group and a tough senior class. I tried my best and think I did my best. I had my bumps and bruises down that course, but things turned better in the end of it.

"As it went on, I kept going hard," he added. "I kept fighting. I kept trying to establish myself as a leader. I had to adapt quick."

Part of that evolution came during his first two years on the team, watching some of the team's elder statesmen. Senior Tommy Shuler, the Herd's all-C-USA slot receiver and Cato's best friend, said watching the veterans helped Cato learn how to earn the team's trust.

"His freshman year and sophomore year, he sat back and saw how Vinny Curry did it and Devin Arrington and Aaron Dobson," Shuler said, "and he tried to see how he could do it better, to show he was the leader of the team, that this is where he wanted to be and this is what he wanted to do."

Cato also sought the counsel of his coaches and former Herd greats like quarterback Chad Pennington. He continues searching for the right mix of leadership between what he does and what he says.

"That's what the position calls for," Cato said. "We've had the greats learn to lead before my time and they all did it in their own style and way. The way I'm doing it is my own style, going out and leading by example, and then going out and being more vocal for the younger guys that are starting right now as freshmen that are going through the same stages I've been through and want to get to where I am now. I think it's important for me to be more vocal and tell those guys when they're wrong and when they're right."

For as much success as he's already found, he wants to make his final season even more memorable. Some pundits have predicted for the Herd an undefeated regular season, a C-USA title and a spot in a premier bowl. For that to happen, Cato said, he must continue earning his role as Marshall's starting quarterback.

"I don't take it for granted," Cato said. "There are many people that want to be in my shoes. That's why I go out and work hard every day to be the best person I can be. It's a blessing to be here in this position to continue to grow."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Chuck McGill: Herd, WVU try to achieve the improbable http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM03/140829372 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM03/140829372 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 23:21:17 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Mountain State's only two major college football programs will simultaneously begin improbable quests this Saturday.

Marshall travels to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for Game 1 of 14 in a season that could realistically end with an unblemished record. That game begins at 3:30 p.m., which is when West Virginia and Alabama are scheduled to get under way inside Atlanta's Georgia Dome in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic. The Mountaineers are nearly four-touchdown underdogs a few days away from its nationally televised season opener.

That begs the question, at least from this columnist, which is more likely to happen: Marshall's perfect season - from the last Saturday in August to a bowl game in December or January - or WVU knocking off the No. 2 Crimson Tide?

The Thundering Herd, of course, have the friendly schedule. According to Phil Steele, only Texas State, Middle Tennessee, Colorado State, Northern Illinois, North Texas and Georgia Southern have softer regular-season schedules.

MU's non-conference schedule includes three Mid-American Conference teams - Ohio, Miami and Akron - that combined to go 12-25 last season. The fourth team, Rhode Island, is a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) program that won three games in 2013. The Rams lost its last four games by a combined score of 197-27.

If the Conference USA opener at Old Dominion is included, the Herd plays games in West Virginia or bordering states the first five weeks. And, of course, the conference has been pillaged by leagues higher on the food chain, so strong programs like UCF, Houston, Tulsa, Southern Methodist and East Carolina are out of Marshall's way this season. Doc Holliday is 27-24 in four seasons on the sidelines, but he was 4-9 against the aforementioned defectors (although 2-0 last season).

The path for the Herd is relatively clear to a perfect regular season, although carrying around a target is a challenge in any league. Marshall will get every team's best shot, from the MAC schools to Middle Tennessee to Rice.

MU would have to win its first-ever C-USA crown to get a shot at No. 14 against an unknown opponent.

Keep in mind that 14-0 - even with a schedule softer than my mid-section - is not a cinch. Since 2006, when regular-season schedules expanded to 12 games and teams could use conference championships and bowls to get to 14 total games, only five teams have managed to navigate a season 14-0.

Ohio State did it in 2002, followed by Boise State and Alabama in 2009, Auburn in 2010 and Florida State last season. That's five out of 967 possible perfect seasons in eight years, with only one non-power conference school represented.

OK, so what about massive upsets like the one the Mountaineers would have to pull this weekend?

West Virginia is a 26.5-point underdog, and that line may move up or down slightly before kickoff. The Mountaineers have only been a heavier underdog three other times in program history.

In 2001, WVU lost to the Miami Hurricanes by 42 points. The Mountaineers were 35-point 'dogs. Last season, West Virginia was a 30-point underdog at Baylor and the Bears won handily, 73-42. In 1991, the Mountaineers were 28.5-point underdogs to Miami and lost by 24 points.

WVU has never won, straight up, when its opposition was favored by at least three touchdowns.

That doesn't bode well for the Mountaineers this Saturday, but there is a sliver of hope. Since 2006, the same year regular-season schedules were allowed to balloon to 12 games, there have been five underdogs of four touchdowns or more win straight up.

Stanford beat Southern Cal, 24-23, as a 42-point underdog in 2007. That same year, Syracuse knocked off Louisville, 38-35, while the Cardinals were a 39-point favorite.

That was a spectacular season for upsets. Appalachian State was a five-touchdown underdog at the Big House when it took down Michigan, 34-32. Three years ago, Texas Tech defeated Oklahoma, 41-38, as a 29-point underdog.

Then, of course, in 2007, Pitt marched into Mountaineer Field as a 28-point underdog and, well, you might remember what happened. WVU was ranked No. 2 at the time, just like Alabama is now.

So, in the past eight seasons five teams have escaped a season 14-0 and five times a four-touchdown favorite has lost a game outright.

Will the Herd survive this season unscathed? Can the Mountaineers surprise state native Nick Saban when the odds say no?

Improbable, but possible.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Freshmen earn several spots on Herd's first depth chart http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM03/140829387 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140826/DM03/140829387 Tue, 26 Aug 2014 23:08:16 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday has said more than once this season that he could see eight or nine freshmen seeing significant playing time this season. According to the depth chart released in the notes for the Thundering Herd's Saturday game at Miami (Ohio), he underestimated.

First-year players are found all over the two-deep for the Herd's game at Yager Stadium (3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com), a pretty good feat on a Marshall team that lost just 15 letter-winners from last season.

Most of those listed as freshmen or redshirt freshmen on the two-deep are sitting in backup spots. However, one first-year player, receiver Angelo Jean-Louis has cracked the starting lineup, leapfrogging senior Craig Wilkins as the No. 1 "Z" receiver.

Jean-Louis, who sat last season as an academic non-qualifier, has made several acrobatic catches during preseason camp. Holliday said the redshirt freshman earned the job by making the most of the opportunities given to him.

"He makes plays," Holliday said. "The one thing we do is we come up with a production chart. At the receiver position, it's not how many snaps you play or how you grade out, it's how many plays you make. You get the opportunity to make 20 plays and you make 18 of them, you can kind of tell by that production chart who has made plays throughout fall camp and who's the most productive guy, because production is what matters at those skill positions, not potential. He's made plays all camp and continues to do that."

Sitting a year wasn't what Jean-Louis wanted to do, but he knew it was a decision that had to be made. He came to Marshall wanting to get onto the field as quickly as he could. It took some time, but when he finally made it, he attacked practice with the fervor he had when he first got to Huntington.

"I just stayed focused and when I finally got the chance, I came out like a rocket, did everything at full speed and made sure that I showed that I was hungry and made sure I showed that every day."

Other first-year offensive players on the two-deep include freshman A.J. Addison at backup left tackle, redshirt freshman Cody Collins at backup center, redshirt freshman Chris Huhn at backup right guard and Sandley Jean-Felix at backup left tackle. The No. 2 tight end behind senior Eric Frohnapfel is listed as redshirt freshman Deon-Tay McManus or true freshman Ryan Yurachek or redshirt junior Joe Woodrum.

First-year defensive players on the two-deep include redshirt freshman Raheim Huskey at backup inside linebacker, true freshman Kendall Gant at backup strong safety and true freshman Antavis Rowe at backup nickelback. Jean-Louis also is listed as the No. 2 kick returner, while redshirt freshman Kaare Vedvik is the No. 2 kickoff specialist and punter and true freshman Chad Garrett is the second-string long snapper.

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REDSHIRT FRESHMAN Nick Smith continues to wage a tight battle for the starting placekicker job with fifth-year senior Justin Haig. The starter at that position is listed as either Haig or Smith. Haig has the clear edge in experience, starting at placekicker the last two seasons and booting game-winning field goals versus Houston in 2012 and Florida Atlantic in 2013.

But Holliday has remained impressed with Smith throughout preseason camp, and said the decision on who will be the full-time kicker could come down to right before the game - or even later.

"We may kick both of them (at Miami)," Holliday said. "Both have kicked extremely well. To be honest with you, I'd like to get into the game at some point and kick them both. We'll see what happens."

Smith cherishes the opportunity, after a successful preseason camp, to perhaps show his stuff in the regular season.

"I'm excited," Smith said. "If anything, I'm not nervous about it. I'm excited. It's what I've been working for, for the last eight years, to get a shot on the field. I welcome that."

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ARNOLD BLACKMON edged Conference USA all-freshman team selection Gary Thompson for the starting defensive end job opposite Ra'Shawde Myers. Thompson overtook Blackmon statistically last year, 30 tackles to Blackmon's 20 and three sacks to Blackmon's one. But Holliday liked the senior Blackmon's development from last season.

"He's come a long way," Holliday said. "Physically, he's a lot stronger, he has a total understanding of the defense now, and he's a skilled guy."

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SOPHOMORE AMORETO CURRAJ played a major part in Marshall's special-teams improvement last season. With him as kickoff specialist, the Herd booted 52 touchbacks, fourth-best in the country last season. In 2012, the Herd kicked just four.

Curraj has been on the shelf for most of the preseason with an unspecified injury, but Holliday wasn't too worried if he wasn't healthy by Saturday. He likes what Vedvik has done so far.

"I don't know, but if (Curraj) doesn't, I like the (Vedvik) as well," Holliday said. "Amoreto had better hurry up and get back, or he's going to get beat out. The other kid kicked two the other day, one of them was out of the end zone and the other was eight (yards) deep."

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CAPTAINS FOR the Miami game will be quarterback Rakeem Cato, center Chris Jasperse, defensive tackle James Rouse and corner Darryl Roberts. Roberts was a three-time game captain last season, while Rouse and Jasperse both were named eight times and Cato was named nine. Rouse, Cato and Jasperse all were voted permanent 2013 team captains by the players.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL BASKETBALL: D'Antonis, Duhon come together for coaching clinic http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140825/DM03/140829489 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140825/DM03/140829489 Mon, 25 Aug 2014 22:25:33 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - In describing how he and his brother Mike interact when coaching on the same floor, Marshall men's basketball coach Dan D'Antoni thinks back a few decades to when they played on the same floor.

Right after Dan D'Antoni had graduated, he and Mike played in a two-on-two campus intramural tournament. One member of the duo had to be taller than 6 feet, as Mike was at 6-foot-3. The other had to be shorter than 6 feet, as Dan was. The two won the tournament, and in the finals, it was Dan who was the main rebounder, as Mike kept his 6-9 opponent on the perimeter and away from the paint.

"Our relationship has always been that we've pushed whatever agenda it is together the best," Dan D'Antoni said. "It's not that I'm supposed to take a specific role. It's whatever's best for the situation."

The D'Antoni brothers will join together on a Marshall floor for the first time since Dan D'Antoni's short tenure as a Thundering Herd assistant when the two hold a coaching clinic with Chris Duhon, former Duke and NBA player and current Herd assistant. The three-hour clinic will be held Sept. 6. Registration will begin at noon and the clinic will begin at 1 p.m.

Dan D'Antoni and Duhon will begin the clinic talking about their thoughts and strategies about defense. Duhon will then demonstrate the pick and roll, how to read it and set it up. Then Mike D'Antoni will step to the front and discuss how the pick and roll plays an intricate part in how he likes to run the floor and create space offensively.

It will provide a unique opportunity for area coaches - instruction from a pair of Marshall Hall of Famers, one a former NBA head coach for three teams and the other a former NBA assistant and sitting college head coach, plus a former NCAA champion guard and nine-year NBA veteran.

Dan D'Antoni said it will be great to share a floor again as coaches with his younger brother. Mike D'Antoni hired Dan to his Phoenix Suns staff in 2005, and Dan also served on Mike's staffs with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.

"It was fun, to be in the same environment," Dan D'Antoni said. "We always said we were going to do it together. We always said we were going to coach together, and there it is, at the highest level, in the biggest arenas with the best players in the world."

Mike D'Antoni is happy to join his brother as well. It's not just because they can work together again. He cherishes the opportunity to offer his ideas and experiences with other coaches and hopes they can take something away from the day that they can use.

"This is what is fun, to talk to other coaches who, no matter what stage you're on, it's the same," Mike D'Antoni said. "You have the same problems and deal with the same team building and getting your guys to perform. To be able to spend a couple of hours and just talk basketball with a lot of coaches is a lot of fun."

Mike D'Antoni mostly has been decompressing since resigning as the Lakers' head coach in April. He and his wife recently bought a house at the Greenbrier Resort and said he'll be there three to four months out of the year. That Sept. 6 clinic will put him back into coaching mode, a mode he isn't ready to give up.

"I do want to keep coaching and I do want to do something, not yet defined because I'm in between jobs," he said, "so we'll see where it goes."

Mike D'Antoni said he'll definitely be in Huntington this basketball season to cheer on his older brother's team, whose coaching staff includes Duhon, Mark Cline and Scott Rigot. Duhon will give the D'Antonis tangible evidence of how well their principles can work. The former Duke guard had his best two seasons in assists and two of his best three scoring seasons playing for them in New York.

Though he'll be one of the instructors, Duhon said that day he'll make sure to not miss the opportunity to be a student.

"It's going to be even more of a learning lesson for me," he said. "This is my first year. I still have a long way to go as far as understanding everything. So even though I'm going to be participating in a lot of it, I'm still going to be listening and trying to learn and better myself."

Dan D'Antoni figures some of the concepts taught that day may be new for some of the coaches. He feels those concepts will benefit coaches at any level.

"I hear sometimes from some coaches that, 'Well, you can't do it on this level,' or 'You can't do it on that level.' My reponse is that you can do it on a junior-high level. This style of play allows players to be at their best."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd prepares for the unknown from first-year Miami coach http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140825/DM03/140829491 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140825/DM03/140829491 Mon, 25 Aug 2014 22:22:58 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The uniforms Marshall will see when the Thundering Herd lines up against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday will look the same. So will many of the numbers on the jerseys and the faces underneath the helmets.

The Redhawks coaches won't be though. Neither will some players at some key positions. The offensive and defensive schemes will differ, too. So before the Herd visits the Redhawks on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com), it will have to piece together one set of personnel with another set of schemes to come up with what it believes it will see on the field.

Marshall handled Miami pretty easily last season in the season opener, winning 52-14 behind five Rakeem Cato touchdowns. But the coach of that Redhawks team, Don Treadwell, was fired last Oct. 6 and was replaced by assistant Mike Bath on an interim basis before the university hired Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin as his permanent replacement.

The starting quarterback of that 2013 Miami team, Austin Boucher, graduated. In his place is Notre Dame graduate transfer Andrew Hendrix, who will make his first collegiate start versus the Herd. Martin has brought new looks to the offense and defense as well.

"I'd say it's fairly significant," Martin said. "The learning curve is steep anytime you have a new coaching staff in there. It doesn't matter. You're not going to run the same offense, defense or special teams and even if you did run the same type of plan, it would be different with different coaches."

To prepare for those new looks, the Herd has spent plenty of time watching Notre Dame film to become more familiar with Martin's schemes. From what Marshall players have seen on film, the offense could employ two tight ends. In 2013, Miami started the game versus Marshall with no tight ends and four wide receivers. The defense could use a front of three down linemen with a rush end that could rush the passer or drop back into coverage. Last season, Miami used a four-man front.

Here's where it gets tricky for the Herd players' preparation. They won't be watching just one set of film.

"We've been watching Notre Dame tape from last year to sort of get their schemes," tight end Eric Frohnapfel said. "But then we're watching tape from last year, (Miami) tape, to see their personnel. So it's kind of weird looking at their personnel and another team for their scheme. I think there could be a chance we'll have to make some adjustments come game time, but I think we'll be ready."

Marshall coach Doc Holliday said the Herd could go back even further into the Chuck Martin archives and pull out game film from Martin's six-year tenure as Grand Valley State University's head coach from 2004-09. Linebacker Neville Hewitt said Marshall's defense has spent much time looking at Notre Dame film, plus what film it could find of Hendrix who, in his Fighting Irish career, threw just 58 passes, completing 25 for 360 yards and a touchdown.

The Herd defense has another hurdle, learning an offense by watching players they won't face Saturday and preparing for quarterback who knows the offense, but has limited exposure on film.

"It's going to be tough, but I feel like, as long as you know a little bit of what you're going to see, so you can plan for it," Hewitt said. "But with that first game, you never know what you're going to get."

The Herd players are doing their best in mashing the two film lessons together to create their single game plan, but Frohnapfel admits some of it could be a guessing game all the way up to the minute the ball is snapped.

"We've had to speculate is this guy going to be the rush, is this guy going to be the nickel?" Frohnapfel said. "The jersey numbers might be a little bit of a surprise for us. I think our coaches have a good idea, but no matter what we see, the main thing is we have to be ready in case we need to make an adjustment."

Quarterback Rakeem Cato finds comfort in the knowledge that many of his fellow starters have years of experience. He'll enter his fourth year as Marshall's top quarterback. Tommy Shuler will enter his third as the Herd's starting slot receiver. Center Chris Jasperse has played more snaps than any other active offensive lineman in the country. The Herd has seen many schemes thrown at over the years, so Cato figures personnel will become the most important component.

"At the end of the day, it's going to come down to either our players being better than their players or their players being better than our players," he said.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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C-USA NOTEBOOK: Rice turns to Jackson as its new quarterback http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140825/DM03/140829493 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140825/DM03/140829493 Mon, 25 Aug 2014 22:18:50 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The defending Conference USA champion Rice Owls will be missing one of the most important cogs to that title run, former quarterback Taylor McHargue

McHargue finished his Rice career ranked fourth in passing yards (6,122) and second in passing touchdowns (43). In last year's C-USA title game versus Marshall, he threw just 16 passes and completed eight, but threw for 196 yards and a touchdown in the Owls' 41-24 win.

The starting quarterback mantle will be handed this year to former backup Driphus Jackson, and Rice coach David Bailiff said there's been no problem in Jackson taking over the job.

"I think it's been a seamless transition handing the offense over to Driphus Jackson," he said Monday during the preseason C-USA coaches conference call. "We got to where Taylor McHargue was our starter for four years in a row. I think Driphus has embraced his role and his leadership really transcends this entire football team."

Jackson hasn't gotten much time under center during his Owls career thanks to McHargue's steel grip on the job. He's completed 44 of 85 career passes for 722 yards, six touchdowns and an interception. He won't be able to ease into the new job, either. The Owls open the season Saturday at No. 17 Notre Dame.

Bailiff, however, said Jackson should have just enough experience to keep his cool against such a tough opponent.

"He had started one game against the University of Houston and he's played extensively," Bailiff said. "In the Armed Forces Bowl, he came in when McHargue got hurt and played three quarters and led us to that win. He came in against Kansas and led us to a couple of touchdowns, so he's got extensive reps under center. I'm sure he'll be excited. We'll just have to keep him tempered."

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SEVERAL OF C-USA's coaches have not served at the helm of their respective programs for very long. Of the 13 coaches on the call, seven are either in their first or second seasons. Florida Atlantic's Charlie Partridge, the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Bill Clark and Western Kentucky's Jeff Brohm are in their first seasons with their respective teams. Louisiana Tech's Skip Holtz, the University of Texas at El Paso's Sean Kugler, Florida International's Ron Turner and Southern Mississippi's Todd Monken are in their second seasons.

Holtz said that the chaos of the first year - and there's plenty of it, especially when trying to rebuild a program - doesn't last.

"You feel like, year one, for any new head coach, is kind of like a fire drill," he said. "You're trying to get everything put in place to try to lay the culture down, to try to get your offense and defense taught, your schedule, what you're trying to do ... it's really difficult.

"I think there's much more of a calming effect," Holtz said of the second season. "The players know exactly what to expect. I think it's to the point where you get better at the little details. It's knowing all the little details that make the plays work and make the execution of the plays work."

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THE CONFERENCE welcomes two new teams this season, WKU and Old Dominion. It's also welcoming the Monarchs to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Since 2009, they've been part of the Football Championship Subdivision, as an independent in 2009, 2010 and 2013 and as a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference in 2011 and 2012.

One of the best parts of joining the FBS was the ability to field an FBS roster, ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. For the first time, the Monarchs had 105 players in camp and the benefits were significant.

"The biggest thing that came out of our 22-day camp was the level of competition," Wilder said. "We were able to bring in a solid recruiting class with some really good young players to play, so that allowed us to have an excellent level of competition throughout preseason camp."

ODU fans share in Wilder's excitement. He said Monday that his team's home opener versus Hampton is sold out, making that 36 for 36 in Monarchs home sell-outs.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: What will Herd's offense look like in 2014? http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140824/DM03/140829610 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140824/DM03/140829610 Sun, 24 Aug 2014 21:06:56 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - There are a couple of countenances the Marshall football team's offense could take on this season.

It could look like 2012 version, when quarterback Rakeem Cato emerged to help the Thundering Herd lead the nation in passing. It could look like the 2013 edition, which still piled on the yards, but rushed for more per game than any Marshall team since the program's return to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

So what should everyone expect from Marshall's offense in 2014? A sly grin crossed the face of offensive lineman Blake Brooks as he leaned in to offer an answer.

"It's a surprise," he said.

At first glance, Brooks might be joking. But with the number of decisions left up to Cato in the seconds after the ball is snapped, Brooks might be telling the truth. Marshall's offense is designed to keep opposing defenses guessing, so its 2014 visage won't truly be known until the Herd's season begins Saturday at Miami (Ohio) (3:30 p.m., ESPN3.com). And even then, the image could change from week to week.

Offensive coordinator Bill Legg agrees with Brooks that Marshall's offense can be a surprise.

"It usually is," Legg said. "What we've tried to do to the best of our ability, we've tried to devise this offense in a fashion where we have the best possible play at the time. (T)he offense is designed to try at our ever-loving best to attack the defense at its weakest point. So we might have this play called or that play called, but there usually are three or four combinations that are built in, at least when Cato's in there."

That wasn't always the case with Cato under center. When he was a freshman, it was Legg who did all the play-checking, as the coaches didn't want to bombard a young signal-caller with too much information. As a sophomore, he was given more responsibility in post-snap reads. As a junior, those reads were Cato's responsibility at an even higher volume.

As 2014 begins, Legg said he's not sure there's a call he makes that doesn't include a post-snap read for Cato based on how any defender moves to alter the opposition's formation. Cato said he finally became comfortable making those reads following Marshall's loss at Purdue.

"Before the game, I was doing a lot of signaling," he said. "The defense watches film just like us, and they see me signaling and they were adapting to it. After that, I could really focus on the defense and see how they were trying to trick us."

Legg started tinkering with that type of offense during his first tour of duty with the Herd in 2007. He worked on it a little more as Purdue's offensive coordinator and more when he became Florida International University's offensive coordinator. The progress slowed in Cato's first year, but ramped back up ever since.

The system in the 1990s was quite different, Legg said. Then, a quarterback like Byron Leftwich would come to the line of scrimmage, survey the defensive formation, then check into a play more suitable for that specific defense. The drawback was that it gave the defense time to adjust, too.

"Byron would have three or four plays in his head," Legg said. "This is what they're playing, this is what they're giving up. All we've done is put a modern twist to that concept of system, where things are now built together and the decision is being made without having to check."

Marshall's offense benefits from the diligent work of its coaching staff, plus the defense for throwing so many formations at the offense that Cato has to keep thinking. That repetition makes the actual games so much easier.

"It kind of gets locked in your head, where if this guy does this, I know what I'm going to do," Cato said. "I have three reads in my head where, if one doesn't work, I know where I'm going next. It's a chess match. If you move, a move's going to happen. Whatever they're doing, we just adapt with what we're doing."

That doesn't make for an easy time on defense, senior tackle James Rouse said. Yet as Cato applauds the defense for its work, Rouse does the same for the Marshall offense. That isn't the only offense Marshall will face dependent on post-snap reads. Working against its own offense for as much as it has gives Marshall's defense plenty of preparation.

"You just have to stay on your toes," Rouse said. "You have to try to keep them guessing so they can't make their checks. You have to stay disciplined and everyone has to be on their keys and make sure they're getting the person they're supposed to get."

Legg reiterated that it's what the defense presents that will dictate what the offense looks like most of the time. In 2012, opponents tried to rattle a young quarterback by stopping the run, and he responded by scorching them for more than 4,000 yards. They tried to neutralize Cato in 2013 and not only was he named Conference USA's offensive player of the year, but Herd running back Essray Taliaferro became the first 1,000-yard rusher at Marshall since Darius Marshall in 2009. The way the offense is designed, it isn't until the defense shows its hand that the offense reveals itself, even to the man calling the plays.

"Until I see how the defense lines up, which only gives me an idea of what might happen, it's not until the ball snaps until I see how the defense twists and turns and moves that I know for sure where the ball's going," Legg said.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Hunter gets comfortable again in return to linebacker http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140821/DM03/140829768 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140821/DM03/140829768 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 22:10:45 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Things should run a little more smoothly for D.J. Hunter now that he's on his second tour of duty as a Marshall strong-side linebacker.

That's not to say things didn't go well the first time around. Hunter was named a Sporting News freshman all-American the first time he played the position. It's just that, that time, the move came at the last minute. Actually, it came after the Thundering Herd's first game of the season.

Hunter played the first game of the 2012 season as a strong safety, moved to linebacker the next game and stayed there the rest of the season, recording 102 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and a pair of pass break-ups.

He slid back a bit in 2013 and his return to strong safety, recording 50 tackles and starting just seven of 14 games. A concussion suffered in the Herd's loss at Middle Tennessee played a part in that.

In this go-round at linebacker, though, he's actually had some months to prepare for the role.

"I think it makes a lot of difference, because you really know what to prepare for," Hunter said. "You know what you need to do."

What he did was spend the summer running linebacker drills with other members of his unit, like Jermaine Holmes, Neville Hewitt and Evan McKelvey. He credited that trio especially for helping him to return to his old job. This time, there was no learning on the fly.

"I knew where I was going to be, so I made sure to work on dropping and staying in my stance and reading the line of scrimmage," Hunter said.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater agreed that the return to linebacker has paid off for the 6-foot, 217-pound redshirt junior. Those dimensions at that position allow Heater to take advantage of the traits Hunter showed at both linebacker and strong safety.

"He's gotten closer to the line of scrimmage and I think that's better for him," Heater said. "The scheme we're playing takes advantage of some of the things he can do as an athlete. We have a linebacker who can run the way he can run. That gives us some flexibility to do some things because of his ability to run."

Hunter welcomes return to his old spot, which partly fueled the intensity of his offseason preparations. He never wants to say things for him on defense didn't work out because he didn't try.

"I know the coaches are going to put us all in the right position, no matter what it is," Hunter said. "I made a promise to myself this offseason that I was going to work as hard as possible every day and learn everything I need to learn. So when I look back, I won't have regrets. I can at least say I know I went as hard as I could."

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HEATER HAS thrown some new terminology the way of his safeties. Instead of free and strong safety, Heater is employing field and boundary safties.

The terms "field" and "boundary" normally are used for corners. The field corner plays the wider side of the field, while the boundary corner plays the shorter side, depending on where the ball is placed. The roles of the boundary and field safties are different, Heater said.

"It's a little new for us, in terms of the job requirements of each position," he said. "All my safeties are learning both sides. One might involve a little more run support and the other might involve a little more coverage. This has to do more about probably run support and coverage, in terms of who you think is going to do more of one of the other."

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THE HERD'S young wide receivers continued to impress head coach Doc Holliday this past week, especially freshman Angelo Jean-Louis, who turned in a few acrobatic catches. He hopes that will translate to the regular season, which begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio).

"It's great, because we didn't get a lot of those plays a year ago," Holliday said. "Normally, what happens in practice happens in games, so if they can continue making big plays in game situations down the road, we'll be all right, because they're making them in practice."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL SOCCER: Herd women make season debut against highest-ranked opponent ever http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140821/DM03/140829772 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140821/DM03/140829772 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 22:06:47 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Marshall University women's soccer team will take on No. 3 Virginia on Friday in the Thundering Herd's season opener.

The Cavaliers are the highest-ranked opponent the program has ever faced. Prior to Friday's match, No. 7 South Carolina was the highest-ranked opponent for Marshall. The Herd lost that match, 4-0, on Sept. 23, 2007.

The last time MU faced a nationally ranked opponent was Sept. 5, 2011, when Marshall fell to intra-state program West Virginia, 3-0. The Mountaineers were ranked No. 25 at the time.

The Herd is 0-6 all-time against nationally ranked opponents.

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Photos: Marshall Thunder Herd invades Capital City http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140821/DM01/140829776 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140821/DM01/140829776 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:12:15 -0400 The 17th Annual Paint the Capital City Green event drew hundreds of Marshall University fans to the Embassy Suites in downtown Charleston Thursday evening.

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Derek Redd: Rouse rested, ready for senior season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829882 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140820/DM03/140829882 Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:52:45 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday responded succinctly when a reporter noticed one Saturday that defensive lineman James Rouse didn't see much of the field that practice.

"Because I didn't want him to," Holliday said.

That's a measure of respect that few players receive, to rest through much of the preseason because coaches know exactly what Rouse will bring when he does take the field. Of course, they've had plenty of time to figure it out. This is Rouse's sixth preseason camp.

"I've been here for a while," he said.

Rouse's arrival at Marshall predates Holliday's. Rouse redshirted the 2009 season and Holliday coached his first game for the Thundering Herd in 2010. The defensive lineman lost all but three games in 2011 and 2012 to Achilles tendon and back injuries.

Returning at full strength in 2013, he became one of Conference USA's best defensive linemen, recording 14 tackles for a loss on his way to a first-team all-C-USA nod. Now he's considered the conference's best defensive player, period. C-USA coaches named him their preseason defensive player of the year.

That's why he gets to take it easy on some days as Marshall prepares to open the season Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio). He could use the rest and has the resume to earn it.

"The guy has something in the bank," Herd defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said. "You know who he is. You just try to manage him.

"It's akin to an NFL veteran player," he continued. "You know what they're about. You're just trying to get them through with their bodies and you just want them at top speed when we're getting ready to play."

Rouse still has gotten his reps in this preseason, but many of them have been mental. As he watches the play unfold before him, he pictures his job in the process of blowing that play up, where he should be and what spot he should attack. It doesn't replace the benefits of actually going out and doing it, but it keeps his mind sharp so that his body, accustomed after six years to making those moves, can follow.

And when he does line up against the offense, he makes it count.

"We do stuff against the scout team and I try to make my steps perfect and work my craft and do everything they're doing in team," Rouse said.

He still offers plenty to Marshall's defense, even when he's not on the field. He's experienced the entire Holliday era at Marshall and knows what's expected. He has six years of scouting opponents and six years of growth as a college football player.

That growth has led to high praise from outside the program, a wealth of knowledge and a great deal of respect within the program. The Herd's new guard on defense makes sure to pick his brain.

"A lot of young guys come to me wanting to know how I was able to get stuff faster, how I was able to learn my plays," Rouse said. "I've been teaching them different ways I've started to memorize plays and blocking schemes."

Rouse's years of work have led to an improved skill set, Heater said. It's also boosted his confidence to try new things. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Virginia native could be trying new positions, or at least revisiting old ones. He came to the Herd as a 235-pound defensive end before finding his home on the interior line. There's a good chance he might spend a couple of plays at end again.

"It's in our mindset to put him in a situation where we give him the best opportunity to go rush the passer," Heater said of Rouse, whose 14 tackles for loss included six sacks. "He's good at that. Our obligation is to make sure we get him in a situation to do that."

Rouse wouldn't mind the opportunity to force opponents to block his 270 pounds off the corner while contending with, say, 284-pound Steve Dillon and 273-pound Jarquez Samuel up the middle. Moving positions is no big deal to him.

"I know them all," Rouse said.

He's had plenty of time to learn.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Johnson ready to rock at running back http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/DM03/140819119 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140819/DM03/140819119 Tue, 19 Aug 2014 21:44:10 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Devon Johnson has been a football vagabond during his Marshall football tenure.

He's dabbled at fullback, moved to linebacker and showed promise at tight end. Now he's at the position that made him a high-school standout and a Thundering Herd scholarship player - tailback. He's already worked his way into the first team, and said the versatility in learning so many positions had something to do with that.

Johnson returned to campus at the start of August ready to battle Eric Frohnapfel for the starting tight end job. He averaged 18.2 yards on 12 catches with two touchdowns last season, so he had a pretty good shot. Then he got the news the day before preseason camp began that Herd coaches needed him at tailback.

The junior had never been one to turn down a coach's request before. After all, he already had changed positions twice in two years. And its not that he wasn't experienced as a team's primary ball-carrier. The Richlands (Va.) High School graduate rushed for 4,340 yards and 63 touchdowns in his prep career and was a two-time first-team all-state pick.

And it's not like he hasn't carried the ball at Marshall before. Coaches installed a goal-line package they dubbed "Big Cheese," with Johnson at tailback and 299-pound guard Blake Brooks at fullback. Johnson scored three rushing touchdowns in 2013. This time, though, there would be no special formation. Johnson would get the ball early and often.

His bouncing around the roster gave him the confidence to change jobs yet again.

"You're a veteran," Johnson said. "I've learned you can't sit there and think too much. (The coach is) telling you what to do. Just get it in your head, go over it a couple of times, don't think about it anymore, then get out here and play football."

Running backs coach Chris Barclay said Johnson has been a quick study, evident in his sprint up the depth chart. The former ACC player of year at Wake Forest lauds the power in Johnson's 6-foot-1, 243-pound frame and the deceptive speed that comes with it. Yet his most important trait this preseason has been his willingness to learn.

"He's a very coachable kid," Barclay said. "He's a humble kid and he's always looking for ways to get better. You can work with a kid like that because they're always hungry for knowledge. He's one of the guys who always sticks around and asks extra questions and wants to watch extra film. With a kid like that, the learning process is accelerated.

"I told him the other day that he's only been in the position a few days, but he's playing like he's been there for a couple of years," Barclay added. "He's a guy who you can tell him one time, and it gets done."

That's not to say his size isn't important. He's Marshall's heaviest running back by nearly 40 pounds. Freshman Tony Pittman is closest at 204 pounds. Johnson doesn't shy away from contact. Sometimes he invites it.

"There are going to be some plays where there won't be any holes and you won't have anywhere to go, and all you can do is just put your head down and go," he said. "That's when it comes in handy, when you need the extra yardage and I'm going to be able to get it."

His new spot on the depth chart was earned partially by his willingness to block. On the first day of preseason practice, head coach Doc Holliday said Johnson's move came because he wanted someone he could trust to block for former Conference USA MVP quarterback Rakeem Cato. Johnson knows that, before the carries or the rushing touchdowns, keeping defenders away from Cato is his mission.

"If No. 12 ain't safe, I didn't do my job," he said. "I'm back there to keep him safe while he's passing."

He also gives opposing defenses a completely different look than the rest of Marshall's running backs. The vast majority of them are lighter, quick, shifty runners. Those defenses must still deal with the likes of Steward Butler and Remi Watson, but they'll also face Johnson's battering-ram style.

Marshall linebacker Neville Hewitt said his group already sees the benefits to facing Johnson every day in practice.

"I just want to thank the coaches for putting a guy like that back there," Hewitt said, "so when we play against teams that run the ball with bigger backs, we've already seen someone who can run hard like that."

Johnson is just happy he can help the team in whatever role he can play. And if the team needs him somewhere else, all the coaches have to do is ask.

"Now they might as well stick me out at wide receiver, too," he said with a smile, "so I can learn that one."

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THOUGH HE now officially holds the title of Marshall's back-up quarterback, not much will change in the way redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holcombe approaches his job. He might have won the competition over true freshman Cole Garvin, but he doesn't think the competition is over.

"It's a lot of work, but it's still got to be a lot of work," Holcombe said. "If I get complacent, I could be benched right away. I just have to keep working to get better and pushing (Rakeem) Cato in front of me so he can reach his potential."

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MARSHALL OFFICIALLY added a new player to the roster Tuesday, former Maryland linebacker Shawn Petty. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Greenbelt, Md., native registered 24 tackles, four for a loss and two sacks as a Terrapins reserve last season. Two seasons ago, he had to step in at quarterback for the final four games of the season. He will sit this season as a transfer and have two to play.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Jermaine Holmes sheds weight from head to toe http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819210 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140818/DM03/140819210 Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:20:06 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As Marshall linebacker Jermaine Holmes entered his final season in a Thundering Herd uniform, he felt changes were necessary. Excess weight must be shed.

So the pounds around his midriff? Gone. The dreadlocks that he's worn since his days at Valdosta High School in Georgia? Adios. The senior nicknamed "The Freak" wanted to pare himself down for the 2014 campaign.

He was on a quest for a different look as the Herd renewed its quest to win its first Conference USA championship.

"I just changed my whole game plan in what I wanted to do this year," he said. "I want to make this year count, whether I make it to the next level of not, I want to make this year count."

It's not like the weight hurt him much in past seasons. He finished fourth on the team with 82 tackles in 2012 and third with 84 tackles in 2013. Between those two seasons, he combined for 22 tackles for loss, 8.5 last season and 13.5 in 2012. He was a second-team All-Conference USA pick as a junior.

Yet, he said, there always are ways to improve one's game. He wanted to get better in pass coverage, to become more agile and be better in changing direction. So beyond the drastic haircut, the 5-foot-11 middle linebacker whittled himself down from 246 pounds last season to 232 pounds entering this season.

For Holmes, the change is significant.

"I feel like I'm coming downhill," he said. "And say if it looks like a run play and then becomes a pass play, I can just stick my foot in the ground and just drop back. I couldn't really do that last year, but that weight loss has really helped a lot."

No one with the Herd is worried that Holmes' shrinking will affect his strength. Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater can see an improvement in Holmes' endurance and, with that, his consistency. Plus, Heater said, extra weight doesn't always equate to extra strength, and technique can counteract any mass disadvantage a player might have.

"Technique's always the great equalizer at any position," Heater said. "If your technique is better than the guy you're going against, that's to your advantage. Technique is something you can control and always gives you the opportunity to equal the playing field."

Holmes' teammates on the defense haven't seen a drop-off. In fact, strong-side linebacker D.J. Hunter said, he might be playing better than he has in the past. Weight, be it more or less than in the past, isn't an issue.

"Freak, I feel like he's good at any weight he plays at," Hunter said. "I think he's one of the most talented players on the team and one of the strongest. He's really a freak. He's really a freakish athlete. He can do anything he can put his mind to.

"He's been playing some of the best football since he's been here," he added. "He's been manhandling people."

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FORMER HERD quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, who transferred from Marshall in the spring in search of a starting job, has been named the starter at the University of Massachusetts. Frohnapfel beat out A.J. Doyle, who started nine games for the Minutemen last season and threw for 1,274 yards, six touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Frohnapfel sat behind Cato in 2012 and 2013, and finished his Herd career with 35 completions in 45 attempts for 386 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.

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HERD HEAD COACH Doc Holliday said after Monday's practice that redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holcombe would be the backup quarterback behind Rakeem Cato. Holcombe, a 6-foot-3, 202-pound Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, beat out true freshman Cole Garvin for the job.

Neither Holcombe nor Garvin have taken a collegiate snap. In Saturday's scrimmage, Holcombe completed 11 of 22 passes for 151 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Garvin completed three of five passes for 36 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

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MARSHALL COULD soon see another wide receiver on campus, but if he comes, he'll have to wait a season. Sources told the Daily Mail that Kenneth Rawls, a 6-3, 180-pound receiver from Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla., is expected to attend Marshall, pending admission into the university. Rawls, a two-star recruit according to Rivals, Scout and 247Sports, was a former Northern Illinois verbal commitment. If he does come to Marshall, he would sit the year as an academic non-qualifier.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd auditioning for Shuler's supporting cast http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819297 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819297 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 21:44:28 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall wants to turn the one-man receiving show on its football team into an ensemble. And right now, it's an open casting call.

Freshmen to seniors to everyone in between are among the candidates at the two starting outside receiver spots, the pair tasked with taking the pressure off all-Conference-USA first-team slot receiver Tommy Shuler. Seniority, however, is not a requirement, as several young wideouts are pushing veterans for those top jobs.

Shuler is one of eight players in major college football history with two seasons of 100 catches. No receiver has ever had three. He'll have a better chance at that milestone if the outside receivers can keep opposing secondaries from focusing all their efforts on him. That didn't happen much in 2013.

Shuler led Marshall, and tied for seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with 106 catches last season. The Herd's most prolific outside receivers were Devon Smith (39 catches) and Craig Wilkins (32 catches). That's a big difference from 2012, when Shuler caught 110 passes and Antavious Wilson and Aaron Dobson combined to catch 126.

"When AD and Antavious left, some guys just fell into a starting role," Thundering Herd receivers coach Mike Furrey said, "because there wasn't really anybody there to push them, nor was there anyone there to replace them."

Smith, a one-year replacement who transferred from Penn State, has graduated. The next-closest outside receiver is Demetrius Evans, who started five games and caught 19 passes. Furrey is looking for better output from that group, and the players are starting to realize that some of the younger members of the position room are putting themselves in contention.

"We do have guys in our room that are finally understanding that, one, this is the last shot that they have," Furrey said. "Two, we have some pretty good freshmen that were already here that can push for some playing time. If you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, they can come up and never run out of energy. The game's important to them, they love to learn and they love to play. And they're pretty athletic, too."

Two of them already have been on Marshall's campus for a year. Angelo Jean-Louis and Rodney Allen both sat out last season as academic non-qualifiers. Both have turned heads early with their ability to stretch the field and make tough catches. Jean-Louis added another one Friday, snagging a pass across the middle, absorbing contact, regaining his balance and racing toward the end zone.

The pair has been joined by true freshman Emanuel Beal, who came to Marshall despite having scholarship offers from schools like Missouri, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin. The three have the dimensions that make for good targets. Beal is 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, while Jean-Louis is 6 feet and 171 pounds and Allen is 5-11 and 175 pounds. Furrey has said Marshall will play the best, most physical player at those positions.

Jean-Louis said the Herd's young wideouts respect their elder teammates, but that doesn't douse their competitive fire.

"The freshmen came in here head-first," Jean-Louis said. "We're not trying to stop or slow down. We're definitely trying to make sure the seniors are on their toes."

The veterans are getting the picture. The race for those top spots have made every outside receiver push the limits of their abilities, redshirt junior Davonte Allen said. As that has happened, every wideout has seen his production improve.

It showed in Marshall's Saturday scrimmage. Both Davonte Allen and Wilkins caught touchdowns, and Allen added a 42-yard catch down the visitors sideline of Joan C. Edwards Stadium that quarterback Rakeem Cato launched from his own 1-yard line. However, the other four of the six touchdown catches in Saturday's scrimmage came from freshmen - Jean-Louis, Rodney Allen, Beal and tight end Deon-Tay McManus.

"We're just working together right now," said Davonte Allen, who caught nine passes for 163 yards and two scores in 2013. "We know if we keep putting in the work, the ball is going to get spread around. If you make the right decisions on and off the field, you'll get rewarded for it."

That work has impressed their record-setting receiver-mate, Shuler. He can see the improvement the group has made and believes that competition will lead to a solid supporting cast around him.

"They're going to be great," he said. "They've been coming in and making plays. We've got a 14-name depth sheet. We can only take nine, so somebody's got to make the bus."

Furrey still wants to see more out of his room. He's not worried about Shuler, but he still is waiting for a couple of outside wideouts to break from the pack and nail down those starting spots. The ones that do will become components of one of the college football's most explosive offenses.

That alone, Furrey said, should be enough motivation.

"Right now we still have one guy," Furrey said. "Statistically, he'll be one of the best receivers to ever play college football. If I'm an outside guy that has a chance to play with him his senior year, to have the chance to catch a lot of footballs and have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, I want to play."

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FORMER HERD running back Kevin Grooms reappeared this weekend, transferring to Football Championship Subdivision school Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Grooms was dimissed from Marshall in July following his arrest on multiple charges including felony burglary. It was his third arrest since April 2013.

Liberty coach Turner Gill told the News and Advance in Lynchburg that Grooms sought to change his life and will get the chance with the Flames, but can't slip up again.

"Zero tolerance," Gill told the newspaper. "It's a second chance. If there are some things that come up that are inappropriate, then he will no longer be here. Again, zero tolerance."

Grooms, the 2012 Conference USA freshman of the year, must sit out the 2014 season per NCAA regulations.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Saints training camp won't sit empty http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM01/140819313 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM01/140819313 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 19:29:16 -0400 By Whitney Burdette Now that the New Orleans Saints have ended training camp at The Greenbrier, three universities are in talks with the resort to host spring practice and exhibition games next spring.

West Virginia University, Marshall University and Virginia Tech all are expected to take advantage of the new, state-of-the-art facility in White Sulphur Springs. Kevin Workman, facility manager at the Advocare Performance Center, said the resort expects spring practice will draw sports fans from across the region, especially alumni.

"I think there is a trend in college sports to get out into different areas of your fan base," Workman said. "WVU was in Charleston last year. I don't know about other programs. I do think there is some interest in fundraising events around that spring event at The Greenbrier."

Workman said each team will have a weekend set aside in April for practice and exhibition, as well as fundraising and activities for fans.

Mike Hamrick, athletic director at Marshall, said his program is looking forward to taking advantage of the facility, which boasts three practice fields, weight rooms, locker rooms and meeting rooms, among other features.

"It's a great facility and to be able to tell recruits or your players we're going to go . . . utilize an NFL facility where an NFL team holds their camps, that's very positive," Hamrick said. "Also, you're at The Greenbrier, which means your fans and your donors and your supporters will come, and there are many things to do other than just watch a team scrimmage and practice. You can take advantage of that."

Jim Justice, a coal baron who purchased The Greenbrier several years ago, is a Marshall graduate. A bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year allowed Justice and The Greenbrier to take advantage of tax breaks to build the training camp. House Bill 4184 is an extension of the Tourism Development Act, which first passed about a decade ago. But Justice had to meet several criteria to receive the tax breaks.

At least 25 percent of visitors to the training camp must come from out of state, the project must bring in sufficient revenues and public demand, and the investment must also create jobs and address economic issues in the area. If those criteria, and others, are met, the investment could be approved for tax credits up to 25 percent of approved costs over 10 years.

Workman said it's too soon to tell if the training camp met those guidelines, but The Greenbrier and the Saints organization are touting the team's three weeks in West Virginia as a success.

"I'm not privy to any of the finances for The Greenbrier itself, but I do know in talking to Mr. Justice that the Saints' visit has been a success in every way imaginable," Workman said. "It's been great PR for the whole state and community. It's been all over the major sports networks. It's been well received by the Saints organization. I know that the downtown merchants I've talked to have been overwhelmed and quite pleased with the increase in activity in the community. I think the community has seen a great uptick in activity associated with Saints fans over the three weeks. From the hotel's perspective, it's a busy time for us anyway.

"The visibility and market and exposure it's provided for The Greenbrier itself has been quite positive."

The Saints are contractually obligated to host part of their summer training camp at The Greenbrier, but according to the Times-Picayune, head coach Sean Payton would like to see that timeline extended.

"It's written (in the contract) for the next two years, but we'd like to be back here a lot longer than just that," Payton said in an Aug. 14 article.

Hamrick said he attended part of the Saints training camp and was impressed with the facility. He said there are "a lot of advantages" to taking his team to Greenbrier County for camp, even though Marshall is preparing to open a new indoor practice facility for a variety of sports.

"There are a lot of pluses for us to go there," Hamrick said. "We have great facilities here too when our new indoor (practice facility) opens up. It's variety and something different."

Although Marshall typically doesn't travel off campus for spring training, Hamrick said he's not worried about logistics. His team and staff travel often and The Greenbrier camp has everything the team could need.

"The logistics are easy," he said. "We're used to traveling. Our kids are used to getting on buses and we fly places. The logistics will not be an issue. If you've seen the facility there, it has everything you need - three fields, a training room. All you have to do is get on a bus and go there. The logistics do not concern me."

Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-7939 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.

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