www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2015, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Marshall's Roberts sprints up NFL draft boards http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/DM03/150429014 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/DM03/150429014 Wed, 29 Apr 2015 22:01:54 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Darryl Roberts was ready to make it into the NFL the hard way. Despite an all-Conference USA first-team season, the Marshall cornerback went without an invitation to a college all-star game. To experience the NFL draft combine, he had to watch it on television. If he had to spend the months leading to the NFL draft convincing teams he was worthy of their consideration, that was fine.

Rather than months, all it took was 4.36 seconds.

That time in the 40-yard dash at Marshall's March pro day opened scouts eyes. Roberts has been pretty popular with NFL teams since then, which bolsters his hopes that his phone will ring sometime this weekend with pro team on the other side of the line.

"They finally know what I'm capable of doing," he said. "That's a good feeling."

The Thundering Herd already knew. Roberts returned to the lineup in 2013 from a broken ankle that robbed him of the entire 2012 season. He helped the Herd's defense cut its points allowed per game from 43.1 in 2012 to 22.9 in 2013, and earned honorable mention all-conference in the process.

His 2014 campaign was even better, helping Marshall's defense allow just 21 points per game on the Herd's way to a 13-1 record, its first Conference USA title and a Boca Raton Bowl win over Mid-American Conference champ Northern Illinois. Roberts was a first team all-C-USA pick last season.

Over his last two years in a Marshall uniform, he recorded 133 tackles, three interceptions and 24 pass breakups. Yet as all-star game invitations were doled out after the season, none hit Roberts' mailbox. Neither did that coveted NFL scouting combine invite.

"I was shocked a little," Roberts said. "I had a pretty decent senior year and had good numbers. But I've always told myself to control what you can control."

He knew he could control his pro day performance. He also knew this could be his one shot at impressing the NFL scouts in attendance. It was the first shot for all 12 Marshall players that day. Roberts had to make it count.

"Pro day was my combine," he said. "I came in with a chip on my shoulder, just trying to prove to them I do deserve to play on the next level."

When Roberts ran his 40s that day, he felt his times were good, but he didn't know for sure. The picture became clearer when he noticed the scouts looking at their stopwatches.

His 4.36-second finish would have ranked him sixth among corners at the NFL combine. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound prospect's other totals were just as impressive. His 23 bench press reps at 225 pounds would have been second among combine corners, as well as his 11-foot-4 broad jump. His 39-inch vertical leap would have been fifth among combine corners.

Those numbers put Roberts squarely on the NFL radar, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.

"He can really fly," Kiper said. "And when you have that type of speed, you're going to get some attention. And then his performance I watched, I thought it was a little up and down, but I thought the kid showed he could be a pretty good corner in this league. But when you run the times of 40s he did, it's going to push you up."

The pro day numbers were the signal that made NFL teams take notice. And when those scouts dug a little deeper into Roberts' abilities, Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said, they learned he was more than just a fast guy.

"Now they go back and watch the film," Heater said, "and the film validates it. Once you blow those numbers up like that, it gets your attention. It gets our attention. You have some kid that runs really fast in high school, it gets our attention. Then you go back and see if he can play football. They went back and watched the tape and I'm sure they saw he played good football, because he played great for us."

Since then, Roberts has worked out with and visited several NFL teams. Reports had the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts all interested. The Packers, 49ers and Colts visited Huntington, and the Patriots worked out Roberts inside the school's indoor practice facility last week.

It was dizzying at first, Roberts said, fielding interest from all those teams, traveling to their respective headquarters and interviewing with each general manager and coaching staff. It quickly became fun, talking football and breaking down plays with each team. Marshall coach Doc Holliday said any team that drafted Roberts would get a player who could quickly make an impact.

"He could match up and play one on one and take away the easy access throws," Holliday said. "He was a good tackler, was physical. ... He's going to make some money playing this game."

Roberts fell in love with football during his days in youth leagues in Lakeland, Fla. When he joined the Lakeland High School football team as a freshman, he looked up to seniors like offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, both of whom are NFL Pro Bowlers, and wanted to follow in their footsteps.

This weekend, he'll hang out with his family back home in Florida, waiting for a call. Kiper thinks is could come as early as the fifth or sixth round.

"I wouldn't say guaranteed," Kiper said, "but I'd certainly figure maybe in that area."

Roberts isn't nervous, but he is anxious to see where his professional future might take him. Above all, though, he's proud he was able to shrug off his initial disappointment and work his way onto NFL teams' draft boards.

"I've always worked for everything I've gotten," Roberts said. "I always got the go-hard mentality. I always knew I had to keep grinding through the whole process until I got my opportunity to showcase what I could do."

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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Will size dash Rakeem Cato's NFL draft chances? http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/DM03/150429015 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150429/DM03/150429015 Wed, 29 Apr 2015 22:01:07 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Despite a senior season where he finished as Marshall's career leader in most major passing categories, former Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato has received very little buzz in the weeks before the NFL draft.

According to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., though, Cato has the stamp of approval from a pretty credible source.

"I asked Mike Holmgren ... I said, hey, Mike, who was the most impressive player at the all-star game he was involved with as a coach," Kiper said in a recent conference call. "He said Cato was the guy that jumped out at him."

Holmgren, the former Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers head coach and former Cleveland Browns team president, coached Cato in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif., in January. Cato finished his Herd career with 1,153 completions, 14,079 yards and 131 touchdowns, all school records. But he measured a shade over 6 feet and just 178 pounds at Marshall's pro day.

Of the top 30 quarterbacks in CBSSports.com's 2015 draft list - Cato is ranked 30th - only Oklahoma quarterback Blake Sims is shorter. Cato is the lightest among the top 30 and one of just two under 200 pounds.

Former Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington, who owned most of the Marshall career records that Cato broke, would like to see NFL teams look past Cato's size and at his resume.

"I hope he gets a chance," Pennington said. "I hope players like Russell Wilson and some of these smaller-statured quarterbacks give Rakeem a chance, because he deserves a chance because he's an outstanding player."

While some of his measurables might hurt his draft stock, Kiper still feels Cato could make an NFL roster.

"Does he have chance to get drafted? Maybe not," Kiper said, "but he certainly comes in as a priority undrafted free agent for somebody, and I think he's got a chance."

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Marshall tops WVU in baseball at Power Park http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150428/DM03/150429106 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150428/DM03/150429106 Tue, 28 Apr 2015 23:16:44 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Marshall senior Josh King has been waiting all season to regain the command in his surgically repaired pitching arm. Tuesday night against West Virginia University, it was at its best.

King - in just his second start this season, both against the Mountaineers - struck out six over 5 2/3 innings to lead the Thundering Herd to a 3-2 win over WVU at Appalachian Power Park.

Marshall's win, this third in the last four games, salvaged a split with the Mountaineers (24-18) this season. The Herd (16-27) lost to WVU on April 21, 3-2, at the new Monongalia County Ballpark when reliever Kolin Stanley walked in the winning run.

King, who started much of the season at second base, is coming off Tommy John surgery. To enjoy a win with another solid start made the night even more satisfying.

"To come out here and face them twice and have a fairly decent outing both times is big time," King said. "Usually, you see guys one, two, three times, they start picking things up. To be able to face them two outings in a row and be just as efficient is huge for me."

King, who entered Tuesday's game with a 7.43 ERA, held the Mountaineers at bay before running out of steam in the sixth. He had a solid start last week versus WVU, lasting 5 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on three hits in the Herd's loss. He lasted one out longer Tuesday.

Shaun Corso ended King's shutout bid on the first pitch he saw in the sixth, launching it over the left field fence for his second home run of the season. He walked Taylor Munden in the next at bat, and Munden got to second on a King wild pitch. A Kyle Davis single to left scored Munden from there and ended King's night. He allowed two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking two.

"My fastball, I had it working on both sides of the plate, down in the zone," King said. "Anytime you can do that, I think I threw maybe five or six breaking balls the entire game. Just being able to throw the fast ball in, out, up, down, wherever I wanted to, that was a big thing."

Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said he's tried to keep King's pitch count low in his 11 appearances in an attempt to get his arm back to where it was. He said King's velocity still isn't back to its previous levels, but the senior's return to the mound has been crucial for the Herd's fortunes.

"The two things that have helped our ball club more than anything else is getting (starting pitcher) Chase Boster back and healthy and Josh King," he said. "That really helps your bullpen and we're playing great defense. Anytime you can do that, you have a chance to win games."

WVU coach Randy Mazey said King earned his respect over the last two games, performing so well so soon after a major surgery.

"Usually, you're not as good at that point until you hit the year mark (after Tommy John surgery)," Mazey said. "And you get really good at 18 months. He's doing really well, and I'm happy for that kid. Anytime a kid gets injured like that, you want to see him recover. He dominated us with his fastball tonight. We had some hitters that were pretty hot coming into this thing."

While Marshall's bats were relatively quiet against WVU last week, the Herd jumped out to an early lead Tuesday night. The Mountaineers barely missed its second double play of the game, as Sergio Leon beat the throw to first. That kept the second inning alive, and Marshall took advantage.

The Herd scored three runs with two down in bottom of that inning. Matt Reed drove in Leon on a single to left. Robert Fajardo singled up the middle to score Tyler Ratliff and Reed came home on a passed ball. That was enough to chase WVU starter Shane Ennis, who gave up three runs on five hits in two innings.

"You never really know," Leon said of his pivotal sprint to first. "I saw it coming off the bat really slow, so I was like, let me get it down the line. It's baseball. You never really know. One thing can lead into another."

Waggoner said Tuesday's win was a nice confidence boost for his team heading into this weekend's three-game Conference USA series at Southern Mississippi. Marshall has taken its last three weekend series and is trying to climb into qualifying for the C-USA tournament.

WVU will try to rebound Wednesday at Radford before hosting Texas Christian for a three-game weekend series. The Mountaineers have lost six of their last nine, and Mazey is looking for any opportunity to reverse their fortunes.

"Baseball people are superstitious people by nature," he said. "I'm gonna put the other sock on the other foot tomorrow and see if we play any better tomorrow because of it."

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 defense has plenty of production to replace http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150428/DM03/150429108 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150428/DM03/150429108 Tue, 28 Apr 2015 23:13:47 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team's defense enters the offseason needing to fill plenty of holes left by some talented players. Linebackers coach Adam Fuller knows all too well, as he searches for people to step into the roles relinquished by Neville Hewitt and Jermaine Holmes.

And don't think he doesn't let his current linebacking corps know it, either.

"I use that a lot in our room," Fuller said. "I say, listen, these guys had their best year of football, they're both 3.0 students, they're both all-conference players. They were the first ones in the meeting, they went hard in practice. Everything was important to them."

There are holes to fill all over the field for the Thundering Herd defense, which went from liability in 2012 to strength in 2014. Marshall wants to maintain that strength for its defense of its Conference USA title in 2015.

The list of departed defensive players - which helped the Herd finish 18th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense last season - is studded with talent.

n Hewitt, all-C-USA first-team pick and the 2014 conference defensive player of the year.

n Defensive lineman James Rouse, all-C-USA first team pick and 2014 preseason conference defensive player of the year.

n Corner Darryl Roberts, all-C-USA first-team pick and a player climbing up NFL draft boards.

Add to that a pair of all-conference second-teamers in Holmes and defensive end Arnold Blackmon and honorable mention all-C-USA defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers. From those six players alone, Marshall has lost 429 of its tackles, 58.5 of its 105 tackles for loss, 21.5 of its 38 sacks and 23 of its 58 pass breakups from last season.

That much production is difficult to replicate, but Marshall coach Doc Holliday and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater have told the Herd's defense it must be up to the challenge.

"Coach Holliday and Coach Heater were throwing that in our heads during mat drills and workouts," fifth-year corner Keith Baxter said. "You've got to step up. Guys have got to step up on defense because our leaders are gone.

"I came in and looked around and was like, wow, I've got to go now," he added. "So we've just gone hard all spring to fill those guys' shoes and do our job."

The transition wasn't always easy this spring, especially since players expected to be key contributors this fall - corner Corey Tindal, linebacker Evan McKelvey and defensive linemen Jarquez Samuel and Steve Dillon among them - saw little to no full contact through the 15 practices. Marshall's offense took advantage, for instance, averaging 5.34 yards per carry in the two scrimmages and spring game. The Herd held opponents to 3.8 yards per carry in 2014.

Things started looking up for the defense during Saturday's spring game, where the unit acclimated to the soggy weather before the offense could gain a foothold. Marshall's defense got plenty of pressure in the backfield, recording six touch "sacks," including Ryan Bee's for a safety. It also batted down three passes and linebacker Chase Hancock intercepted a pass for touchdown. Linebacker Raheim Huskey also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.

"Defensively, I hope they're as good as they played," Holliday said after the spring game. "They played extremely well and made some plays."

Fuller was happy to see the defense slow things down and cut down on big plays.

"There were a lot of third downs and they weren't third-and-shorts," Fuller said. "They were third-and-mediums and we got off the field."

Fuller said the defense's mission, now that team practices won't begin again until August's preseason camp, is to prepare the younger and less experienced players for the larger roles they'll have to embrace. The coaches know players like Tindal, Samuel, McKelvey, linebacker D.J. Hunter and safeties A.J. Leggett and Taj Letman will be ready. But others - like Hancock, who impressed Fuller this spring - must shed newcomer labels and accept the challenge.

"There are certain guys we know are going to be really good players and we have to continue to develop them," Fuller said. "They've got to develop leadership, but there are so many guys who haven't played a lot of football for us on defense. They've got to develop."

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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Mountaineers, Herd ready for baseball battle at Power Park http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429212 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429212 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 23:26:23 -0400 By Mike Casazza CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Marshall's baseball team won its third consecutive Conference USA series over the weekend as the Thundering Herd continued to salvage its season and inch toward the league tournament.

West Virginia lost a Big 12 series at home for the second straight weekend, but a win Sunday kept the Mountaineers out of last place in the conference and in position to reach the Big 12 tournament.

The two teams take a timeout from their quests when they meet in another mid-week game Tuesday. Marshall is the home team against WVU at 6 p.m. at Appalachian Power Park.

"We've got to make sure we go down there not thinking since Marshall only got two hits at our place last week it's going to be easy," WVU coach Randy Mazey said. "They get really fired up playing us, and we're going to have to do the same things we did last time and attack the strike zone and hope our hot hitters stay on track."

WVU (24-17) beat Marshall (15-27) at Monongalia County Ballpark a week ago. The Mountaineers won 3-2 on a bases loaded walk to end a two-game losing streak in Tuesday games. Four WVU pitchers combined to allow no earned runs and strike out 14 batters, and Shane Ennis, who started and figures to do so again Tuesday, allowed one hit and struck out five in three innings.

WVU then lost the first two games of the weekend series to Kansas. Three base runners were picked off first base Friday in a 3-1 loss and the Jayhawks scored five runs in the first and then four in the ninth in a 9-4 win Saturday. WVU trailed 4-0 after Kansas batted in the second inning Sunday, but scored three runs in the home half of the inning and then took the lead for good on shortstop Taylor Munden's conference-leading 10th home run, a two-run shot, in the seventh inning of a 5-4 win.

"We lost the first two games and gave up a four-spot in the second and I'm thinking, 'Come on, Mountaineers. Don't give up,'" Mazey said. "We talk about it every day - sometimes in baseball things don't go your way. You keep getting tested, and it happens in life, too. It's about how you respond to adversity, and we just punched them right back with three in the bottom of the second.

"That really energized us. I thought it got the crowd into the game. Had it stayed 4-0 for a couple innings, we might have lost some people there. To kick right back and get that three-spot changed the game."

Starter Chad Donato walked in a pair of runs in the second inning, but didn't walk a batter the rest of the way. He earned the win, scattering eight hits and striking out five in 7 2/3 innings. Closer Blake Smith handled the rest and stuck out two batters for his sixth save. WVU finished 6-5 in the homestand opening the new venue, where the team batting average dropped from .283 to .274 and the ERA dropped from 3.81 to 3.63.

The pitching has been better, and Donato's push and Smith's save preserved the bullpen, which was a key because the Mountaineers will limit their starters and relievers to pitch counts Tuesday against Marshall and Wednesday on the road against Radford, a game WVU added last week to bolster the RPI. WVU was No. 91 on Monday, but the Highlanders were No. 18 and WVU follows that game with a Big 12 series at home against fifth-ranked TCU, a game at sub-.500 Virginia Tech and a conference series at No. 17 Oklahoma State.

WVU is 6-9 in the Big 12, TCU is 10-5 and Oklahoma State is in first place at 12-6. The top eight teams in the nine-team conference make the tournament, and WVU is in sixth place. Mazey said adding Radford was a risk worth taking as the team pursues an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

"When you're swinging the bats well you want to play a lot and stay in a groove," Mazey said. "I feel like our guys are standing in there pretty well and we've had some of our big lefties really drive balls. When that's the case, you don't want to take a week off to play again. Tuesday and Wednesday will help us offensively I think going into TCU. Our pitching is going to be tested and we'll have to pitch some guys who haven't pitched much, which is good. I want to see where they're at."

Marshall, though, is playing its best baseball and won the weekend series with two wins against conference-leading Middle Tennessee. The only other Conference USA team to win a series against MTSU was Rice, which was then ranked No. 14. Marshall is in 10th place in the conference standings and a game out of eighth place. The top eight make the Conference USA tournament.

The Thundering Herd had two hits and six baserunners against WVU last week, but Josh King was effective in his first start of the season and allowed two runs and three hits - including back-to-back home runs in the third inning - while striking out five in 5 1/3 innings. He'll start again Tuesday against the Mountaineers.

"We've been playing well the last three weeks," Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. "We've been getting great starting pitching and playing really good defense. That's given us a chance to stay in games and win games."

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Derek Redd: Names to watch when Herd football opens fall camp http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429214 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429214 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 23:16:31 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - So what does one do now that Marshall's spring football session, 15 practices that let Thundering Herd players pound on each other with no opponent on the immediate horizon, has concluded?

Keep discussing it, of course.

But instead of looking back on the five weeks that were, let's use the session to look ahead to preseason camp and identify some of the players to keep an eye on in the fall.

n Michael Birdsong - Marshall ended the mystery that really wasn't one when it announced on its official athletic website Monday that Birdsong would go into the summer as the Herd's No. 1 quarterback. Why no real mystery? Let's look at the writing on the wall. Birdsong was the first quarterback on the field in both scrimmages and the spring game. And outside of last Saturday's rain-soaked exhibition, he's looked very good all spring.

(And by the way, for anyone worried that the new indoor practice facility will soften the Herd to playing in the elements, don't be. The spring is for development, and you might as well do that in the best conditions possible. I doubt Marshall heads indoors in the fall for anything less than lightning.)

Now that Birdsong is the guy, he'll have all summer to operate as the guy. That's a crucial time to earn his leadership stripes. Offensive coordinator Bill Legg said the starting job could still be won or lost in the first couple weeks of fall camp, so it will be interesting to see how Birdsong has developed as the No. 1 man over the summer months.

n Jarquez Samuel and Steve Dillon - Here's why Samuel and Dillon are on the list: They were seen very little, if at all, in the two scrimmages and spring game. That left the rest of the interior defensive line to play in their stead. Here was the result over those three events - 812 rushing yards on 152 carries, an average of 5.34 yards per carry.

In the 2014 season, Marshall's defense allowed an average of 3.8 yards per carry. If that doesn't tell you how much the Herd needs Samuel and Dillon to lead that group, I don't know what else would.

James Rouse erased a lot of problems for Marshall's defense last season. He was so disruptive at defensive tackle, he always needed double-teamed and sometimes needed triple-teamed, leaving the rest of the line free to cause chaos. Samuel and Dillon don't have to be Rouse. Yet they do need to plug up the middle of that line and knock it back a couple of yards. They'll be plenty rested when fall rolls around to begin that mission.

n Angelo Jean-Louis - His talent as a receiver is undeniable. His physical gifts are plentiful. His move from outside receiver to slot receiver could add an entirely new dimension to that position, and it will be interesting to see how much more comfortable he becomes in the slot after the summer.

Pairing the 6-foot Jean-Louis with 5-10 Hyleck Foster at that position offers a combination of height, wingspan, speed and athleticism it hasn't had in a while. Yet while Jean-Louis may be bigger and faster than former slot receiver Tommy Shuler, Shuler was a master in finding the open spaces in the defense and making the tough catches.

Jean-Louis will spend the summer combining the talents he was born with and the ones he must learn. If it works, it would allow both him and Foster to go full-throttle without worrying about conserving energy. And it could make opposing defenses sweat if the Herd decides to throw a double-slot formation at them.

n Nick Smith and Amoreto Curraj - Kicker as a position to watch in the fall? You bet. The gig had been Justin Haig's for three seasons, and he broke the program's career record for kicking points, scoring 346 in all. Most of those came from extra points, as the Marshall offense lit up the scoreboard for the last three seasons.

Will the 2015 offense maintain that torrid pace? It might need some more help from field goals, and Smith and Curraj fought tooth and nail through the spring for that role. Seeing Smith as a contender for that job was no surprise. Seeing Curraj there with him kind of was, considering he had just missed an entire season with bulging discs in his back and had been a kickoff specialist when he was healthy.

In Saturday's spring game, Curraj made seven of nine attempts, good from 33 yards, 37 yards, 38 yards, 40 yards and 42 yards three times, while missing from 37 yards and 43 yards. Smith made six of nine, good from 33 yards, 37 yards twice, 38 yards and 42 yards twice and missing from 40 yards, 42 yards and 43 yards.

That position battle looks like it will remain highly competitive heading into the fall, which, combined with the other players mentioned above, should make Marshall's August return to the practice field a highly anticipated one.

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Juco forward joins Marshall men's hoops http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429225 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429225 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 22:59:35 -0400

from staff reports

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team picked up another player in the spring signing period, as the university confirmed Monday that Georgia Highlands College forward Terrence Thompson will join the team for the 2015-16 season.

"He's an athletic big who can swing to the perimeter," Marshall head coach Dan D'Antoni said. "He's a solid rebounder who can run the floor and score inside and outside the 3-point area. He went for 23 points and 10 rebounds in the national junior college tournament semifinals. Not to mention he's a biology major who wants to go to med school. We're looking forward to having him."

Thompson, who transferred to GHC from the University of Charlotte, will have three years of eligibility with the Thundering Herd. He averaged 9.6 points and 8.9 rebounds over 36 games last season with the Chargers. The 6-foot-7 Durham, N.C., native is the second player the Herd has inked this spring, joining 6-9 forward Aleksandar Dozic, a Don Bosco Prep product originally from Montenegro.

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Marshall names Birdsong No. 1 QB http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429275 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429275 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:12:13 -0400

from staff reports

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's new No. 1 quarterback is Michael Birdsong. The Thundering Herd announced the move Monday.

Birdsong, who transferred from James Madison and sat last season under NCAA transfer rules, was the first quarterback to take the field in both of Marshall's spring scrimmages and last Saturday's spring game. The redshirt junior beat out fellow redshirt junior Gunnar Holcombe, redshirt freshman Cole Garvin and freshman Chase Litton for the job.

Birdsong started 14 games over two seasons for James Madison. The 6-foot-5, 242-pound Matoaca, Va., native will step into the role vacated by Rakeem Cato, who ended his Marshall career as the all-time leader in most passing categories.

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Marshall inks junior college safety http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429305 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150427/DM03/150429305 Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:29:36 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's football team picked up a late signee Saturday, inking Georgia Military College safety Corey Neely to a letter of intent. Neely tweeted a photo of his signing on Twitter and Instagram. He told the Marshall Scout site that he will enroll at the university in the offseason.

Neely continues a Georgia Military College pipeline. Marshall brought in linebacker Neville Hewitt from GMC, and Hewitt rewarded the Herd by winning Conference USA defensive player of the year honors in 2014. Marshall also signed tight end Emanuel Byrd for 2015. Byrd enrolled at Marshall in January and participated in spring practice.

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Mixed results as Marshall QBs make final push for job (video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150426/DM03/150429368 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150426/DM03/150429368 Sun, 26 Apr 2015 18:04:28 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If Saturday was the last opportunity for Marshall's quarterbacks to state their case for the open starting job, Mother Nature decided to ratchet up the difficulty levels in that final showcase.

Steady rains and chilly temperatures, combined with the defense's best performance of the spring, made for a tough afternoon for the Thundering Herd's signal-callers in the Green and White spring game. Now the four in contention - redshirt juniors Michael Birdsong and Gunnar Holcombe, redshirt freshman Cole Garvin and freshman Chase Litton - will wait for the coaches' official decree of a post-spring depth chart.

That decision in replacing Herd career passing leader Rakeem Cato didn't come after the spring game. Coach Doc Holliday said the final choice could still be a day or two out.

"We're going to evaluate this tape today and we'll probably make a decision Monday or Tuesday morning," Holliday said Saturday. "I think we're pretty set on what we're going to do. We just have to get settled in and make sure we make the right decision."

As has been the case in the Herd's previous two spring scrimmages - one at the Greenbrier and one at Joan C. Edwards Stadium - Birdsong, who sat last season after transferring from James Madison, was the first quarterback to take the field. Holcombe, Cato's backup last season, was the second.

The weather seemed to snag Birdsong more than it did Holcombe. The former JMU starter completed just five of 20 passes for 58 yards, but rallied for a pair of touchdown throws. Holcombe completed 11 of 16 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.

Offensive coordinator Bill Legg said the focus of his film analysis will probably go from the midpoint of Saturday's game to its end, when the offense finally got accustomed to the inclement weather. It was the first time Marshall had performed in the rain this spring. Any other bad-weather day, the Herd would take advantage of its new indoor practice facility.

The environment didn't make for an easy time, but all the quarterbacks could do was fight through it.

"It was just a mindset thing," Holcombe said. "If you go out with a bad mindset, you're not going to do very well. If you go out with a good mindset, think, hey, you can't control it, so go out and have fun, and go through your reads ... take advantage of what they give you."

Holcombe will enter his fourth year in Marshall's system this fall, but his on-field experience with the Herd is limited. He has just 12 completions, 21 attempts and 119 passing yards to his credit, all recorded last season as Cato's understudy.

Holcombe's goal this spring was to take advantage of the additional snaps he'd take in the competition to name a new starter. He wanted to bolster what he had learned in the film room and classroom with more hands-on education.

"I thought I knew the playbook well, and I know it even better now," Holcombe said. "I know what's going to happen, know what to expect and know what the defense is going to do. I know to check down. I struggled with that in the past."

Birdsong has plenty of game minutes - he started 14 games over two seasons at JMU - but none of them with his current teammates. He's been a member of the Herd since last year, but spent last season as the scout team quarterback, learning and running opponents' offenses rather than the scheme Marshall employs.

This spring was his chance to pair the off-field chemistry he's built since he arrived with some chemistry on the field and under center.

"We have to continue growing as a team, learning each other and learning how to deal with each other," Birdsong said. "Like I've told some other people, we lost a lot of identity with all those seniors that left. And we have to develop a new identity and figure out what this 2015 team is about."

Marshall didn't just lose identity, it lost the quarterback at the top of its career charts in completions, attempts, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Cato's shadow will loom during the offseason, especially after a senior year where he led the Herd to a 13-1 record and its first Conference USA crown.

But from what he's seen so far, Legg feels he has some worthy contenders to the job.

"Some guys have done some really good things," Legg said. "We're in an enviable position from the standpoint that we actually have more than one guy we feel could eventually win for us.

"Now, there's going to be a starter and he's going to be the guy," he continued, "but I'm saying sometimes you're in a situation where somebody gets bumped or bruised or nicked or banged and gets knocked out of a game. We were in that situation a couple of years ago (at East Carolina) when Cato got knocked out and Blake (Frohnapfel) came in and did a wonderful job. We feel very strongly we'll be in that situation this year."

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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Spring finale just part of the Marshall's process http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM03/150429529 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150423/DM03/150429529 Thu, 23 Apr 2015 22:26:19 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - For the many who sit in the stands Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for Marshall's Green and White spring football game, the event is a culmination. It's the last chance until August for Thundering Herd fans to get a glimpse of the team.

For Marshall's players and coaches, the game is nothing close to an end. It's another part of the process.

"We're getting ready to head into halftime, in my mindset," offensive coordinator Bill Legg said.

The Herd players' opportunity to gain ground or maintain their respective spots before "halftime" adjustments begins at 2 p.m.

Legg considered the team's winter conditioning drills as this season's first quarter. The second quarter was the 15 practices Marshall conducted over the past month.

"We'll come back after 'halftime,' after they've had a little time off to regroup, and we're going to go to work again in summer training and pre-camp training. And then we're going to go into the fourth quarter, which is fall camp leading into the season."

This final flourish before halftime might look more like the scrimmages fans saw two Saturdays ago at the Greenbrier and last Saturday at Edwards Stadium. The roster still was split into two teams for Saturday's game, with new Marshall Athletics Hall of Famer Chris Massey the honorary coach of the green team and former Canadian Football League all-star John Grace the honorary coach of the white team. But Marshall coach Doc Holliday said there could be some situational scrimmaging and, according to the rosters, running back Tony Pittman will play on both sides. The other green-team running backs are Steward Butler and Devon Johnson, who has not participated in full contact at all this spring.

"It's going to be better for us because, number one, we're still putting our best players against our best players," Holliday said. "Whoever our number one guys are, we're keeping them together. The scrimmage itself will be better. That being said, it'll be more game-like than it's been all spring."

In case of rain, Holliday said the team will get in as much work as it can.

The Herd still hasn't announced a starting quarterback, though a pecking order has seemed to appear. James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong was the first quarterback to take the field for both scrimmages, followed by last year's backup, Gunnar Holcombe, then true freshman Chase Litton.

No one should be surprised, though, if an official announcement of a starter isn't made right after Saturday's game.

"We'll continue to evaluate after the scrimmage on Saturday and probably early next week, we'll have it figured out," Holliday said.

Saturday's game is just as important to players entrenched in their roles. Starting safety A.J. Leggett has used spring games to shore up any shortcomings he might have.

"I try to work more on my weaknesses," the redshirt junior said. "I know that, in the offseason, I'll have a lot of time to focus on my strengths. So I use that spring game to work on those weaknesses."

There will be plenty of events surrounding the spring game. Marshall will hold an equipment sale from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the indoor practice facility, and the Memorial Fountain ceremony begins at 11 a.m. The university will hold a free festival at the indoor facility as well, including inflatables and carnival games, starting at noon.

Tickets to the game are $5 each and parking is $20 per spot. Game tickets are available now at Herdzone.com and will be sold at the stadium on game day.

Saturday's game might not look exactly like last year's, but preparing for the fall trumps appearances for Holliday.

"We're going to put them in situations where we can get the best players against the best players and continue to develop as a football team," Holliday said. "We don't have to worry about beating anyone Saturday. We have to worry about opening up in August and being ready to go play Purdue. We've got to do whatever we've got to do to make sure this football team is the best it can be."

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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Taller slot receivers could proved new wrinkle for Marshall http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM03/150429668 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150422/DM03/150429668 Wed, 22 Apr 2015 20:52:28 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Could bigger be better for the Marshall football team's slot receivers?

It would be incredibly difficult to get much better than former slot receiver Tommy Shuler. He ended his Thundering Herd tenure as both the team and Conference USA's career leader in receptions, grabbing 322 over four years. And at 5-foot-7, a lack of height never hurt him.

But 5-10 Hyleck Foster and 6-foot Angelo Jean-Louis man the position now. The Herd's coaches think those extra inches might add new wrinkles to the passing game, but receivers coach Mike Furrey said the benefits have yet to be determined.

"We don't know yet," Furrey said, "because the one that was really small was pretty good."

Foster's inclusion among the slots is no surprise. The sophomore was a solid understudy for Shuler in 2014, finishing with 18 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns. Jean-Louis, however, has been more of a surprise.

Jean-Louis spent last season as an outside receiver, catching 21 passes for 490 yards and six touchdowns. His dazzling plays down the field helped him earn a spot on the C-USA all-freshman team.

Marshall coaches, however, wanted someone who could both push Foster in competition and spell him when he got tired. So Jean-Louis moved inside.

The sophomore said he was fine with changing roles.

"Let's go," Jean-Louis said. "That wasn't a problem for me. Get in there, and I got a little extra work with (Furrey) to learn the plays a little faster. After a few days, it definitely was fun."

The jobs are a little different on the outside and in the slot. Outside receivers are the home-run hitters, the deep threats who stretch the field. Slot receivers weave through the traffic on short and intermediate routes. They can break for big plays, too, but those plays are often born out of tight spaces.

Jean-Louis said he's had to make some adjustments in his new job.

"The biggest difference is you've got to read coverages way faster," Jean-Louis said. "You have to know when guys are inside and when safeties are going up top and coming down."

Those are things that Shuler did better than anyone in Conference USA, as evident in his three straight all-conference first-team selections. Foster and Jean-Louis have their athleticism as their edge, evident in the deep passes Jean-Louis caught last season and the short passes Foster turned into long gains, like his 25-yard touchdown pass from Rakeem Cato against Western Kentucky.

Furrey said the two must combine what they do best with some of what made Shuler so dangerous for so long.

"Obviously, they're faster," Furrey said. "But we haven't had that for a while, so we're not sure what that'll do. In practice, it looks good, because they're quick and decisive and have great hands. But a lot of Tommy's success was being where you're supposed to be and getting open.

"Now, if you have those things, plus their ability," he added, "now that's going to be pretty special. Those are the benefits we feel we have, but it all goes back to making sure they're in the right spot when they're supposed to be there and catch the ball."

The Foster-Jean-Louis combo also was created to benefit Foster. Shuler could last six to eight plays in a row, while Furrey said Foster will go about four to six plays in a row. The Herd coaches feel Jean-Louis can pick up those extra plays where Foster needs to rest.

"When you're playing 90 plays and we can get (Foster) 50-60 reps and get Angelo 30-40, that's our plan," he said.

Jean-Louis is anxious for him and Foster to use their physical gifts to broaden the scope of what Marshall's slot receivers can do.

"Now we can go deeper and really use our speed in the vertical routes," he said.

Furrey said those bigger, faster receivers still must show the precision that the smaller Shuler made his calling card. Then the Herd can see whether size really matters.

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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West Virginia edges Marshall, 3-2, in baseball http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429774 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429774 Tue, 21 Apr 2015 23:19:26 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Baseball is a game of ruts and rallies that continues to trick and treat West Virginia. The Mountaineers saw one pattern come to an end and another habit extended in a 3-2 win against Marshall.

"Maybe it's human nature. Maybe I'm not old enough and mature enough to figure it out," said WVU coach Randy Mazey, who improved to 5-3 at new Monongalia County Ballpark before a crowd of 639. "I'm only 48 years old. Maybe after another 20 or so years the answer will come to me in a dream."

Shortstop Taylor Munden, whose batting average was 41 points higher two weeks ago than it was before the first pitch against the Thundering Herd, had his first home run and first multi-hit game since the venue opened eight games ago. Munden sat one game and moved from the leadoff spot to the second spot in the batting order but was never worried.

"It's part of the game to struggle," he said. "I try to do my best to stay in there and keep my emotions intact and keep playing my game."

The senior went 2 for 4 and scored two runs after seeing his average dip to .276. His home run in the third inning tied the score 1-1 and his leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth off Marshall's Kolin Stanley (2-1) turned into the game-winning run. Munden stole second base and took third on a ground out. Ray Guerrini was intentionally walked, and Brad Johnson drew a walk to prompt a pitching change. Marshall's Matt Margaritonda struck out Caleb Potter but walked K.C. Huth to score Munden.

WVU's Blake Smith entered in the ninth and retired the side in order for his fourth save.

The Mountaineers (23-15) lost two of three over the weekend against Oklahoma, which shares the Big 12 lead with Oklahoma State, for their first series loss in the past four. Beating the Thundering Herd (13-26) snapped a two-game losing streak on Tuesdays and improved WVU's record to 4-2 in Tuesday games.

The mid-week games are meaningful occasions for a team with plenty of weekend opportunities left in Big 12 play to reach the NCAA tournament for the fist time since 1996. Counting the first six and remaining three Tuesday games, WVU will play only one team with a winning record - and WVU won its only Wednesday game, that against sub-.500 Texas-Arlington. The final three Tuesday games are next week against Marshall in Charleston, at Virginia Tech and at Pitt, teams 13, 10 and two games below .500.

"If you're trying to make the postseason and get an at-large bid, if you're ever in a position to do that, you can't lose mid-week game at home to teams under .500," Mazey said. "As much as you sometimes don't think these game are as important as the weekend games, they certainly are. Losing to teams with records under .500, especially at home, can really, really cost you when it comes to an at-large bid. You've got to try to win every one of them."

WVU's RPI was No. 67 on Tuesday and the strength of schedule was No. 133. Winning on Tuesdays won't help the strength of schedule, but losses can damage the RPI. The back-to-back Tuesday losses were one concern for Mazey, though one was a 12-7 loss at No. 21 Maryland. The way the Mountaineers started against Marshall continued the frustrations he shared during and after last Tuesday's loss to Penn State, which was 10-20 before the game.

"For whatever reason, we haven't been coming out too strong at all for these games," Munden said. "The weekend games, we come out like little kids in candy stores, but when we come out on Tuesdays, it's clear we're way more down than we ought to be."

Tuesday pitching has been iffy for Mazey. He still hasn't had a starter last more than 4 1/3 innings, and he's had to use four, four, three, four, two and three relievers. That's somewhat by design. Shane Ennis, who has started the past four Tuesday games, went three innings against Marshall and allowed one unearned run. That lowered the ERA for Tuesday starters to 4.90. The overall ERA on Tuesdays is 3.91, though both totals are inflated by the 12 earned runs allowed to the Terrapins.

Ennis retired the final six batters he faced, the last three on strike outs, and Adam Keller (1-1) allowed one unearned run and struck out four in two innings of relief. Keller, who started a Tuesday game at Stephen F. Austin and allowed two earned runs in four innings, hasn't allowed a run in his past 5 2/3 innings of Tuesday relief. Jeff Hardy handled the seventh and eighth innings and struck out four of the seven batters he faced.

It was an encouraging day for Mazey, who has moved B.J. Myers from starting or relieving on Tuesdays to starting on Fridays in Big 12 series. Those weekend games are even more vital now because WVU is one game out of ninth place in the nine-team conference standings. The top eight qualify, and WVU plays host to last-place Kansas for three games this weekend.

"Those guys who pitched (Tuesday), our conference weekends are so important to us that we can't throw anybody in the middle of the week and jeopardize their ability to pitch on the weekend," Mazey said. "We tried to get everyone out of there in less than 50 pitches, and now they have three days until they pitch again. Ennis, Keller, Hardy and Smith are all guys we need to be available Friday, and I think we accomplished that."

Marshall was in a similar spot against WVU. It's won two out of three in consecutive series to rise to ninth place in the Conference USA standings and sit two games out of eighth. The conference tournament accepts eight teams, and the Thundering Herd plays host to league-leading Middle Tennessee State this weekend.

"These are hard because obviously it's a big game for both of us, but both teams are fighting to get in their tournament," Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. "They've got a big series against Kansas and we've got a big series against Middle Tennessee State. We've both got to do our best to manage things so we don't burn anybody out and so we're able to bring them back out for the weekend."

Marshall's Josh King, who pitched in relief in nine games this season, made his first start. Mazey believed his players were fooled by King's 10.32 ERA. He allowed two runs on three hits and struck out five in 5 1/3 innings.

"He's coming back from Tommy John surgery, and he's thrown a few innings out of the bullpen as we try to get him back to where he was," Waggoner said. "His velocity was a little down, but it was good to see him command his fastball. But for a senior who's a really good pitcher, he made a couple bad expansion pitches when he needed to get the ball out off the plate more."

King's only trouble came in the third when he left a 0-2 fastball too close to the plate and saw WVU freshman Kyle Davis rope it over the wall in left field for his fourth home run. That followed Munden's home run on a 1-0 pitch, his team-leading ninth home run and first since the Maryland game. Munden was the first player to get a base hit in the new ballpark but was 1 for 27 between that single against Butler and Tuesday's home run.

"That's part of the game," Munden said. "I've been hitting balls hard at people, but I knew it would come."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecaszza

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Derek Redd: Marshall line still devoted to ground game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429777 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150421/DM03/150429777 Tue, 21 Apr 2015 23:11:49 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall running backs have seen plenty of green in front of them this spring. A 5.4-yards-per-carry average in last Saturday's scrimmage? A 5.3-yard average two Saturday's ago at the Greenbrier? Seems like Thundering Herd ball-carriers are enjoying some wide-open spaces in the running game.

Even the quarterbacks are getting into the act. Last Saturday, Chase Litton bounded for 24-yard touchdown, and this is a point where a play is whistled dead if the defense so much as sneezes in a quarterback's general direction.

Has the offense's success on the ground come from a more concerted effort from the offensive line to win the battle up front? Or has it just looked that way?

"We always do it," offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said. "Our run game is the base of this offense. With any kind of spread option offense, it starts with the run game and the run-pass option stuff. We try to tell our guys it doesn't matter who's behind you. You shouldn't block any harder or longer or less technically because of who's behind you."

Granted, Marshall's defense hasn't been playing with a full cast of characters at times this spring. Defensive linemen Jarquez Samuel and Steve Dillon, both key contributors to last season, sat out both scrimmages. On the other hand, all-Conference-USA first-team tackle Clint Van Horn has gone without contact almost the entire spring, and the Herd has to replace all-C-USA center Chris Jasperse as well.

Because of that, Mirabal said, everything might not look crisp. The linemen's feet may not be in the right place every time. But the desire to lay their shoulder pads into a defensive player is.

"Our execution's not perfect, but the effort is perfect and the effort to be physical is there," Mirabal said. "That's all that we ever ask for. Statistics and that stuff in the spring is ridiculous. It's about technique, it's about fundamentals and it's about footwork. We're trying to get the groups to meld together."

That line last season led the way for one of the most potent offenses in college football, especially on the ground. Marshall was seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 271.9 rushing yards per game. By the end of the season, Marshall had run a total of more than two miles.

Constant collisions can lead to aches and pains afterward, but the offensive line isn't griping. In fact, fifth-year senior guard Sebastian Johansson said, it's been a pretty good time.

"I think that everybody's bought into it and, right now, we're having a hell of a lot of fun," he said. "That's what it comes down to. As much fun as we're having right now, as tired and as physical as we're playing, we're having a lot of fun."

A dominant run game is a good idea, considering the Herd is breaking in a new starting quarterback. Gone is four-year starter Rakeem Cato, Marshall's career leader in most major passing categories. Whomever does win that job won't enter the 2015 season with much experience under center for the Herd, if any at all.

The running backs, on the other hand, are overflowing with it. Devon Johnson, recovering from shoulder surgery, won't see any contact until the fall, but he was a Doak Walker semifinalist last season who rushed for a conference-best 1,767 yards and 17 touchdowns. Add to that a new-look Steward Butler - who has added bulk and power this spring - plus another couple of solid backs in Remi Watson and Tony Pittman, and there are plenty of reasons to keep the ball on the ground.

"We've got guys like Devon and Butler and they're fantastic," Johansson said. "Why not run the ball? Let's go for it."

Though the holes may look a little wider this spring, Marshall's devotion to dominant run blocking is nothing new. As important as the running game might be this fall, that devotion isn't just a tradition, Mirabal said. It's a requirement.

"We're demanding of it," he said, "and that's something that none of us on the coaching staff will compromise on."

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Marshall visits WVU, new baseball stadium Tuesday http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429883 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429883 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:11:33 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The recent upturn in the Marshall baseball team’s fortunes have a bit to do with the body and a bit to do with the mind. The Thundering Herd is on one of its better streaks of a tough season, and things are looking up for the Herd at an opportune time.

Marshall heads north Tuesday to face West Virginia at 4 p.m. at Monongalia County Ballpark. It’s the first of two games the Herd and Mountaineers will play this season, the second coming at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 28 at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston.

The Herd (13-25, 6-12 Conference USA) fell to Old Dominion in its last game, 6-2, but not before taking the first two games of that series. It was the second straight three-game series Marshall has captured, the first time the Herd has done that this year. Marshall hadn’t taken a three-game series prior to that since winning two of three from George Mason on March 7-8.

Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said improved health was a key component in that bounce.

“Our Friday (pitcher) Chase Boster has been back,” Waggoner said. “He’s been out most of the season and he’s thrown really well his last two Friday nights. Getting him back has been really big.”

Boster threw six innings in a 5-1 win over Charlotte on April 10, then threw a career-high 8 1/3 innings in a 6-1 win Friday over Old Dominion. The junior’s return has helped spark another aspect of Marshall’s rebound, its confidence.

“Like anything else in the game, you string together some hits, get some great at-bats and your offense starts to grow,” Waggoner said. “You get good starting pitching to go late in the game, that’s going to help you not max out your bullpen and give you opportunities to win.”

Sandwiching a loss at Akron between those two series, Marshall has won four of its last seven games. That hadn’t happened for the Herd since it won four of seven from Feb. 27 to March 8.

The Herd batted .323 over those seven games to raise its season average to a middle-of-the-C-USA-pack .272. Junior infielder Aaron Bossi leads Marshall, and is third in the conference, with a .375 batting average. A utility infielder, he had started five games at catcher and three at designated hitter before starting the last eight at second base.

Marshall’s pitching is an issue, despite holding the Monarchs to a single run in both of the Herd’s wins this past weekend. Marshall still sits next to last in Conference USA in earned run average, at 5.04. That’s not a good thing with the high-powered Mountaineers lineup looming.

WVU leads the Big 12 in slugging percentage (.431) and home runs (37). The Mountaineers sport the league’s No. 2 hitter — Kyle Davis with a .368 average — and top home run hitter — Taylor Munden with eight.

Waggoner said hitting isn’t WVU’s only strong suit.

“Their pitching staff pitches down in the zone,” Waggoner said. “(WVU coach Randy) Mazey does a good job with those guys. They play good defense and they pitch. Those two things, keeping the ball down and playing good defense, will help you win a lot of games.”

West Virginia (22-15, 5-7 Big 12) has slumped a bit in its last four, losing three of them. After falling to Penn State last Tuesday, the Mountaineers lost two of three at home to then-No. 23 Oklahoma. The last loss was a 10-2 setback where the Sooners scored nine unanswered runs over the fifth and sixth innings.

As much as the Herd awaits Tuesday’s game at WVU, the team has to temper that excitement with the knowledge that a crucial conference series with C-USA leader Middle Tennessee starts Friday. The Mountaineers will host a series with Big 12 foe Kansas on Friday as well.

“Both teams are trying to fight to get into the (conference) tournament, and that’s the important part,” Waggoner said. “You’re balancing your pitching, knowing you’ve got an important weekend series coming up. Even though this is a big game for us, the bigger prize is conference play, and (Mazey) will tell you the same thing.”

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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Herd's Curraj feeling better, kicking better this spring http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429887 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150420/DM03/150429887 Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:07:44 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Amoreto Curraj's leg is one of the strongest in college football. But his back wasn't letting him show it.

Bulging discs in his back forced Marshall's kickoff specialist to sit the entire 2014 season, and it smarted being a spectator to the Thundering Herd's 13-1, Conference USA title-winning campaign. Curraj is healthy again, though, and is trying to add another skill to his repertoire.

Kickoffs had been a problem for Marshall in 2012, but Curraj's arrival from Leto High in Tampa, Fla., changed that. In 2013, he ranked fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 52 touchbacks, only three kicks sailing out of bounds.

But those bulging discs started hampering his kicking abilities. Curraj said they bulged outward, and when he would bend forward and kick, it would hit his sciatic nerve.

"It would cause pain down the leg and all that kind of stuff," he said.

Curraj was able to dodge back surgery, but missed all of last season. Kaare Vedvik filled in admirably, kicking 45 touchbacks, the 15th-best total in the FBS last year, but eight of his kicks ended up out of bounds.

As much as his back hurt, it hurt just as much to miss the 2014 season. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound redshirt sophomore could only live vicariously through his teammates as they embarked upon one of the most successful seasons in Marshall history. He would have loved to have a hand in that success outside of moral support.

"It was awful, especially with the season we had and not being able to say I contributed," he said of sitting out.

To return to the field, Curraj needed to improve his flexibility. He credits strength coach Scott Sinclair and head trainer Tim Pike for the significant progress he's made there. It's not only helped his form, but has eased the pain in his back.

"Now I'm a completely different kicker," Curraj said. "I've gotten a lot better and a lot more flexible. I'm smoother to the ball, with more control. I'm calm.

"Back doing kickoffs, I just wanted to crush the ball," he added. "Now I try to keep all my strength built up to the last second and go smooth into it. I don't look up, I keep my form and getting flexible helped a lot."

That improved form has led to improved results in kicking field goals. Nick Smith entered the spring as the No. 1 field goal kicker, but Curraj is giving him a battle. On Saturday, Curraj was 4 for 5, hitting field goals of 37, 42, 43 and 49 yards, missing from 44. Smith went 3 for 5, good from 37, 43 and 44 and missing from 42 and 49.

Assistant coach Todd Goebbel, hired in February, only has worked with Marshall's special teams players this spring, but he can tell Curraj has dedicated himself to improving his fundamentals, and that has manifested itself in better consistency in his field goal kicking.

"Usually a kickoff guy isn't extremely fundamentally sound, but has a strong leg," Goebbel said. "When you're a field goal kicker, you've got to be fundamentally sound. Your takeaway's got to be good. You're tempo's got to be good and there's very little room for error.

"The one thing he's done is he's taken to his drill work in individuals a lot more seriously, in my opinion," he added. "I think it's been a little more regimented in what he's done daily. I think his preparation has been extremely good."

While the Herd is happy to have Curraj back as a kickoff man, he's excited at the opportunity to compete with Smith for the field goal job. He knows, though, it won't be easy to pull Smith off that top spot.

"To be honest, field goals have always been my number one thing," Curraj said. "That's what I'm going for the hardest. But you can't knock anyone down. Nick's a great kicker. Kaare's a great kicker. When it comes to kickoffs and field goals, it's up for grabs for anyone."

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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Herd slips Sunday at Old Dominion http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150419/DM03/150419202 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150419/DM03/150419202 Sun, 19 Apr 2015 21:54:39 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

NORFOLK, Va. - Marshall baseball (13-25, 6-12 C-USA) was held to three hits as the Herd was unable to get the sweep, dropping Sunday's contest to Old Dominion (18-21, 6-12 C-USA) 6-2. Marshall did however get the series win, with Friday (6-1) and Saturday (5-1) victories.

This is the second straight C-USA series Marshall has won, after taking two-of-three games from Charlotte last weekend.

Sophomore Corey Bird, junior DJ Gee and senior TJ Diffenderfer all reached bases with singles in the first inning.

The Monarchs' sophomore southpaw Adam Bainbridge tossed a complete game in the ODU win, picking up six strikeouts with no walks.

The Herd led things off quickly, as Bird smacked the first pitch of the game back up the middle for a single. Gee then moved him up on his own single, and Bird crossed the plate with Diffenderfer's hit through the right side.

A sacrifice fly from junior Aaron Bossi scored Gee for the Herd's second, and ultimately final, run of the day.

Walks paired with timely hits proved to be the Herd's doom, as Marshall gave nine free passes during the contest and five of ODU's nine hits were for extra-bases. The Monarchs cut the Herd lead in half with a run in the first, then took their first lead of the series in the third inning with two more runs. ODU crossed the plate again in the fifth, and two more times in the seventh to reach the 6-2 result.

Marshall will next be in action Tuesday, traveling north to Morgantown to face in-state rival West Virginia at the brand new Monongalia County Ballpark. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.

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Marshall QB race heads into the home stretch http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150419/DM03/150419205 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150419/DM03/150419205 Sun, 19 Apr 2015 21:41:32 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall football coaches haven't officially called the race for the Thundering Herd's next starting quarterback, but they called Saturday's scrimmage an important leg that will help them decide on a new No. 1 by the end of spring practice.

That end comes Saturday in the annual Green and White spring game, kicking off at 2 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Offensive coordinator Bill Legg said what he saw Saturday from his quarterbacks will go a long way toward that final evaluation.

"This one will be big," Legg said of Saturday's scrimmage. "The last one kind of set a rotation for this week. This one will kind of give us an initial depth chart going into the last week, with the whole idea that the spring game will kind of be the temporary stamp."

That rotation Saturday began with James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong, last season's scout team quarterback. Gunnar Holcombe, last season's backup to Marshall career passing leader Rakeem Cato, followed. Then came freshman Chase Litton. Redshirt freshman Cole Garvin did not take a snap.

Birdsong completed 14 of 24 passes Saturday for 141 yards. That followed his 7-for-11, 87-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception performance two Saturdays ago at the Herd's scrimmage at the Greenbrier.

The 6-foot-5, 242-pound redshirt junior felt that familiarity allowed him to post better numbers in his second scrimmage.

"It's another week in the system," Birdsong said. "And when you spend another week in the system, you get a lot more acclimated and comfortable with the receivers and everything. So, yeah, it was much better this week."

Birdsong has a year in Marshall's football program, but only a limited time in the Herd's offensive system. As the scout team quarterback, he had to learn a new opponent's offense each week to run against Marshall's defense. Now that he's operating Marshall's offense, Legg said he's come a long way in a short time.

"Mike, obviously, has had the larger volume of improvement, but that's because he had a larger way to go," Legg said. "He was new to the program and new to the system. He had more distance to go to get where he needed to go."

Birdsong's main goal for the final week of spring is to continue getting better acquainted not just with the offense, but with the other players running it.

"I'd say just getting comfortable with the team, learning how to lead these guys compared to the other team I led, and just getting comfortable in the offense and really become a part of the team again," Birdsong said. "I was scout team last year, and I really kind of felt like an outcast. Now, it's really starting to melt in."

Holcombe posted the big totals at the Greenbrier, completing 14 of 25 passes for 154 yards and running for three touchdowns. He wasn't as prolific Saturday, completing just seven of 21 passes for 111 yards, a touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Most of his yards came from his 65-yard scoring strike to tight end Kaleb Harris.

Holcombe feels confident he can make big plays, and has shown that skill throughout the spring. He still wants to make them more often and provide more highlights than mistakes.

"I think I needed to be more consistent," the 6-3, 208-pound Holcombe said. "I think I am more consistent. I have some struggles sometimes, like today. I thought I made some good plays today and struggled a little bit, so I just need to work on some consistency."

Litton, who enrolled in January to participate in spring, has recorded some big totals working behind Birdsong and Holcombe. Over two scrimmages, he has completed 21 of 34 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Legg said the 6-6, 207-pound Litton has shown plenty of talent, but is still has to mature as a collegiate passer.

"My big thing, at the end of the day, is, whether I play you or don't play you, regardless of starting or backup or whatever, there's a trust factor," Legg said. "I have to trust that, every single time you step on the field, you have complete command of whatever it is you're doing.

"I'd say (he's) exceptional for a true freshman who just got in here in January, but not quite all the way there yet," he added. "But he's doing some really good stuff."

Every quarterback who takes snaps in this final week can improve his timing, Legg said. All Marshall's signal-callers perform well when the timing is on. When it's off, that's when things, in Legg's words, get "discombobulated." He wants the quarterbacks to remember that timing sometimes goes awry because the defense makes it so. Proper footwork - not taking a cheat step when dropping back or throwing - should keep timing consistent.

The most consistent quarterback will win the job - at least for now. While Marshall will have a designated starter coming out of the spring session, it may not be etched in stone. It may not even be written in pen.

The starter through the summer won't stay the starter if he doesn't work at it.

"The reality is, those first two weeks of camp, you have to come back in with a competitive mentality to take total control of whatever your job is," Legg said. "And if you're not happy with your position in life, then you have time over the summer to work, to settle in and fix the things that need to be fixed, so the first two weeks of camp, you can come out and really have a competitive level of performance that may allow you to move."

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's Huskey looks to build off late-season breakout http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150416/DM03/150419360 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150416/DM03/150419360 Thu, 16 Apr 2015 22:55:09 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Raheim Huskey held his coming-out party under some of the brightest lights the Marshall football team experienced last season. The then-freshman linebacker dominated for the Thundering Herd as it won its first Conference USA title against Louisiana Tech.

Now Huskey wants to keep the party going. He wants to show everyone that his breakout game wasn't a one-time affair.

"Coaches aren't going to expect nothing less from this from now on," Huskey said. "They're going to expect the most from me, to give a great performance every game.

That performance against the Bulldogs was by far his best of the season - eight tackles, 2.5 for a loss, with two sacks and a forced fumble. It accounted for a third of his total tackles for the season and all of his tackles for loss and sacks.

"Huskey had 45 production points and that guy still had his red stripe on his damn helmet," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said the Monday after that title game, referencing the red stripe on practice helmets that signified newcomers.

Though that game highlighted his freshman resume, his youth often showed. Of the 12 games outside of that title game, he recorded just 16 tackles. Linebackers coach Adam Fuller said performances like that in the C-USA championship happened less frequently than he would have liked, especially since it was obvious he had the talent.

"Last season was who he was," Fuller said. "He doesn't show up, then blocks a punt. Doesn't show up, then has an outstanding championship game. Why wasn't that throughout the year? Because he was young and immature.

"He really didn't know how to do it every day," Fuller added, "and now he's starting to do that, just by the way he practices. He consistently shows up and each day you know what you're getting."

Consistency comes from mental toughness, Fuller said. It's doing what's right for everyone else when it's not right for you. It's playing well on days you don't feel great, in a sport where feeling great is sporadic as best.

Marshall's linebacker room was among the hardest hit by graduation. It didn't just lose starters like 2014 C-USA defensive player of the year Neville Hewitt and Jermaine Holmes. Losing key reserves like Cortez Carter and Raheem Waiters left a void as well.

Huskey, a Gaffney, S.C., native, wants to help fill that void. He's a little bigger than last season, up from 209 pounds to 218 on his 6-foot-2 frame. Yet improving his physical stature isn't enough. Huskey wants to improve his stature as a teammate.

"You have to be a leader," he said. "You have to step up. You can't make this mistake and that mistake. You have to just become a leader and play a good role."

Fuller feels Huskey has some of the components that can help a leadership role grow. There also are areas where he still can grow, steadiness being top among them.

"He's got the charisma to him and he's got the ability to make plays, and that usually goes a long way toward being a leader," Fuller said. "You've got to do what you say, so what are you saying you're going to do?

Huskey said he wants to be dependable. He wants to parlay his growth in strength into a larger role among Marshall's linebackers. He wants his teammates to know that breakout game could become the norm.

"I just want to get a little bigger, faster and stronger and just be in a position to help my team," he said. "That's pretty much all I'm trying to do. When my number's called, just go out there and make a 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 hoops signs Don Bosco Prep forward http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/DM03/150419476 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20150415/DM03/150419476 Wed, 15 Apr 2015 22:49:01 -0400

from staff reports

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's men's basketball team signed a big man that fits the team's profile under coach Dan D'Antoni on Wednesday, the first day players can sign this spring, inking Don Bosco Prep forward Aleksandar Dozic, a native of Montenegro.

"He has the ability to shoot with range and has a post presence," D'Antoni said. "He has a nice feel for the game, and he fits our style of play. I'm looking forward to working with him."

Dozic's signing continues D'Antoni's remaking of the Thundering Herd roster. The 6-foot-9, 220-pounder will be the sixth new face on the team next season. Marshall signed Christian Thieneman of Trinity High School in Louisville, Ky., in the early signing period. Marshall also will welcome Miami transfer James Kelly, Fairmont State transfer Stevie Browning, VMI transfer Jon Elmore, who will join the team after the end of the fall semester and C.J. Burks, who sat last season as an academic non-qualifier.

Dozic led Don Bosco Prep with 11 rebounds per game. He also averaged 18 points while shooting 52 percent from the field, 39 percent from 3-point range and 81 percent from the free-throw line. He also was a starter for Montenegro's U18 national team in the A Division of the European Championships.

Basketball players can sign letters of intent through Wednesday, May 20.

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