www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers 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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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."

n n n

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.

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."

n n n

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.

n n n

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.

n n n

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.

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."

n n n

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.

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.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FSU is AP's preseason No. 1; Marshall receives votes http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819328 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140817/DM03/140819328 Sun, 17 Aug 2014 16:37:57 -0400


Jameis Winston and defending national champion Florida State are No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason college football poll.

The Seminoles will start the season No. 1 for the sixth time - the first since 1999 when they became the first team to hold the top spot for the entire season.

Marshall received 41 combined points from the media voters, which placed the Thundering Herd in the "others receiving votes" category behind UCF, Florida, Texas, Duke, Iowa and Louisville. Marshall received the 32nd most points in the AP poll.

Florida State received 57 of 60 first-place votes Sunday from the media panel. No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 Oklahoma each received one first-place vote. Ohio State is No. 5 and Auburn is No. 6.

Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner last season as a redshirt freshman, led Florida State to a 34-31 victory against Auburn in the last BCS national championship game.

This season the Bowl Championship Series is being replaced by the College Football Playoff. A selection committee will pick the top four teams in the country for two national semifinals.

The rest of the top 10 is UCLA at No. 7, followed by Michigan State, South Carolina and Baylor.

The Southeastern Conference matched its own record for most teams in the preseason poll from one conference with eight. The Pac-12 is next with six, the best showing for that conference.

The AP preseason poll started in 1950 and since then 10 preseason No. 1 teams have gone on to finish the season ranked No. 1, including Florida State twice (1993 and '99).

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Stronger Roberts has sights set on standout senior season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819471 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819471 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:40:57 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall cornerback Darryl Roberts didn't even have to leave the weight room to widen the eyes of his Thundering Herd teammates.

The fifth-year senior positioned himself one summer day under the bench press bar. On that bar was 225 pounds, the weight NFL prospects lift at the annual draft combine. Over and over again, Roberts pushed that weight off his chest and into the air.

"I stopped counting after 11," senior receiver Tommy Shuler said.

Roberts doubled that, knocking out 22 reps at 225. That matched the top total among corners at the 2014 combine, set by Florida Atlantic's Keith Reaser and Florida's Jaylen Watkins. The 2014 draft's top pick, defensive end Jadaveon Clowney, only put up 21.

Since putting up that eye-popping number, Roberts has put that strength to good use on the football field. Teammates have noted his improved strength, which he hopes leads to an even more effective performance defending the pass this season.

According to Marshall's athletic website, those 22 reps tied former safety Okechukwu Okoroha for the team record among skill players. Roberts attributes it to Herd strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair. The second-year strength coach knows how to pump up his players as they enter the weight room, Roberts said, using his slogan "ATD" or "Attack the Day."

"He always gets us fired up," Roberts said, "so I've felt like ever since he got here, man, everybody on the team's mentality changed. Not just me. Their mindset changed to want to get better and want to do better."

Roberts, nicknamed "Swagg" by his teammates, has always considered his stamina one of is best traits, and one that's helped his lifting. He said he could put up 15 reps at 225 as a freshman and made incremental improvements each year after that. He reached 19 reps not long ago, hit the 20-rep barrier shortly after that, and tied the record a little while later.

While that number might have stunned some, fellow Marshall corner Keith Baxter knew it was coming.

"I said before he got under it he was going to hit 20," Baxter said. "Swagg's strong. He doesn't look like it, but he's a strong guy and I knew he was going to hit over 20."

Baxter said the energy that comes from recording a standout total like that becomes infectious, and it bleeds over into every aspect of preparation.

"It shows that, with him being the leader of our room, it just makes me want to reach a higher level every day," Baxter said.

Roberts, a Lakeland, Fla., native, already was a well-regarded corner in Conference USA. He rebounded from an ankle injury that cost him the entire 2012 season to earn honorable mention all-conference honors in 2013. A starter on the nation's most improved defense, Roberts finished with 58 tackles, the sixth-best total on the team. He recorded 37 in 2011.

He also finished with two interceptions and seven pass breakups, the Herd's second-best total. Roberts prides himself in his improved tackling and said both the added strength and the six or seven pounds he's gained with it helped with that. He also feels his strength has made him better in coverage, allowing him to jam receivers better than he has in the past.

"When we're working technique or when receivers try to run into you and push you off, I can feel a big improvement in that area of my game," Roberts said, "countering receivers when they try to throw me by and stuff like that."

Roberts' teammates among the receiving corps are finding out exactly what that extra power and weight means. As frustrated as they are when they can't shake him, it pleases them to know he'll be giving the same fits to everyone the Herd faces this season. They also know going head to head with him on the practice field will make them better when they try to break free from opposing defensive backs.

"If he can hold you for three seconds, the quarterback can't get you the ball," Shuler said. "A lot of receivers try to get open in about three seconds, and if he can hold you for three seconds and he's got a good jam technique ... Swagg's a great player.

"That's who I want to go against every day," Shuler added. "And the receivers see that and they want to go against him too."

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.

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Jean-Felix makes most out of first-team time http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819475 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140814/DM03/140819475 Thu, 14 Aug 2014 21:35:29 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - With starting right tackle Clint Van Horn still nursing an ankle injury, redshirt freshman Sandley Jean-Felix has stepped in with the first team.

The 6-foot-5, 323-pounder from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., is just happy to be back on the field. After he impressed coaches during the 2013 preseason, he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee during a game-week practice.

Jean-Felix said Van Horn may be hobbled, but he's been essential to Jean-Felix's growth over a short period of time.

"I was lost before him," Jean-Felix said. "He taught me a lot of things. He's been a great mentor to me on and off the field."

There are several veteran offensive linemen that should take credit for Jean-Felix's development, offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said. With coaches' time with players limited during the offseason, Van Horn, center Chris Jasperse and tackle Sebastian Johansson all took the time to get Jean-Felix up to speed following his injury.

"They're hard on him, now," Mirabal said. "They do not allow him one inch, and it's allowed him to get better faster. Their expectation level for him is a lot greater than they are for himself."

What helps the redshirt freshman is his super-sized wing span.

"Players come up to me all the time after practice and say, 'Man, Sandley, it's hard to get around you,'" Jean-Felix said. "It makes them better and makes me better."

Mirabal said top-end arm length for offensive tackles is 34 inches. Jean-Felix's arms measure 36 inches-plus.

"Length is everything," Mirabal said. "If you make a mistake, length allows you to get that extra shove, that extra push, that extra everything."

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VAN HORN WASN'T the only member of the walking wounded at Thursday's practice. Guards Blake Brooks and Michael Selby sat out another day, while running back Kevin Rodriguez, who hurt his arm in Wednesday's practice, was in a sling. Corner Darryl Roberts was in pads, but was limited. Receiver Justin Hunt was in uniform, but didn't practice, while Brandon Byrd, who suffered a concussion last week, was back on the field, but only in a helmet, jersey and shorts. Herd head coach Doc Holliday said Byrd was a day or two away from returning in full.

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THURSDAY'S PRACTICE was full of power running from 254-pound Devon Johnson and 200-pound Tony Pittman. Holliday said the change of pace in the backfield has been good to see.

"It's a little different than we've been in the past, a little more physical," he said. "Add Byrd, and that's a good combination. I like that we're physical, but you still have (Steward) Butler and Remi (Watson) who, of the have the opportunity to break some things."

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QUARTERBACK RAKEEM CATO was named to his fifth national watch list Thursday. The senior is one of 32 quarterbacks and 18 senior quarterbacks named to the watch list of the Manning Award, given annually by the Sugar Bowl to the nation's top college signal-caller. The award, named in honor of Archie Manning and his sons Peyton and Eli, is the only award that takes bowl performance into account, and is presented annually following the conclusion of bowl season.

Cato already has been named to the watch lists of the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards.

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HOLLIDAY WILL appear at a breakfast on Monday, Aug. 25 at 7 a.m. at First State Bank, 3754 Teays Valley Road in Hurricane. To RSVP, call Doug Wallace, assistant director of development with the Big Green Scholarship Fund at 304-696-5428.

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TICKET SALES for Thursday's "Paint the Capital City Green" event at the Embassy Suites on Court St. close today. Individual tickets are $60 and Marshall faculty and staff can receive a discounted rate of $30 with a limit of two per faculty/staff member.

Holliday and Marshall senior players will attend the indoor pep rally, which will include food and entertainment by the Marshall University pep band and cheerleaders. Call 304-696-7138 or e-mail paintthecapital@marshall.edu to order tickets. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.

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.

Derek Redd: Tight end job is firmly in Frohnapfel's hands http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819602 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819602 Wed, 13 Aug 2014 22:06:58 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Eric Frohnapfel is stripping away a lot of qualifiers to his job title this fall.

For the first three years of his Marshall football career, he was the lanky backup tight end with a keen sense of humor. This year, he's working on simply being the tight end.

Gator Hoskins - the two-time all-Conference USA first-teamer and setter of several Marshall records - is with the NFL's Miami Dolphins. Devon Johnson, who shared reserve tight end duties with Frohnapfel last season, is now a running back. The three tight ends behind him have caught a total of one collegiate pass.

It's Frohnapfel's job now, not just to be the leader on the field, but in the meeting room, too. He feels some comfort knowing the Marshall staff has that faith in him.

"I feel more trusted," he said. "I feel like (quarterback Rakeem) Cato trusts me, that (offensive coordinator Bill) Legg trusts me and that (tight ends coach Todd) Hartley trusts me. It's just about showing them why they trust me."

He also understands his football life will be a lot different this season.

"Before, I had the safety net of, 'Well, Gator's the starter,'" Frohnapfel said.

Fewer safety nets were as secure. In his last two seasons, Hoskins became Marshall's top red-zone receiving threat. He scored 25 touchdowns in that span and led the Thundering Herd in touchdown catches in both 2012 and 2013. His 28 total touchdown catches are the most by a tight end and third-most of any Marshall receiver in team history.

Now all that is, is history. Frohnapfel is now the most experienced tight end remaining, and the player looked upon to carry the load.

"Now, if I play bad, that's a real bad deal," he said. "It's added pressure, but I just have to embrace it and just keep getting better."

Some of that improvement came in a stouter frame. Frohnapfel grew from 225 pounds to 235 pounds. That doesn't just mean more bulk to push around on the line. It also helped increase his maximum squat by 70 pounds, his power clean by 30 pounds and his bench press by 20 pounds. Now he can do more pushing around himself.

That new weight complements his 6-foot-6 height and the wingspan that comes with it. Cato knows he can put a pass high over the middle, in a place where Frohnapfel can catch it, but a linebacker or safety can't.

He also must fill the leadership void at tight end, something Hartley has presented him with this season.

"I challenged him, 'Hey, look, I know you're not this big, loud, boisterous voice, but you can lead by example and you can lead by patting somebody on the butt and getting them going.'" Hartley said.

There are rah-rah, in-your-face leaders and there are those who lead by doing. Hoskins began as a doer, but ended with a leadership resume that included a permanent captaincy on a 10-win, Military-Bowl-championship team. Frohnapfel is a good-natured guy who knows how to mine for a laugh, as his Twitter feed often shows. But he said the best way for him to guide the rest of the tight ends is through his actions.

"I feel I have to come out and be the role model for these guys and play at a high level," Frohnapfel said. "That's something that Gator was good at. He was a really good practice player. And as I continue on, I have to continue to show these guys that this is how we do it.

Frohnapfel caught just seven passes as a reserve last season, but it's seven times more than the rest of the tight end room has caught in the sum of their careers. Former walk-on Joe Woodrum caught one pass in 2013. Converted receiver Deon-Tay McManus and true freshman Ryan Yurachek round out the depth chart.

Among those seven catches were two touchdowns, a scoring ratio of about 29 percent. That's pretty similar to Hoskins' scoring ratio of 15 touchdowns among 50 catches, or 30 percent.

Whether Frohnapfel can continue to match that ratio the more Cato targets him remains to be seen, but Frohnapfel knows that, as the most well-versed tight end on the roster, he has to give it his best shot. He's waited his entire career to be "the tight end" at Marshall. Now is his chance.

"I have to play like that's who I am," he said.

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Injuries allow reserves to run with first team offensive line http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819603 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140813/DM03/140819603 Wed, 13 Aug 2014 22:05:37 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - For much of last season, Marshall's starting offensive line was a crew of ironmen. They rarely came of the field. Some of them never did.

Thanks to the bumps and bruises of preseason camp, three of the Thundering Herd's projected starters were spectators for Wednesday's practices. Guards Blake Brooks and Michael Selby weren't in uniform. Selby had his bell rung in Tuesday's practice and Brooks' injury was unspecified. Clint Van Horn (ankle) was in uniform but didn't practice.

That allowed tackle Sandley Jean-Louis and guards Trevor Mendelson and Cody Collins to get plenty of work with first-teamers Chris Jasperse at center and Sebastian Johansson at left tackle.

Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said getting reserves time on the starting line this early in camp reminds them that the tap on the shoulder and call to enter the game can come at any time, and it's their fault if they're not ready.

"No matter what happens, practice is not going to be canceled and we're going to play on Aug. 30," Mirabal said. "So like I told them today and I tell them every time we come out here, you 10 right here are the first and second team. If we play tomorrow, this is who we go with. All those other guys, for whatever reason, who are sitting out, we're going with you guys."

Mendelson mentioned another benefit, getting up-close, in-action tutelage from an all-Conference USA first teamer like Jasperse and an entrenched starter like Johansson.

"Any time you get to run with guys who have experience like that and to go up against great teammates like (defensive lineman) James Rouse, it's invaluable experience that's really going to help on game day," he said. "It's just building confidence and rhythm, and that's something that'll help me down the road."

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REDSHIRT JUNIOR Deandre Reaves has moved from slot receiver to outside receiver, and Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said a surplus of inside wideouts allowed coaches to make the change with Reaves.

"I felt like we had three or four guys we think could play inside, so we wanted to take a look at him outside, and we went out there a day or so ago and did well," Holliday said. "He seems like he's playing a little faster and not thinking as much."

Reaves, the Herd's primary kick returner, was used sparingly at receiver last season, catching six passes for 42 yards. He said there aren't many differences in moving from the slot to the outside, mainly less time and space to juke past a defender.

"On the outside, you have to use more speed," Reaves said, "where, on the inside, you can play around a little bit and dance a little bit because you're more in space."

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THERE'S A measure of relief that comes with finally earning a scholarship, as former walk-on tight end Joe Woodrum learned this season.

"It's definitely a huge relief," the redshirt junior from Bluefield said. "It's a little bit of a burden lifted off your shoulders. My goal here is to play and I have to keep my eyes set on that goal."

Woodrum has played mostly special teams during his Herd tenure. He caught one pass in a game last season. But Marshall has a penchant of using more than one tight end in a game. Gator Hoskins, Eric Frohnapfel and Devon Johnson all caught passes at that position last season and only Frohnapfel returns to tight end from that crew.

Woodrum entered this preseason with increased confidence from a strong spring. It was bolstered, he said, by the knowledge that Marshall's coaches deem him worthy of a scholarship.

"It helps a little bit," he said. "You know you have earned it. But it's also like, you have earned it, but nothing has really changed. You have to keep pushing forward. You have to take one day at a time, practice as hard as you can and just stay at it."

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THE HERD was ranked 25th in Sports Illustrated's preseason top 25 poll, released Wednesday. Marshall is the only entrant in that poll from outside the five high-visibility conferences. That poll isn't the only place Marshall can be found in the top 25. Phil Steele ranked the Herd 19th in his magazine's preseason top 40. USA Today, which has ranked every Football Bowl Subdivision team and released one place per day, has not yet mentioned the Herd and announced Duke as its No. 24 team on Wednesday.

Marshall found itself outside of the top 25 of the preseason Amway coaches poll, but did receive votes. The Associated Press sportswriters poll will be released Sunday.

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.

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Smith giving Haig at run for kicker's job http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819713 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819713 Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:35:37 -0400 By Derek Redd

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Despite Marshall kicker Justin Haig's status as a fifth-year senior and two-year starter, he isn't taking his spot on the team for granted.

Not with redshirt freshman Nick Smith having a solid preseason of booting field goals, that is.

Both Haig and Smith have enjoyed a good first few practices. On Tuesday, both were good from 47 yards. Haig said they're both trying to keep it business as usual.

"We both just try to focus on making field goals," Haig said. "That's what our job is. It is what it is, as far as competition goes, but I'm out here trying to make kicks."

He's made plenty over the last two seasons, and some important ones at that. In 2012, he connected on a 45-yarder with seven seconds left to beat Houston, 44-41. It was his second field goal of the fourth quarter and third of that game.

Last season, he nailed a 41-yarder with just six seconds left to give Marshall a 24-23 win over Florida Atlantic, a university that sat just down the street from Haig's high-school alma mater, American Heritage School in Delray Beach. In two seasons as Marshall's kicker, he's made 24 of 32 field goals, including six of seven between 40 and 49 yards.

Over the summer, he spent some time with the rest of Marshall's kickers at a kicking camp. Otherwise, he has focused on improving his body.

"It'd be more towards my body - stretching, running more, trying to take better care of my body, eating healthier," he said.

Haig, standing 5-foot-7, said he came to Marshall in 2010 weighing 168 pounds, but jumped to 195 pounds two spring seasons ago. He cut down to 180 pounds this past spring and said he weighs in around 174 now. He'd like to remain at that weight and can feel the benefits from it.

"I think it does help me quite a bit, to be honest," Haig said. "Your body's in more shape. Your muscles are in better shape. It all kind of goes hand in hand. Especially what you put in your body, it affects how you perform."

Smith hasn't been intimidated by Haig's credentials. He considers this preseason a competition. He's also seen how Marshall coaches haven't been bashful in playing freshmen worthy of the opportunity.

"They say they don't care what age you are, if you're a freshman or if you're a walk-on," he said. "If you come in here and play well, compete and do the right things, you absolutely have a chance to play."

Marshall coach Doc Holliday has seen the strides both have made in these first few practices, and said that's what competition can bring out of players.

"They've gotten better, and it's a good competition right now," he said. "The kickers are no different than anyone else when they're competing for a job. You find out what they're all about."

The 5-10, 168-pound Smith isn't as focused on building his body this preseason as he is making sure he has a consistent leg.

"At this point, you're not really going to get much stronger," he said. "Your body can only kick so far. I think the biggest thing I've been working on is becoming perfect, being as consistent as I possibly can, because that's what they're looking for, to get three points when they need it."

While Smith has Haig's in-game experience to contend with, something he doesn't have in the college ranks, the graduate of Alder High School in Plain City, Ohio, appreciates what going toe-to-toe with Haig has meant. Even if he doesn't usurp Haig this season, the job is open in 2015 after Haig graduates and battling him now can boost him into that season.

"I think competition is always good, because back in high school, I didn't have that," he said. "You don't have anything driving you. Now I have extra motivation to perform well on the big stages."

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.

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: McManus making change to TE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819719 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140812/DM03/140819719 Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:26:00 -0400 By Derek Redd

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Deon-Tay McManus entered college football as a four-star wide receiver with an original destination of West Virginia University. Both the landing spot, and the position, changed.

Now McManus will enter the 2014 season at Marshall University as a tight end after sitting out 2013 as an academic non-qualifier. As highly touted he was as a receiver out of Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Md., he's taken to his new role.

"It's a big transition, but as an athlete, it's something I have to grasp and take day by day," McManus said. "We use the tight end a lot in the offense, so that's a big role for me."

Thundering Herd tight ends aren't solely blockers in Marshall's offense, made obvious with former tight end Gator Hoskins' production. The current Miami Dolphin caught 15 touchdowns last season for the Herd. Yet McManus understands blocking remains important.

It's why he's made an effort to add mass to his frame. He left high school at 209 pounds. He weighs in now at 227 pounds.

"It's not all about just running the routes and catching the ball," he said. "A big part of this offense with the tight end is blocking. Coming from the outside and moving to the inside, first of all, I had to get my weight up, because I was a little pup going against defensive ends and linebackers.

"But I also had to understand my blocking schemes and technique and understanding I have to get dirty sometimes," he added.

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RESERVE QUARTERBACK Gunnar Holcombe was on the run a bit behind his offensive line near the end of practice. The defense had him scrambling, but Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said he liked what he saw from the redshirt sophomore on Tuesday.

"I think he's starting to come along the way he needs to," Holliday said. "He's got the ability to throw the ball. He can make all the throws. I think the biggest thing we were looking for was to make better decisions and the right decisions, which I think he did a great job of today."

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FIFTH-YEAR senior Trevor Mendelson got some snaps with the first team offensive line at right guard after starter Michael Selby got his bell rung and stayed on the sideline.

"That happens," Holliday said. "You're at camp and you're going to get that. They'll be fine."

Elsewhere on the offensive line injury front, starting right tackle Clint Van Horn was in uniform, but still wore a brace on his right ankle and did not participate. Redshirt junior Tom Collins was not in uniform and still wearing a brace on his right leg, but was not on crutches.

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HOLLIDAY MENTIONED several freshmen he felt had performed well in the first few days of practice - receivers Emmanuel Beal, Gator Green and Hyleck Foster, plus defensive lineman Tomell One. He said several in his freshman class could play right away, and if they do, the should expect to see plenty of action.

"When we play freshmen, they're going to play a lot," Holliday said. "When we make a decision, they're going to play on special teams and also play, we'll play them. The freshmen we play will play significant time.

"The important thing is, it's a tough game and a long season," he added. "Where I don't want to make a mistake is, if a kid is good enough to help us win and you try to redshirt him and you get to the eighth game of the year and he has to play, he could have been playing the other eight games. If you make a decision to play him, just play him."

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.

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: McKelvey focused on getting better http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140811/DM03/140819824 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140811/DM03/140819824 Mon, 11 Aug 2014 22:06:44 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - College football saw last year what a healthy Evan McKelvey could do for the Marshall University defense.

He led the most improved defense in the country in tackles, recording 97 over 14 games. That was good enough to finish 13th in Conference USA in tackles per game. Looking back over his 2013 season, the senior linebacker saw plenty of missed opportunities, too.

"I looked at film and knew there were a lot of plays I didn't make and I know I should have made," he said. "There's a lot of things I know now. In playing the position and having experience at it, I know I can do more things and make more plays."

The 6-foot-1, 211-pound linebacker was just happy to be back on the field last season. His 2012 campaign was cut short after less than three full games. Covering a kickoff against Ohio, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and his meniscus.

He didn't miss a step once he returned last season. On top of his team-best tackle total, he added five tackles for a loss, an interception and three pass breakups.

"I've come a long way, man," he said.

And he's quick to credit plenty of his teammates for his resurgence. Many of them are on the offense, and the list includes some marquee names. There is a trio of all-Conference USA first-teamers - center Chris Jasperse, receiver Tommy Shuler and quarterback Rakeem Cato.

"You don't understand how big of a role Jasperse has," McKelvey said. "I'm in front of him a lot of the time. He's a good player. When he's blocking me, if I can get off of him, I can get off of anyone in the country. Then you have Cato back there and Shuler, and when I'm guarding Shuler, I'm guarding one of the best wide receivers in the country. That makes me better every day."

He also credits another all-C-USA first-teamer, defensive tackle James Rouse. His ability to dominate the trenches made patrolling the second level of the defense a much smoother ride.

"As long as I know I've got Rouse right there," McKelvey said, "he makes my job a whole lot easier."

McKelvey also points to a former Herd defender for his guidance, his older brother Omar Brown, now a safety with the Baltimore Ravens. Brown was a first-team all-C-USA as a Marshall senior, and McKelvey said Brown's advice has been instrumental in his growth as both a player and person.

Marshall coaches are quick to point out that McKelvey owes a lot of his success to his own talent. Linebackers coach Adam Fuller said McKelvey's athleticism and knack for finding the football make him essential to the defense.

"I don't know what his clock is when they measure times, but he plays football as fast as anybody we have," Fuller said. "He knocks people back. Whatever he is - 220 (pounds), 205 or whatever between that - whoever he touches go backwards. He's a knee-bending, explosive knock-back player. He's got a knack to get off blocks."

Fuller said McKelvey's leadership comes mostly from his play. While a cheerful teammate who isn't bashful off the field, he becomes quieter and more introverted once the enters the game.

"It's just a focus level," Fuller said. "He locks in. He's a smart football player. His mind's turning and those wheels are turning. He plays really smart. How do you define leaders? He helps us win football games."

McKelvey is trying to become more of a vocal leader now that he's a senior. He enjoys the opportunity to guide younger players and offer them a perspective from someone in the middle of the action. His primary goal is to fill in the gaps in his game and to make the most of the opportunities he'll see.

"If I start having success, then the person beside me will start having success," McKelvey said, "because it works as a team 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

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Williams adjusts to new role at DT http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140811/DM03/140819826 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140811/DM03/140819826 Mon, 11 Aug 2014 22:04:58 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Before this past spring, Ricardo Williams' tenure at defensive tackle was limited to a few snaps at Homestead High School in Florida. The vast majority of his high school career, and his time at the University of Miami, was spent at defensive end.

But what used to be a dalliance is now an occupation for the redshirt junior. He's moved in to tackle and is now learning what football life is like in the heart of the defensive line.

At 255 pounds, he's not the typical weight for a defensive lineman, even at Marshall, where tackles often are lighter. James Rouse checks in at 271 pounds. Jarquez Samuel weighs 273 pounds and Steve Dillon tips the scales at 284 pounds.

Williams would like to finish his college career at 285 pounds, and will make sure that weight gain is done the right way.

"I see it like this," he said. "If I set a goal, I have to get there, period. I just lift, drink Muscle Milk and try to eat more calories a day. I also try to do ab work. I'm not just going to eat a lot. I'll be running with it, doing ab work with it and lifting with it."

The 6-foot-5 Williams can counter his slighter frame with his length. Plus, he said being lighter has its advantages.

"Inside, I'm quicker," he said. "They won't put their hands on me."

He admits there are some drawbacks, too.

"I'm not used to getting double teamed," he said. "Inside, you get double teamed, you have guys trying to push you out. Overall, though, I'm fine with it. I feel like, if you stay low, you can hold your ground."

He's had a pretty good on-field mentor in Rouse, the preseason Conference USA defensive player of the year, and said figuring out the nuances of the position has allowed him to overcome any disadvantages.

"I learned the technique and how to defeat it, and it felt so much better," he said. "Once I learned more, it became easier."

n n n

THE HERD looked like it might have an afternoon session washed away by rain. The team headed inside soon after they jogged out to the Joan C. Edwards Stadium turf, but the weather cleared in time for them to return.

That won't be a problem much longer. Marshall coach Doc Holliday hopes the team will be able to use the new indoor athletic complex by the first week of the season.

"I was asking if we could possibly get in there (Monday), but they wouldn't agree to it, I guess," he said. "It's going to make it so much easier. If you miss a practice, you only get so many opportunities. So it's going to be great when you don't have to worry about it and just go inside."

n n n

HOLLIDAY CONFIRMED that tight end Joe Woodrum and offensive lineman Tom Collins both went on scholarship after serving as walk-ons. Collins spent the afternoon on crutches and a leg in a brace, but Holliday said he should be all right. He also said the coaches are taking their time with kicker Amoreto Curraj, who also has been working through an injury and Holliday said they didn't want to overkick him in the preseason. Curraj kicked 52 touchbacks last season.

n n n

JEROME DEWS' odyssey around the Marshall defense has taken him to every level of the unit.

Considered a three-star outside linebacker coming out of Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, Md., Dews started out among the Thundering Herd's safeties. He then spent some time at linebacker, played a little more safety, and now he's moved to defensive end.

Ends coach Sean Cronin said the move might look odd, but anyone who saw the former University of Tennessee commitment's high school film knows he's quite capable.

"He had like 26 sacks his senior year in high school," Dews said. "He wanted to try those positions and we let him. Wherever he can help us, we just want to get him on the field and do what's best for him. We tried him at those other positions, but now we think he's exactly where we hoped he'd be.

"I think he's embraced it," Cronin said, "and I think he's going to be a dynamic pass rusher."

At 190 pounds, he's a light pass rusher right now. Yet as a freshman, he has room to grow. To compare, defensive end Gary Thompson is 243 pounds and end Ra'Shawde Myers is 252 pounds. Players with those pass rushing skills can do plenty, Cronin said, and his new teammates have seen plenty.

During the 6-foot-4 freshman's work with the safeties, sophomore A.J. Leggett, a Conference USA all-freshman selection last season, marveled at Dews' skills.

"That's probably one of the most athletic guys I've seen yet," Leggett said. "Watching the film, he's amazing coming off the end."

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.

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Offensive line's intangibles a catalyst to its improvement http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140810/DM03/140819913 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140810/DM03/140819913 Sun, 10 Aug 2014 21:30:33 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - There's a story Marshall football coach Doc Holliday often likes to tell. It starts out rough, but has a happy ending.

There was a point early in his tenure with the Thundering Herd that he despised going into the offensive line's meeting room. How those linemen played infuriated him that much.

Entering the 2014 season, Holliday's opinion has screeched into reverse. He points to that group as one of the major reasons that Marshall's offense has become one of the most explosive in college football. And while much of that has to do with how those players perform on the field, players and coaches alike are very quick to mention what happens away from the field as a catalyst to that success.

Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal easily checked down the list of on-field attributes that have put his unit over the top.

"They're athletic, they're tough as hell and they listen," he said.

Their contributions to the Herd offense's improvement is obvious. In 2011, Marshall ranked 102nd in total offense averaging just 338.4 yards per game. It's 120.1 rushing yards per game were the 96th best total in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Marshall averaged 3.5 yards a carry and scored just nine rushing touchdowns.

Last season, Marshall was 12th in the FBS at 500.4 yards per game. Its 205.9 rushing yards per game - the most the Herd as has averaged since entering the subdivision - was 23rd nationally, and the Herd averaged 5.05 yards per carry and scored 34 rushing touchdowns. Three linemen, center Chris Jasperse and tackles Garrett Scott and Clint Van Horn, were named to the all-Conference USA team. Jasperse was a first-teamer, while Scott and Van Horn made the second team, and both Jasperse and Van Horn return this season.

Mirabal said the group's ability to listen is an underrated trait and a big part of that improvement.

"And not only do they listen, but they have the ability to put what they listen to into action right away, which is a gift," he said. "It's not something everybody has."

Holliday said there's another component Marshall has that no one else does - Mirabal, who joined the coaching staff last season following six seasons at Florida International University.

"Alex Mirabal is the best offensive line coach I've ever been around," Holliday said, "so that has a lot to do with that attitude and the way they're playing."

Jasperse said Mirabal demands toughness both on and off the field. He also doesn't coach his linemen in cookie-cutter fashion. He'll suggest different strategies for each player, tailoring the instruction to accentuate his strengths.

He also doesn't try to shoehorn every necessary improvement into one practice. He'll walk up and down the warm-up lines before practice and ask each lineman to pick two or three areas of concern and focuses on those for the day.

"If you try to fix everything, you're not going to get better at anything," Jasperse said. "So we pick something every day to try and work on. And we'll tell him, and he just wants to see on film if we get better at what we said. If we just focus on two or three things a day and master that, then we'll build up to hundreds of things."

Mirabal said the main ingredient to the offensive line's improvement is the group's intangibles. Beyond how the players perform, it's who they are as people that make it work. That, he said, is a testament to their parents for raising them and the Herd coaching staff for finding players like Jasperse, Van Horn and tackle Sebastian Johansson before he arrived in Huntington.

"They brought character kids in," Mirabal said, "kids with pride, kids that want to get better and kids who are intelligent. If you look at it, that's who those kids are.

"Those guys are just guys who do the right thing and are willing to listen and are good people," he continued. "That's what that room is. As good of players as I think those guys are, they're tremendous human beings. The good thing about them is they're quiet, but they won't back down from anything."

Van Horn also credits Marshall's strength and conditioning staff, led by coach Scott Sinclair, who also joined Marshall prior to the 2013 season. That staff's expectations match those of Holliday and Mirabal, and Van Horn said it wasn't long before those coaches were whipping the line into shape.

"When they first got here, we were undisciplined as a team," he said, "and they worked a lot with us on discipline, giving it our best and really pushing ourselves in the weight room."

Marshall's offensive line expects even more out of itself this season, and so does everyone else. The group has Holliday speaking highly of it, and the last thing those players want to do is give him a reason to change his tune.

"If he expects more of us," Van Horn said, "then we've got to give it to him."

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.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS: Judge rules against NCAA in O'Bannon case http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140808/DM03/140809289 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140808/DM03/140809289 Fri, 8 Aug 2014 23:31:25 -0400


College football and basketball players could be in line for paydays worth thousands of dollars once they leave school after a landmark ruling Friday that may change the way the NCAA does business.

A federal judge ruled that the NCAA can't stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses, striking down NCAA regulations that prohibit them from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California, ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon and 19 others in a lawsuit that challenged the NCAA's regulation of college athletics on antitrust grounds. The injunction she issued allows players at big schools to have money generated by television contracts put into a trust fund to pay them when they leave.

In a partial victory for the NCAA, though, Wilken said the body that governs college athletics could set a cap on the money paid to athletes, as long as it allows at least $5,000 per athlete per year of competition. Individual schools could offer less money, she said, but only if they don't unlawfully conspire among themselves to set those amounts.

That means FBS football players and Division I basketball players who are on rosters for four years could potentially get around $20,000 when they leave school. Wilken said she set the $5,000 annual threshold to balance the NCAA's fears about huge payments to players.

"The NCAA's witnesses stated that their concerns about student-athlete compensation would be minimized or negated if compensation was capped at a few thousand dollars per year," Wilken wrote.

The NCAA said it disagreed with the decision, but was still reviewing it.

But Sonny Vaccaro, the former athletic shoe representative who recruited O'Bannon to launch the suit, said it was a huge win for college athletes yet to come.

"The kids who are going to benefit from this are kids who don't even know what we did today," Vaccaro said. "It may only be $5,000 but it's $5,000 more than they get now."

O'Bannon issued a statement calling the decision "a game changer" and precisely what he was after when he joined the suit.

"I just wanted to right a wrong," O'Bannon said. "It is only fair that your own name, image and likeness belong to you, regardless of your definition of amateurism. Judge Wilken's ruling ensures that basic principle shall apply to all participants in college athletics."

The ruling comes after a five-year battle by O'Bannon and others on behalf of college athletes to receive a share of the billions of dollars generated by college athletics by huge television contracts. O'Bannon, who was MVP of the 1995 UCLA national championship basketball team, said he signed on as lead plaintiff after seeing his image in a video game authorized by the NCAA that he was not paid for.

Any payments to athletes would not be immediate. The ruling said regulations on pay will not take effect until the start of the next FBS football and Division I basketball recruiting cycle. Wilken said they will not affect any prospective recruits before July 1, 2016. The NCAA could also appeal, and has said previously that it would take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

Former athletes will not be paid, because they gave up their right to damages in a pre-trial move so the case would be heard by a judge, not a jury.

As part of her ruling, Wilken rejected both the NCAA's definition of amateurism and its justification for not paying players. But she did not prohibit the NCAA from enforcing all of its other rules and regulations and said that some restrictions on paying players may still serve a limited purpose if they are necessary to maintain the popularity of major college football and basketball.

"The big picture is the NCAA lost the definition of amateurism it has been pushing for years," said Michael Carrier, a Rutgers law professor and antitrust expert.

Wilken was not asked to rule on the fairness of a system that pays almost everyone but the athletes themselves. Instead, the case was centered on federal antitrust law and whether the prohibition against paying players promotes the game of college football and does not restrain competition in the marketplace.

During a three-week trial in June, attorneys for the NCAA said moving away from the concept of amateurism where players participated for the love of the game would drive spectators away from college sports and would upset the competitive balance among schools and conferences.

Several players testified during the trial that they viewed playing sports as their main occupation in college, saying the many hours they had to devote to the sport made it difficult - if not impossible - to function like regular students.

"I was an athlete masquerading as a student," O'Bannon said at trial. "I was there strictly to play basketball. I did basically the minimum to make sure I kept my eligibility academically so I could continue to play."

Witnesses called by the NCAA spoke of the education provided to athletes as payment for their services and said the college model has functioned well for more than a century. They contended that paying players would make college sports less popular and could force schools to cut other programs funded by the hundreds of millions of dollars taken in by big-time athletics.

The lawsuit was part of a tide of pressure on the NCAA to change the amateur model. Football players at Northwestern University have pushed to be allowed to unionize, and other lawsuits have claimed that athletes have a right to better compensation. This week, the NCAA's board voted to allow the five wealthiest conferences in the country to set their own rules, paving the way for the 65 schools in those conferences to potentially offer richer scholarships and health benefits to players.

Carrier said the outcome might not be scary at all because the money may not be huge and will be paid only after a player's career is over.

"We'll soon see that this isn't the end of the world as we know it," Carrier said.

"The irony of this is that a lot of the other changes in college sports going on were made because of this impending ruling."

MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Backup quarterback race continues http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140807/DM03/140809380 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140807/DM03/140809380 Thu, 7 Aug 2014 21:43:48 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON - When Marshall football preseason practice began this week with split sessions, freshman quarterback Cole Garvin jogged out in the morning with the rest of the younger players. Redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holcombe practiced in the afternoon with the veterans, working alongside established starter Rakeem Cato.

Did that tip offensive coordinator Bill Legg's hand on who might have the upper hand on the backup quarterback job? Not so much, he said. It was just a matter of experience.

"I've had Cole for three months and Gunnar for two years," Legg said. "That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

"It's just sheer experience is what it is," he continued. "Either way, it doesn't really matter which one goes where, to be honest with you."

Prior to preseason camp, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said it was necessary that one quarterback behind Cato break away from the back to become the No. 2 man. As of now, Legg said, that hasn't happened, neither quarterback is ready to give up the race.

It actually was a three-man race in the spring, as Holcombe, Garvin and Kevin Anderson battled for that month. Then Anderson transferred to Fordham. Holcombe said it could be a two-man competition or a 20-man competition. The need to improve is always the same.

"I'm competing against Cato, Cole and (James Madison transfer Michael) Birdsong," Holcombe said, "but I'm competing against myself, too, trying to be better than I was yesterday."

Holcombe said his mission this preseason is to become more consistent. He felt he's had some good days so far, but they get paired with struggles. He wasn't happy with his Wednesday performance, which included an interception thrown to former Riverside standout Raheem Waiters.

When Holcombe finds himself in more comfortable situations, he feels he gets better results. When he finds himself out of his comfort zone, he wants to do a better job in letting frustrations slide off his back.

"I'm good when I know what I'm doing and watch it and don't guess," he said. "But when I guess and then something goes wrong, I need to work on just letting it go and not letting it get me in a knot and have everything else go to heck."

Garvin enrolled in January and said the spring session was invaluable in terms of his getting used to the speed of college football. He spent the summer improving his footwork and watching hours of film a day. He said it was the most film he's ever watched.

"We watched film in high school, but it was never of this caliber or this much," Garvin said. "We spend five or six hours a day watching film, so that's something to get used to."

Extra film and observation time are some of the reasons Legg puts Garvin in the early practice sessions when the roster splits. He can immerse himself in learning the position by both doing and watching.

"It allows Cole to watch himself after this morning's practice, then watch Cato in the afternoon and then watch Cato again on film after practice," Legg said. "So he's getting it four times now instead of two."

Holliday figured in the spring that Marshall's backup quarterback race would bleed into August, but said it couldn't last very long into August. One of the unproven signal-callers behind Cato had to step into the role vacated when former No. 2 Blake Frohnapfel transferred to Massachusetts. Legg agreed with Holliday that the backup needed to emerge soon.

"The old adage is if you've got more than one, then you've probably got none," Legg said. "So at the end of the day, somebody needs to take the bull by the horns and progress and start being consistent with the mental and the physical parts of the game. You want all of them to do that, but the reality is someone has to do it and we'll see which one comes closest to getting there, then put the reps into him."

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.