August 30, 2015 by Doug Smock

This is a month-old transcript from Big Ten media day, and a few things have changed in the Purdue camp. Coach Darrell Hazell has named his starting quarterback (Austin Appleby), for example.

Still, there are some relevant points here. First and foremost, Hazell declares that the Boilermakers look like a Big Ten team.  That couldn’t have been the case in 2013 and 2014, as Purdue was 1-15 in league play.

Check this out, and check out my column on Purdue assistant Taver Johnson’s last visit to Huntington.


First look at Purdue

August 28, 2015 by Doug Smock

First off, this is Darrell Hazell’s third year, all since the firing of Danny Hope after the 2012 season. You may remember the Boilermakers’ 51-41 win over Marshall in 2012 … Purdue finished 6-7 that season, followed by 1-11 and 3-9 campaigns under Hazell. The Boilers are 1-15 in Big Ten play in the last 2 years.

Whatever stock you might put into the Coaches Hot Seat rankings, it ranks Hazell No. 2. No, I’m not buying that.

Austin Appleby, no relation to golfer Stuart Appleby, has won a battle for the starting QB spot against redshirt freshman David Blough. But Austin Appleby and Marshall golfer Jake Appleby are brothers.

There is one Purdue defensive end, Gelen Robinson, suspended for 2 games. Could have been 4, but doesn’t matter for the MU game.
The son of basketball great Glenn Robinson is not coming to Huntington. (I guess there goes a potential brush with greatness.)

The Boilermakers’ problem over the last two years, besides being in the Big Ten? Offense. In 2013, it was horrendous, averaging 283 yards and 14.9 points per game; last year, those numbers improved to 345 and 23.8. Bigger improvement: Purdue went from 2.5 yards per carry to 4.7.

Back to the coaching situation, Hazell was hired after he performed the miracle of leading Kent State to an 11-3 season in 2012. (The Golden Flashes have returned to their usual selves since, going 6-17.)  Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson knows the Herd’s “dead ball” era, as he was DC at East Carolina from 2005-09 (4-1 record). Offensive line coach Jim Bridge has coached against the Herd while at The Citadel (1996) and Bowling Green (2000). Nice 0-2 there.

Gerad Parker, a name you may remember, is tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. He was wide receivers coach at Marshall in 2011 and 2012, the latter being prosperous for the offense. He was coaching Tommy Shuler when he caught 19 for 200 at Purdue.

And finally, we have secondary coach Taver Johnson, who was linebackers coach at Miami (Ohio) from 2000-03. I may have more on his place in MU history in my Monday throwdown.

And a final, sad note on that staff: Strength and conditioning coach Doug Davis died in May at the age of 33.

On the injury front, WLB Danny Ezechukwu’s knee injury wasn’t as serious as feared and he is expected back for the MU game.

Much more in the week ahead …






Thoughts after scrimmage

August 22, 2015 by Doug Smock

At random:

Are the Herd receivers that good? These guys made some sick catches, albeit against a depleted secondary. Deon-Tay McManus’ catch is one of the best I’ve seen at Edwards Stadium, practice or game. I cannot imagine a cornerback trying to play bump-and-run with this big guy. Deandre Reaves took a major step toward getting on the field more … watching him chase down an overthrow was more than encouraging.

All of a sudden, Josh Knight is pushing Hyleck Foster at the slot. Disappointment of the day: Justin Hunt failing to make a splash in Davonte Allen’s absence.

Are the defensive ends that invisible? The performance of Gary Thompson, Armonze Daniel, Blake Keller and Joe Massaquoi was not encouraging. The question that will fester until the opener against Purdue: How much does the blocking of tackles Sandley Jean-Felix and Clint Van Horn have to do with the ends’ failure to mount a pass rush?

True or false: Best MU offensive line yet? Offensive coordinator Bill Legg thinks so.

Is Keion Davis a stud? If not now, he will be soon. He is running north-south and even blasting blitzers.

What grade do you give the defense? An incomplete. Too many defenders held out or limited, affecting everyone who went the distance. Interesting twist: Raheim Huskey at weak-side linebacker, beside Devontre’a Tyler.

Who will kick field goals? If it isn’t Amareto Curraj, I surrender.

Tyrell Tomlin: coming?

August 21, 2015 by Doug Smock

No independent confirmation yet, but I see in several places that Tyrell Tomlin has posted on Instagram that he is coming to Marshall after being ruled academically ineligible at North Carolina. He has credentials, for sure.

I have heard hints of players enrolling this weekend, so keep an eye out for that.

Thoughts after mini-scrimmage

August 15, 2015 by Doug Smock

Random thoughts after the first week-plus of Thundering Herd camp:

  • Man, is Keion Davis looking better every practice. Right now, he is killing Tony Pittman, even without Pittman’s two fumbles Saturday. As RB coach Chris Barclay said, Davis is getting more decisive, finding a hole and attacking it. I didn’t see anything tentative from him in the scrimmage.
  • Something to keep in mind about Marshall RBs: The top 3 — Devon Johnson, Steward Butler and Remi Watson — combined for 413 carries and 3,111 yards last year, with Devon Johnson toting it 206 times for his 1,767 yards. Keep in mind that came with a mobile quarterback. A 4-back rotation wouldn’t be bad, but look for 3 to carry most of the load over a 13- or 14-game season. Davis vs. Pittman (or even Watson, if it comes to it) is a crucial battle.
  • And don’t forget that pass protection is a wild card here. You have to be proficient in that area in Marshall’s system, and it’s not easy for a freshman. Kevin Grooms cost himself a lot of carries because he couldn’t pass-protect (or stay out of trouble).
  • In the wide receiver room, Justin Hunt just might pan out behind Davonte Allen at “X,” and that would be huge. It isn’t just that Allen has been injury-prone, it’s that your “X” receiver can’t play 70-80 snaps, anymore than any other skill position player.
  • Next Saturday will be the big, big scrimmage, open only to Big Green members and MU students. One thing to keep in mind: Established players will miss that day with any injury concerns at all. Sight unseen, I can bet against Devon Johnson, Evan McKelvey and maybe Clint Van Horn working that day. I would like to see Van Horn to get a better gauge of the offensive line — A.J. Addison was exploited at his less-familiar right tackle spot. The big message here: Don’t panic — there are 3 weeks to the opener from Sunday, 2 after the big scrimmage.
  • 13 months ago, I never thought the tight end position would be as solid as it is with Ryan Yurachek and Emanuel Byrd. I’m almost taking it for granted.
  • Corey Tindal needed to improve by a bunch to be a solid corner and allow Antavis Rowe to play the nickel. So far, not bad, it seems, and don’t hold Deon-Tay McManus’ sweet catch against him. Tindal did his job.
  • And finally, a social media hint for prospective college players: You do not bring your cell phone into film study, make a video of one of your practice rep and post it on Twitter and Instagram. That’s a triple violation there, and a few MU players should run the stadium steps for it.

Carry on, fans …


Bring on the pads

August 10, 2015 by Doug Smock

August is getting a little too eventful at Marshall. After the departure of Angelo Jean-Louis, let’s hope we can get back to position battles and development issues.

A few things to remember as the Thundering Herd enters its 5th practice, donning full pads:

1. Another 4-star recruit bites the dust. You may have forgotten that Miami signed Angelo Jean-Louis out of Palm Beach Central in 2012.

Jean-Louis revealed a little too much about himself on Twitter, as you will read in Tuesday’s a.m. edition. To this point, he has exemplified the stereotype of entitled athlete — listened to too many people tell him he was great, but didn’t want to work for it. This latest lesson might sink in when he starts his FCS career.

2. Cody Carter becomes another West Virginia walk-on to get a scholarship. I figure Chase Hancock will get his down the road, perhaps for 2015-16. The common denominator between those two and all those successful walk-ons over the years: They really love the game. Let’s put it this way: Saying you love football is not enough.

3. As pads go on, watch Shawn Petty assert himself. He got the first-team reps ahead of Raheim Huskey, and is looking like the big man in the middle everybody expected when he transferred from Maryland.

4. Keion Davis, the 2014 prop from Georgia, looks like he belongs at RB. He had a great day Monday.

5. Play of the day Monday: Michael Birdsong hit Emanuel Byrd on a slant and Byrd blew by Antavis Rowe for what would have been a TD. Sweet.

Marshall practice opener

August 7, 2015 by Doug Smock

Split workouts, as they will be the next 3 days. Mostly veterans and first-teamers in the morning, youngsters in the afternoon.

Story of the day (of sorts): Who is here and who isn’t from the February signing-day list plus early signees and 2014 nonqualifiers joining the program.. Didn’t always put MU in the best light, I’m afraid. Derek Redd is counting them all up for the a.m. edition.

Play(s) of the day: I’m going with Michael Birdsong hooking up with Davonte Allen twice down the left sideline, perfect throws. A word about that, plus the chemistry Birdsong is cultivating, from me in the a.m. edition. … Fun moments of the afternoon practice was watching DB Antonio Howard physically get into WR Brandon Ford after the walk-on from Hurricane beat him on a route in 7-on-7. Howard would have drawn about 45 yards in penalties.

Addition to program: LB Davon Durant, a former juco transfer who was dismissed from Arizona State. Criticism of this one if valid, but do know Doc Holliday gave Durant some stipulations (and a short leash).

“We are fully aware of Davon’s situation at Arizona State and take very seriously all of the issues he once faced,” Holliday said. “We have done our due diligence in reviewing all available information, as we do with any student-athlete who enters our program. We are comfortable with the information we have gathered and all of the individuals with whom we have spoken are confident that Davon will embrace this opportunity to represent Marshall Athletics and this university with class.”

Durant sits out a year, then will have 2 years’ eligibility.

Another day of shorts on Saturday. I’m already yearning for “shells,” which might as well be full pads for this love-to-hit Herd team. Those come Sunday.

MU’s open practice schedule

August 6, 2015 by Doug Smock

Remember the split-squad workouts, a Doc Holliday staple. The players get one practice, but the coaches get 2, and the reps spread around better. A longer day for me, but I like it.


Friday, Aug. 7 — 9:45 a.m., 3:45 p.m. (two split squad workouts first four days)

Saturday, Aug. 8 — 9:45 a.m., 3:45 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 9 — 9:45 a.m., 3:45 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 10 – 9:45 a.m., 3:45 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 11 — 2:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 12 – 9:15 a.m., 4 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 13 – 2:30 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 14 — 9:15 a.m., 4 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 15 — 1:30 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 16- Fan Day (4-6 p.m.; gates open at 3:30 p.m.)

Monday, Aug. 17 – 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 18 — 9:15 a.m., 4 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 19 – 2 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 20 – 6:05 a.m.

Friday, Aug. 21 – 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 22-3 p.m. (Scrimmage; gates open at 2:30 p.m.)


After this, the practices close. This year, players get 2 weeks of game prep for the opener, and an extra week to get accustomed to classes. Not a bad deal.

MU 2-deep, with comments

August 4, 2015 by Doug Smock

We ran this right before I returned (Tuesday, August 4 was my first day back), so I’ll add my 2 cents along the way. Let’s see how much this gets updated during the spring:


WR (X): 3 Davonte Allen (sr), 9 Justin Hunt (jr) … My column on seniors having their best year in football sort of calls out Allen. Once you think he has turned the corner toward super, he gets injured or does something to tell you otherwise.

WR (Z): 4 Deon-Tay McManus (r-so), 82 Emanuel Beal (s-Fr) … McManus should upgrade the No. 4 from last year, don’t you think? Beal had a pretty good spring, so many months ago.

WR (slot): 2 Hyleck Foster (so), 1 Angelo Jean-Louis (r-so) OR 19 Deandre Reaves (r-sr) … So does this mean Jean-Louis regains the No. 1 Doc unceremoniously took from him in the spring? Foster looked like the real deal from the first day of spring.

LT: 67 Sandley Jean-Felix (r-So.), 74 AJ Addison (so) … It was a shame Addison played last year, and Doc said as much. As you’ll recall, Addison played before Mendelson finally, finally convinced coaches he could hold up in live fire. Sandley may take a few knocks vs. Purdue, but I think he’s a future NFLer. Can’t get over those long arms.

LG: 71 Sebastien Johansson (jr), 75 Tyler Combs (r-so) … “Swede” looks too husky for 284 pounds … Look for Combs to make most of mop-up downs.

C: 54 Michael Selby (jr), 65 Cody Collins (r-so) … Outsiders expect a drop at this position, with a little less chemistry across the line, and with the quarterback. I don’t agree.

RG: 76 Nate Devers (r-fr), 58 Jordan Dowrey (r-fr): Doc pronounced Devers the strongest man on the team. Wow.

RT: 78 Clint Van Horn (r-sr), 68 Tom Collins (r-sr): Van Horn will leave the largest legacy in the OL room. And he’ll pancake a lot of defenders.

TE: 85 Ryan Yurachek (so), 21 Emanuel Byrd (jr): Between Yurachek’s freshman season and Byrd’s breakout spring, this position appears stronger than outsiders expect.

QB: 11 Michael Birdsong (r-jr), 10 Gunnar Holcombe (r-jr) OR 14 Chase Litton (fr) … Birdsong will make some mistakes in Game 1, but Herd fans hope they won’t be as costly as Cato’s two pick-6s were at Purdue in 2012. Look for Litton to keep redshirt UNLESS Birdsong goes down and the Herd legitimately needs the No. 2 guy. Litton may have come that far.

RB: 47 Devon Johnson (sr), 8 Remi Watson (r-sr), 23 Tony Pittman (r-so) … In a 12- to 14-game season, all 3 will be needed. Let’s see how Pittman does.


DE: 73 Joe Massaquoi (r-jr), 13 Armonze Daniel (r-sr), 88 Ryan Bee (r-fr) … You talk about a position that’s on the spot! Shoot, I’m interested in seeing if 6-foot-8, 263-pound Bee can work himself into a few snaps.

DT: 94 Jarquez Samuel (r-sr), 95 Tomell One (so), 98 Jason Smith (r-fr) … Doc says Samuel must be James Rouse this year. Quite possible.

DT: 93 Steve Dillon (r-sr), 99 Ricardo Williams (r-sr), 97 Malik Thompson (fr) … On how many C-USA teams would Williams start? Hmmm…

DE: 59 Gary Thompson (r-jr), 44 Blake Keller (r-so), 90 Damien Dozier (fr) … Gary? Knock, knock, knock. Where is the Gary Williams we’ve expected to become a beast?

SLB: 22 D.J. Hunter (r-sr), 37 Chase Hancock (r-fr) … We know what Hunter is going to do. Can Hancock follow up on his breakout spring and keep this spot?

MLB: 45 Raheim Huskey (r-so) OR 9 Shawn Petty (r-jr), 3 Stefan Houston (jr) … It’s still amazing what Huskey has done since last October, and amazing he is neck-and-neck with Petty. Houston will find downs somewhere, someway, I figure.

WLB: 31 Evan McKelvey (r-sr), 51 Devontre’a Tyler (jr), 53 Frankie Hernandez (r-fr) … Oh, if McKelvey is indeed 100 percent or more after ACL tear No. 2, this whole defense will be vicious.

Field CB: 5 Keith Baxter (r-sr), 11 Rodney Allen (r-so), 24 Michael Johnson (jr) … Baxter’s dad played out of his mind as a senior, as I recall. I think son can follow those footsteps.

Boundary CB: 10 Corey Tindal (r-jr), 7 Antavis Rowe (so), 12 Chris Williams-Hall (fr) … Tough game vs. WKU will drive Tindal all season.

Boundary S: 17 Letman (r-sr), 40 Corey Neely (jr), 36 Cody Carter (r-jr) … Neely already has coaches’ full attention.

Field S: 1 A.J. Leggett (r-jr), 21 Tiquan Lang (jr), 14 Kendall Gant (so) … Is this position as stacked as I think it is?

Nickel: Rowe, Williams-Hall.


P — 38 Tyler Williams (sr), 30 Kaare Vedvik (r-so) … Doc says Vedvik really improved over the summer, but should get another calendar year of apprentice work. Williams will do what Williams does … BOOM!

FG/PAT — 48 Nick Smith (r-so) OR 39 Amareto Curraj … Great battle. Doc said Curraj can snag job, even if he’s kickoff guy (and he will be).

SNAP — 88 Matt Cincotta (sr), 62  Kyle Varnell (fr) OR 96 Zach Wood … Gosh, is Cincotta a senior?

Holder — Williams, Holcombe.

KO — Curraj, Smith OR Vedvik. Give that KO coverage team some rest.

KO return — 19 Reaves, 8 Watson, 2 Foster. Reaves finally broke one in the Boca Bowl, after being so close so many times.

Punt return — 2 Foster, 19 Reaves, 11 Allen: Betcha Foster burns a punt coverage in the month of September.

MU future non-conference schedule

June 24, 2015 by Doug Smock

9/17 Akron, 9/24 Louisville, 10/1 at Pittsburgh
9/2 Miami (Ohio), 9/9 at North Carolina State, 9/16 Kent State
9/1 at Miami (Ohio), 9/22 North Carolina State
9/14 Ohio
9/5 at East Carolina, 9/19 at Ohio, 9/26 Pittsburgh
9/4 at Navy, 9/11 East Carolina, 9/25 at Appalachian State
9/3 Navy, 9/17 Appalachian State