Inside Marshall Sports

Position roundup: Which ones have improved?

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After 2 1/2 weeks — the public session, in other words — here is my semi-educated observation on each position group. These all assume the team hit some level of bottom at all positions by the end of the season because, ahem, it was like that.

Without further adieu:

QUARTERBACK: Improved … I think, I think, I think

The installation of Todd Goebbel as QB coach may be head coach Doc Holliday’s best move of the offseason. Goebbel’s knowledge and positive influence should rub off on Chase Litton. Let’s just see how well Litton reads and throws on target.

The Herd will be in better shape if Litton goes down. If Gaines has to go in, look for the Herd to actually run an offense put a lot of confidence in him and tailor the strategy to fit his talents. Isaiah Green isn’t shabby, either.

RUNNING BACK: Improved.

Trey Rodriguez is the real deal, at least in relation to last year’s committee. Tyler King was impressive before his recent injury, and Keion Davis has been running as if his job depends on it, because it does. Not sure if Anthony Anderson can re-enter the picture, but handicapping a Herd RB rotation is a hazardous exercise.

WIDE RECEIVER: Improved.

So Michael Clark caught a touchdown pass for the Packers recently. Go ahead and name the quarterback on that play.

I like Tyre Brady. I like Marcel Williams a lot. Need to see more out of Darian Owens. Willie Johnson is fast. Hyleck Foster is catching the ball, much unlike his early career. Nick Mathews is slick and should be ready, if not now than later in the season.

And these guys actually separate from defenders, I believe. Can’t get anything but better.

TIGHT END: Was good to begin with.

Will Ryan Yurachek get more than 28 catches this year? That was a travesty. If that figure doubles, I think you’ll like the result.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Inconclusive.

This unit was gassed, decimated and beat up by the time it took the field against Western Kentucky, so things had to improve. The returning quintet — four current starters and A.J. Addison — were healthy and got through the spring and summer in good shape. At times, the first unit has been very good, but that begs, the question: How good is the defensive front?

The second O-line is awfully young, save for Addison. One or two of these redshirt freshmen, in addition to starting RT Tarik Adams, will be called upon to deliver a critical midseason effort.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Somewhat pessimistic.

Maybe I need to look closer this coming week, but nothing jumps out from the front four. If you remember, run defense was brutally bad a year ago.

LINEBACKERS: Much better.

Juwon Young’s September absence will hurt, no two ways about it. If you see the Herd start 1-3 and then go 6-2 in conference play, you may see a correlation.

But Artis Johnson is a fine addition, Chase Hancock may be physically ready to stand out and then there is the wild card … yes, JaQuan Yulee. This unit may be very, very good by mid-October.

SECONDARY: Better.

You can do worse than C.J. Reavis, Brandon Drayton, Kendall Gant and Malik Gant at the safety positions. Reavis, the veteran, and the youngster Drayton were paired late last week, and they look solid.

At the corners, last year’s top three are back — Rodney Allen, Chris Jackson and Jaylon McClain-Sapp, all a year older. Allen and Jackson are a year wiser, but I’m not sure about McClain-Sapp. He has been penalty-prone (again) this month. Kereon Merrell may be up to speed by midseason, as jucos can be.

KICKERS: Better.

Kaare Vedvik could be the FG/punt man, and he has really come on as the former. The Herd has lost two games on failed field goals in the last two years, and needs to steal one this year. So far, this is your man.

SPECIAL TEAMS, IN GENERAL: Better.

With Willie Johnson back for kickoff returns and Trey Rodriguez available in both return disciplines, the Herd could once again win after a morale-boosting long runback. The infusion of athletes will restore coverage, which turned disastrous late in the season.

With that, I’ll spend the next week or so trying to figure out how this team will do. Brace yourselves accordingly.

 

Scrimmage observations, August 12

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Hello, Herd fans:

Here for the 6 p.m. scrimmage and last public practice of the month. I won’t blog in this format after today.

And no, you’re not getting a PxP of today’s festivities.

First off, Cole Phillips is getting his first kicks I have seen (I was not here Friday). Hit from 53, despite getting under the ball too much. Looking a little like my golf shots, though not as dramatic. From 55 … one badly hit, another pulled left but long enough. We’re agreeing that he needs to concentrate on shorter kicks for now. Remember, he was out for several days.

First defense about the same, though Drayton and Kendall Gant are the safeties. … On offense, Hyleck Foster on outside, Marcel Williams in slot, Tyre Brady as usual at X. … Appears Nick Mathews is sidelined tonight.

Not much action from the ones today — waiting to hear the “we know what he can do” line — so the twos and two-pluses are getting a lot of work. That includes QBs Xavier Gaines and Isaiah Green. So far the best offensive play has been Litton-to-Brady for 19 yards. Several sacks on the reserve units.

Brenden Knox runs for 28 in reserves, then Litton hits Marcel Williams for 22 when ones come out from their own 3-yard line. I kind of like Williams …

I am reminded Ryan Bee is also out today.

Tyler King and Knox have scored in red-zone drills. Knox has had a pretty good day, really the first time I have noticed him this month. … Amareto Curraj pushes a field-goal attempt from 43 yards right, his second miss of the day. Kaare Vedvik has been perfect. …

There hasn’t been a turnover today, but two close calls — Rodney Allen dropped a pick and Knox just recovered his fumble.

 

Camp observations, August 10

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Hello, Herd fans!

First off, I will not be in Huntington on Friday. Back with you at 6 p.m. for public scrimmage. After that, the blog will take a different direction.

Notice elsewhere in this blog section, I am compiling the list of what national outlets think of the Herd and its opponents.

First thing I noticed here at the stadium: K Cole Phillips is back. WR Obi Obialo is still sidelined, and RB Keion Davis is out.

I don’t hate rugby punts, but I often teeter in that direction.

There is a representative from 1.5 NFL teams — the Titans and Browns. They’re yukking it up with MU strength coach Luke Day.

If you’ve missed it, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated has compiled 25 best college-town meals: Go check out No. 10.

JaQuan Yulee has shown up, rejecting a Xavier Gaines pass in the backfield and later tagging Gaines for a safety. … C.J. Reavis and Brandon Drayton have been paired at safety today. … Omission from recent days: LB Donyae Moody has been out. … CB Jaylon McClain-Sapp is the third-best corner on the team when he doesn’t commit a stupid penalty. … Continued mixing and matching among the top WRs. Nick Mathews and Marcel Williams have been splitting slot on “ones.” Remember, Williams is an inside-outside guy.

And about the minute I typed that, Chase Litton hits Williams for a long gain. Encouraging.

Didn’t I once wrote about Hyleck Foster making a big catch? Did it again, wrestling the ball away from Chris Jackson. Nicely done.

 

The preseason poll compilation

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Where Marshall and the foes rank in some corners of the football world:

CBS Sports: Herd 94, N.C. State 23, WKU 66, MTSU 67, Miami-O 78, Southern Miss 84, UTSA 88, Cincinnati 89, Old Dominion 91, FAU 95, FIU 116, Kent State 121, Charlotte 125.

Orlando Sentinel: Herd 89, N.C. State 38, WKU 43, Old Dominion 64, Miami-O 69, MTSU 73, Southern Miss 81, UTSA 83, FIU 91, FAU 106, Cincinnati 118, Kent State 122, Charlotte 126.

Conference USA coaches’ poll:
EAST DIVISION    
1.  WKU (20)
2.  Middle Tennessee (4)
3.  Old Dominion (3)
4.  Marshall (1)
5.  Florida Atlantic
6.  FIU
7.  Charlotte

WEST DIVISION   
1.  Louisiana Tech (20)
2.  UTSA (7)
3.  Southern Miss (1)
4.  North Texas
5.  Rice
6.  UTEP
7.  UAB

Phil Steele: EAST: 1. WKU; 2. Herd, MTSU, Old Dominion; 5. FAU; 6. FIU; 7. Charlotte. WEST: 1. La Tech; 2. UTSA; 3. Southern Miss; 4. Rice; 5. North Texas; 6. UTEP; 7. UAB. Herd bowl projection: Cure Bowl (subbing for American spot) vs. South Alabama.

ESPN Power Ratings: Herd 99, N.C. State 22, Western Kentucky 80, Miami-O 81, Cincinnati 89, MTSU 90, Old Dominion 94, UTSA 96, Southern Miss 100, FAU 105, Kent State 115, FIU 124, Charlotte 129.

USA Today: East — 1. Western Kentucky; 2. Old Dominion/Middle Tennessee; 4. Marshall (6-6, 4-4); 5. FAU; 6. FIU, Charlotte. West — 1. Louisiana Tech/Southern Miss; 3. UTSA; 4. North Texas; 5. Rice; 6. UTEP; 7. UAB.

Washington Post: Marshall 4th behind WKU, MTSU, ODU in C-USA East.

Athlon 1-130: Herd 107. Opponents: Kent State 127, Charlotte 126, FIU 113, FAU 98, Cincinnati 95, UTSA 94, Southern Miss 93, ODU 90, Miami (Ohio) 78, MTSU 75, WKU 73, N.C. State 27. Athlon’s C-USA: Herd T-4.

Athlon story on breakout teams, including *4* on Herd schedule. And … Athlon picks the Herd to win 5

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello, Herd fans! Sitting here in the Joan C. Edwards Stadium pressbox, wondering how Kaare Vedvik *won’t* be FG *and* punt man. …

Remember, there is no practice on Wednesday and Saturday’s scrimmage has been moved to 6 p.m. Print-wise, that would make it into final edition only. …

I believe I see Mr. Darian Owens in drills … may have missed him yesterday, but it looks like only Obi Obialo and walk-on Stone Scarcelle are not with us today. … I don’t know for sure about Scarcelle’s status, but I’m not optimistic there.

If you haven’t heard it, Western Kentucky suspended a few for the season opener against Eastern Kentucky, including Quinton Baker. Whoo, whoo!

Great ball of the day: Isaiah Green fires to Gator Green on the back line for a touchdown … nice. … and a few minutes later another Green-to-Green throw. Not bad. … If you’re wondering, Anthony Anderson has been running “threes” since he returned to full go.

Combo we haven’t seen at safety: C.J. Reavis and Brandon Drayton. … On cue, Drayton breaks up a pretty good throw from Chase Litton to Ryan Yurachek … Here in the late team drills, there is a lot of unit shuffling. We certainly haven’t seen Chase Hampton, Frankie Hernandez and JaQuan Yulee together at LB, for example.

Back again Thursday, folks.

 

 

Camp observations, August 7

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Hello Herd fans, we are heading into another week of camp. This is the final public week, so this is the time to come out if you’re in the area.

Not a lot of team drills. More individual stuff and 7-on-7.

Dialing in on the kicking game a little more, and guess who’s thumping some of the best punts? All hail Shane McDonough! Hmmmmm …

We watch practice from our second home, the MU pressbox. From here, the stadium rim on the far side gives a very good perspective on punts and their hang time. It’s simple: If a punt rises about the rim from where we sit, it’s a good one. If it rises above the rim, very good. If it rises above the indoor center … that’s a little tough.

The first-string linebacking corps appears to be Artis Johnson, Juwon Young and Chase Hancock, as it has been most or all the camp. May have a chat with Hancock, the Beckley man. Hancock is a fourth-year junior, so he and Frankie Hernandez are the graybeards of the unit … And speaking of Hernandez, he is taking a turn on Young’s spot on the first unit. Do remember, Young is suspended the first 4 games

Coolest day of camp so far. Very overcast, almost foggy, storms missing us to the south, 71 degrees. A little football weather, if the rain holds off.

Jaylon McClain-Sapp scores a “pick-six” after a pass from Isaiah Green slips through Monterio Hunt’s hands. Welcome to college football, Monterio.

Tyre Brady is back today, getting work on both sides, with Hyleck Foster, Willie Johnson and Marcel Williams rotating in on the first unit. Hunt even took a turn or 2 on the first unit.

Kaare Vedvik just nailed four field goals (from 30 to 35) in an impromptu live session. Made it look easy. Amareto Curraj takes a few shots from the same range, misses one left. Vedvik from 40 good, good, now 47 … good.

And the play of the day so far is a simple Chase Litton-to-Ryan Yurachek for about 30 … Yurachek is one of those I don’t write much about, because, hey, he’s entrenched. And rightly so.

 

Camp observations, August 5

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Good afternoon, all.

Looking at the punting drills … I’m not going to anoint Shane McDonough the starter, but he appears to be competent. But Herd fans should be excited about the other end of those punts … Give me Hyleck Foster, Trey Rodriguez and Willie Johnson, and I’ll take my chances. It’s tough to imagine special teams not improving.

Speaking of kickers, Cole Phillips has been sidelined the past day or two. … Good to see Anthony Anderson back in full uniform. His fate in a more crowded RB room is an interesting story. Remember when he was The Next Big Thing? Stay tuned.

(I quipped about the “L’s” the team signals near the end of exercise period. A few readers dialed in on the topic. Thanks to all!)

Seeing Chase Hancock back at full go today. The first-string LBs have been Hancock, Juwon Young and Artis Johnson much of this camp.

Marcel Williams getting another full dose of “one” reps, both at “X” and slot … Tyre Brady is again dressed and doing individual drills, etc., but has been held out of contact for a few days.

Pursuit angles came into play, but I do believe I just saw Xavier Gaines outrun Jaquan Yulee. Gaines is no slowpoke …

Tough injury to receiver Stone Scarcelle, who landed awkwardly on his arm during a reception. From my experience in watching those injuries, I am not optimistic on his quick return.

Update on Yulee: He has been playing on both second- and third-string units, getting a lot of snaps. I’m starting to see him around the ball a little more.

Probable play of day: Chase Litton hitting Hyleck Foster on a long TD pass. Time to have a chat with Foster for tonight’s paper.

Camp observations, August 3

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First off, Obi Obialo is spending his second straight practice with a cast on his left arm. …

A little surprise: The team is practicing in “shells” today … helmets and shoulder pads, shorts otherwise.

We’re going to go inside, with weather in the area. Ugh.

Took a drenching on the way to the indoor despite going through the Shewey. I’m always worried about the equipment, but it felt pretty good for me. Sun’s out now … oh, well.

Hey, at least there aren’t four dozen cops here …

I won’t say much about the QB order from here on out. Same as Wednesday: 1. Chase Litton; 2. Xavier Gaines; 3. Isaiah Green. Garet Morrell is redshirting and Jackson White … oh, never mind.

Speaking of which: We have another QB! Sporting No. 18. That will get a note today, but he’s probably a walk-on who should be trying his hand elsewhere. (cue the music) Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be walk-on quarterbacks …

Catch of the day so far comes from, we think, Monterio Hunt. (He is wearing a blue jersey and we can’t get a fix on his helmet number). He tightroped the back of the end zone to catch a nice ball from Green.

We see a No. 42 in green (offense). He’s in shoulder pads, so this isn’t his first practice. We don’t see a 42 white. We think George Davis was flipped to offense.

Said 42 white is playing outside receiver on the 2s … AND HE JUST GOT IN A FIGHT WITH DONTRELL JOHNSON. That was some quality enmity there.

Bear in mind that Tyre Brady, Darian Owens, Obi Obialo and Ryan er, Nick Mathews are on the sidelines. Suddenly, bodies are needed at WR.

FWIW, Omari Cobb is getting work with ones at LB, alongside Juwon Young and Artis Johnson. And don’t read *anything* into safety usage (Update: We don’t see Chase Hancock) … Brandon Drayton and Nazeeh Johnson? Reavis and K. Gant remain a tandem, running with twos. Still expect them to start on Sept. 2.

Tyler King still sidelined at RB ….

Camp observations, August 2

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Darian Owens gets the first snaps on the right side, with Willie J on the left side. Tyre Brady is dressed out but not participating.

Xavier Gaines takes the No. 2 snaps. … I think he has made the move. He has showed Cato-like improvisation skills early in camp, and it looks as if he runs better. (He has to slide better, right?)

Chase Litton got hooked for up-downs for botching a handoff … Hey the QBs aren’t immune to that!

What’s this? Isaiah running the 3rd string? Yes! Hmmmmmmmmm …

Read nothing into this: Stone Scarcelle running on the first unit at “X.” He’s a walk-on from Royersford, Pennsylvania. … Some “dings” on Brady and Owens, probably. … Marcel Williams running on the “2” at slot. Hmmmm.

RB Brenden Knox is showing up a little bit with the 2s … Hadn’t seen much of him to this point.

QB Jackson White, who has zero shot at starting QB, has been holder when Kaare Vedvik has taken field goals. I haven’t written about it yet, but Vedvik has a good shot at landing the dual role (sans kickoffs … I think).

Gaines just pulled off the play of the day, using the ball fake and sending it downfield to Hyleck Foster, who only had a half-step on the defender. Very good throw.

(UPDATE: Coaches are planning to redshirt Garet Morrell, get him a year away from Chase Litton, class-wise.)

Camp observations from August 1

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Hello gang,

The blog has been re-enabled and I’ll put stuff here from time to time, including game notebooks after print deadline, etc.

One caveat this month: The “public” part of practice continues through August 12, when a scrimmage will be held. After that, practices are closed to the public. We can attend under parameters of which I will not bore you. I will say this: We have it better than the poor schmucks covering Louisiana State.

(And you wonder why recruiting news has been so dreadfully popular?)

My contributions this week so far: Trey Rodriguez and Tyler King have made an early splash in the backfield; a bulked-up Levi Brown now ready to lead the offensive line back to glory.

Fielding kicks: Rodriguez is part of a small mob trying out for those duties. Others include Willie Johnson (good pick for kickoffs, as he was early last year), Gator Green, Hyleck Foster, Ryan Mathews, etc.

We had a little mano-y-mano hitting, as is customary. The main event: LB Donyae Moody got the best of TE Artis Johnson, at last according to the coaches. Offense did an “up-down” afterward.

On the O-line: A.J. Addison took the first-team snaps, with Sandley Jean-Felix going with the “twos.” This could be an item.

A little mystery: Marcel Williams took first-team reps instead of Tyre Brady who appeared to be limited. Darian Owens watched today.

Am I seeing things, or am I seeing Xavier Gaines running the “twos” today? Not that this is a surprise …

Play of the day: Isaiah Green made an ill-advised pitch to Brenden Knox, who got HAMMERED by Frankie Hernandez.

Slot receiver Nick Mathews (now No. 10) is having a really good practice. It’s going to take a move from the outside to knock him off first string, because I don’t see Gator Green or Simino Walden doing it.

Jaquan Yulee with the 2s, getting the maximum instruction from LB  coach Adam Fuller. That’s a *good* sign at this point.