Inside Marshall Sports

Herd items, 8/23

First, the rather large Senior Bowl watch list is out, which includes Marshall’s Gary Thompson and Clint Van Horn. Conference USA has 18 if I counted them right.

Others to know:

Akron — CB DeAndre Scott

Louisville — DT DeAngelo Brown, OLB Devonte Fields, S Josh Harvey-Clemons, TE Cole Hikutni, ILB Keith Kelsey, WR James Quick, WR Jamar Staples, TE Keith Towbridge

Pittsburgh — OT Adam Bisnowaty, ILB Matt Galambos, DT Tyrique Jarrett, G Dorian Johnson, OLB Ejuan Price.

Again, you take watch lists with a grain of whatever, but they do tell you something …

From practice: From Saturday’s scrimmage, coach Doc Holliday says he liked what he saw out of Garet Morrell and Xavier Gaines: “I thought the young quarterbacks are really starting to grow up. Both Morrell and Gaines have made strides.”

Doc has said he wanted to firm up positions by the end of the week, including the field-goal battle. Of the kickers: “I’d like somebody to separate; I’m not sure they have yet.”

Of WR Deon-Tay McManus, who left the scrimmage early and returned in a sling: “He’ll be all right.” No elaboration.

Coming up tonight/Wednesday a.m.: Feature on senior Corey Neely, the safety who has rotated in with the “ones” and is doing nicely.



About camp reports

Good afternoon, Herd fans everywhere!

A few words about blogs during the next two weeks. Camp Thundering Herd was open during the first two weeks. Now, practice is closed to the public from here on out, and through the season.

Media can attend, and we will generate stories pretty much as usual … but we attend with stipulations. For instance, you can forget about kick-by-kick coverage of the field-goal controv … er, contest. There will not be stats on Saturday’s scrimmage.

This is hardly new, and I’m used to it. We have it better than those covering many other major-college programs, including the land-grant university of this state.

While I’m at it, I’m batting around ideas for my next Monday throwdown. I’m thinking of writing a preseason preview of sorts, but not in the usual manner. I have already picked MU to go 6-2 or 7-1 in conference play, and there isn’t much imagination in picking the Herd to win all but the Louisville, Pittsburgh and Southern Mississippi games.

Two weeks to go before game week. I am going to go nuts.


Herd scrimmage stats 8/20

Story about the scrimmage for Sunday a.m.; in the Monday throwdown, I will throw out some observations over the past two weeks, maybe some winners and not-so-winners. Stay tuned.

Foster 8-46, Pittman 3-5, Anderson 14-67, 3 TD, Morrell 4- (minus-6), Davis 7-17, TD, Gaines 1-4. Total 37-133, 3.6 average.
Litton 10-19, 95, 2 TD, 1 int; Morrell 13-17, 164, TD; Gaines 2-3, 59 yards, TD. Total 25-39, 318 yards, 4 TDs 1 int.
Yurachek 3-26, 2 TD, Knight 5-52, Davis 1-8, Green 3-55, Elzy 1-24, Brady 1-22, Mathews 5-29, TD, Hunt 3-45, Mitchell 1-4, Rodgers 1-11, Jackson 2-37, TD.
TOTAL OFFENSE: 76 plays, 451 total yards, 5.93 average.
Hancock 7 tackles; Hames 5 tackles; Reavis 5 tackles; Davis 5 tackles; Grimes 4 tackles; Morrow 4 tackles; Gates 4 tackles; M. Gant 1 tackle for loss; Keller 1 tackle for loss; Massaquoi 1 tackle for loss; Johnson 1 sack; Neely 1 interception, TD return; Allen 3 pass break-ups; Reavis 1 pass break-up, Neely 1 pass break-up; Maddox 1 pass break-up; Durant 1 forced fumble.
Anderson 14 run
Neely 21 interception return
Yurachek 7 pass from Litton
Jackson 30 pass from Gaines
Yurachek 5 pass from Litton
Anderson 8 run
Mathews 9 pass from Morrell
Anderson 2 run
Davis 8 run
Smith: 36 missed, 36 missed, 36 good, 36 missed, 36 good, 38 good, 43 good, 4-7 total
Curraj: 36 good, 38 good, 43 missed, 36 good, 46 good, 4-5 total
Pontius: 36 good, 36 good, 36 missed, 41 good, 3-4 total

Camp report, 8/17

Good evening, Herd fans!

Tonight was the first of four straight 5 p.m. practices, a nod to Marshall’s Week of Welcome celebration for freshmen. Saturday will be a doubleheader, with the 5 p.m. practice a full scrimmage.

Today was an entertaining practice, and the big thing was that there was practice. Without the indoor building, practice would have been scrubbed or shortened.

A lot of observations here:

  • AJ Addison played the first unit at left tackle, a first. Coach Alex Mirabal tells me Addison will go back to backup RT tomorrow, with Fred Binot going back to starting LT … an alternating situation. The rest of the “ones” are the same — Dowrey, Brown, Selby, Van Horn. It just so happens I am cooking up an Addison story. (Sandley Jean-Felix has been out.)
  • Damien Dozier went to strong-side linebacker, continuing is cross-training between end and LB. Dozer had a nice-looking breakup of a pass for Ryan Yurachek. Shawn Petty did not practice.
  • Bad mismatch: Miami transfer WR Tyre Brady vs. CB Dontrell Johnson. Not that Johnson looked bad, but Brady made a couple of super catches. Brady has to run with the “threes” since he has to sit out this season. (He will be All-World on scout team.)
  • No real surprises on starting units. Offense: Litton QB, Foster and others RB, Yurachek/Bird TE, Hunt/Clark X, Knight slot, McManus Y and the line I just named. Defenses: Thompson and Bee DE, One and Harris DT, Durant and Tyler LB (Dozier strong, when used), Allen and Jackson CB (I wrote on them for tonight/Thursday a.m.), Gant and Reavis safety. (Tiquan Lang has practiced this week, but was out today.)
  • Some of you have asked about the race to replace Deandre Reaves on returns, and I give the same answer: It’s wide, wide open. Catching punts today were Foster, Gator Green, Brandon Rodgers, Nick Mathes and Willie Johnson. On kickoffs, Foster, Rodgers, Johnson and Deyton Jackson. Pretty dang good pool.
  • There was no field-goal kicking until the end. I was on the field with a bad angle, Nick Smith missed a 47-yarder wide left and Amareto Curraj was blocked by Jestin Morrow, but all other attempts were good. Again, don’t expect a kicker to be named until late.

That’s it, time to go home. If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them or look for an answer on Thursday. Thanks for reading.

Camp report 8/16

First off, the Gazette-Mail karma rubbed off on Deon-Tay McManus. On the morning I wrote about him needing more yards per reception the “Z” receiver turned in one of the nicest catches of the month, going high to snag a pass over Rodney Allen. Michael Clark, starting again in place of Justin Hunt at “X,” had a nice catch over Chris Jackson.

As before, Garet Morrell has been working with the “twos” and Xavier Gaines with the “threes.” Morrell seems to have a better grasp on the offense and looks like a good passer, but that will be a subject revisited as the week goes on.

Injury news is limited, but we know WR Willie Jackson was out for the 2nd day in a row. Doc is anxious for him to get back.

Several starters were held out just to keep their pitch count down, LG Jordan Dowrey, RT Clint Van Horn  and DE Gary Thompson among them. RB Hyleck Foster did not go, and we’re not sure what that’s about. Keion Davis went with the “ones.”

Interesting development with the punt returns: Tony Pittman, Gator Green, Nick Mathews and Brandon Rodgers were fielding today. Again, no Foster, so take that with a grain of whatever.

I will not attend this afternoon’s practice, but will be at the 5 p.m. workouts Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Tonight, I am taking a look at Devontre’a Tyler, and how he might compare to a former Herd LB you know well.


Practice report 8/15

First off, there’s a two-a-day Tuesday, at 9:15 a.m. and 5 p.m. Practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are at 5 p.m., a nod to Marshall’s Week of Welcome for the freshmen. The team will work out at 11 a.m. Saturday, with the scrimmage at 5 p.m. that day.

Just a single practice Monday, moved into the rather humid indoor building. Got spooked by some dark clouds and a bit of lightning, I guess.

Nothing stood out to me except another Aaron Dopson scuffle, this one with Will Ulmer. Dopson has a bit of a cult following with the everyday press corps, as the walk-on takes on all comers. Leron Carn had a nice 20-yard TD catch on a slant and Terry Richardson made a nice pick on a ball intended for Josh Knight. Yes, Richardson will get his first college stats next month.

Position-wise, I noticed Nate Devers moving from C to LG on the second unit, with Cody Collins snapping. Levi Brown remains the No. 1 center, between Fred Binot, Jordan Dowrey, Michael Selby and Clint Van Horn (AJ Addison subbed today).

Field-goal roundup. All attempts 40 yards, give or take: Smith wide left, good; Curraj good, off right upright; Pontius good, good. Again, I am not drawing any conclusions on this with three weeks until game week.

Twenty-six days until kickoff against Morgan State. I won’t make it.

Herd camp report, 8/13 full day

From the morning:

  • As you may know, walk-on QB Alex Roy left the program. He was one of two walk-ons in camp, the other being Deshaun Phillips. Among the scholarship players, Garet Morrell hasn’t looked too bad, with Xavier Gaines showing flashes of brilliance.
  • Wide receivers starting to make big-time catches including the young ones. Brandon Rodgers made a really nice catch, and Willie Johnson is about as fast as advertised. He was getting a long look at kickoff return, but take that with a grain of whatever — you never, ever practice a full-contact kickoff return.
  • Big things are expected from DT Channing Hames, but he’ll have to stop getting blasted by walk-on OL Cain Madden in the “Oklahoma” drill.
  • Big RB Anthony Anderson is starting to exert himself. He trucked LB Chase Hancock pretty good in 11-on-11.
  • Clouds are out and the wind was blowing, so it isn’t hideously hot and humid today.

From the afternoon:

  • It was in shells, but the more interesting practice of the day. Rushers were picking up tag “sacks,” but offense struck back just as hard with some big plays down the field.
  • Funniest play of the week: Big DT Nyquan Harris intercepting QB Garet Morrell and running it back. That notwithstanding, Morrell is looking like your No. 2 QB at this early juncture.
  • Did not see DE Blake Keller out for the evening practice, and Damien Dozier was moved back down from LB to get some reps there. He didn’t look out of place and had a sack.
  • If you’re here the morning of a 2-a-day session (only 2 left, I think) and you see RT Clint Van Horn out, don’t fret. He returned in the evening session; he’s all right.
  • Live field goals: Smith 47 yards good, 42 wide right; Curraj 47 good, 42 good; Pontius 39 good, 39 good; Smith 42 off right upright, 42 wide left; Curraj 42 good, 42 good. I am not evaluating smoothness of operation from snap-to-tie, nor am I choosing a side here … But I know a kicker who has to pick up the pace.
  • Last play of the day: Chase Litton ABUSED the defense with a zone-read keeper, then talked a lot of trash about it. Entire defense did up-downs over that one.

Fan Day 4-6 on Sunday, autographs available. For Sunday’s paper, I wrote about the two senior wide receivers and how critical it is to have a senior-type year. Back in Huntington on Monday, 2:30 p.m.

8/11 camp roundup

Hey gang,

Another pretty hot day on the floor of Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Accuweather says 85 degrees, feels like 96. … and feels like more on the field.

Some items quickly:

  • The team came together for the first time and Garet Morrell looked like the best of the freshmen today. He made some nice passes and saw some of the youngsters drop a few. As you can figure, decision-making was rough — you can tell if Litton’s quarterbacking or not by simply looking.
  • Anthony Anderson lost his feet once making a fancy cut. He can be light on his feet for a 252-pound guy, but he’ll have to figure out this isn’t Iowa Western. More north-south dude.
  • In the field goal battle, Grayson Pontius was given the honor of trying a 51-yard field goal, and buried it. Nick Smith and Amareto Curraj missed once from 38.
  • Plays of the day: Josh Knight juked C.J. Reavis to the ground on one pass play. Knight also brought down a pass from Litton, beating good coverage by Terry Richardson. Deon-Tay McManus plucked a ball over Chris Jackson’s hands, landed inside the sideline and danced his way loose from there. Remember, Knight and McManus are two key issues for the Herd.
  • Safety Tiquan Lang dressed and went through individual drills, but nothing more. He completely watched the first three days.
  • Young wide receivers are showing some ability to get open, but catching is a different story. Today, Leron Carn suffered the dropsies. Raylen Elzy looked a little better.
  • On the O-line, AJ Addison took some first-team snaps at left tackle late, in place of Fedrice Binot. Addison is listed at 297 these days, a far cry from the tonnage he dragged on his first visit to Huntington.
  • Single practice today, at 9:45 a.m. I will miss it for my 27th anniversary, and will be back for Saturday’s two-fer. Sunday is Fan Day, 4-6 p.m.

8/10 camps report

Hello all,

First, a change to the practice schedule: The split-squad practices are now over, as the team comes together for a single practice in “shells.” First whistle at 9:45 a.m.

The team had a spirited first day in “shells,” with a few skirmishes breaking out. The heavyweight bout was center Nate Devers against Aaron Dopson, the walk-on tackle who will go anywhere against anyone.

Two plays stick out: One was Chase Litton being chased out of the pocket and flipping a dart to Deon-Tay McManus, splitting cornerback Tramell Carey and safety Jeremiah Maddox perfectly. The coverage was good, but Litton showed some stuff there.

Best play in the afternoon session: Rodney Allen’s diving interception of Xavier Gaines. As I might have mentioned, Gaines went in the afternoon because of class conflicts, which I believe are no longer in play Thursday.

For Wednesday night/Thursday morning, I am writing about the now-healthy duo of linemen Jordan Dowrey and center Nate Devers. Dowrey is getting used to being left guard (instead of right) full time, but he is pretty safe there with redshirt freshman Alex Locklear tutoring behind him. Devers, however, is in a battle with Levi Brown at center.

Interesting development: Fred Binot remains at starting LT, but is being backed up by AJ Addison. Sandley Jean-Felix, dethroned by Binot in the spring, is working at RT behind Clint Van Horn.

All the freshman QBs are raw and their heads are swimming, but Gaines is making a step here and there. Walk-on Deshaun Phillips has an arm, but he is really, really raw. Jackson White is throwing a pretty soft ball.

Tiquan Lang has dressed all 3 days, but has done nothing. We’re not sure how much is injury and how much is connected with his legal woes, and nobody’s going to say much about it in the MU camp.

As I’ve tweeted out today, Nick Smith kicked a 55-yard FG. Talking to him afterward, he’s feeling it and the kickers are bugging Doc to let them try long field goals. (Doc had an ulterior motive: Practice the Auburn/Alabama FG return coverage.) Smith and the kickers really like being able to adjourn to the indoor building during their otherwise-dead times in practice.

Bonus non-Marshall story of the day: I visited Patrick Patterson during his visit to Cabell Huntington Hospital. Even slipped in a mention of the dearly departed Beverly Hills Middle School.

Back at it Thursday …

8/9 Herd practice report

Short and sweet (and what you’ll see on Facebook, if you go there):

Team still in helmet and shorts, so not much meaning. One item: Damien Dozier continues his effort to break the rotation at LB, manning the old D.J. Hunter position … Big plays of the day: Chris Jackson leaping to knock away a pretty nice pass. We’re still thinking he’ll start September 10.

The other big play from Tuesday morning: Ty Tyler batting a pass to himself at the line of scrimmage, pulling it down and running toward a touchdown (whistle stopped it). Tyler, a D-end, changed from No. 92 to 17. … Afternoon shift was mostly newcomers, including Anthony Anderson.

I have written on Anderson as the coaches see him (newcomers are generally off limits to the media at the start of their careers). The comparisons to Devon Johnson are inevitable, and position coach Pepe Pearson sees a physical resemblance to Eddie George. (Easy on the hype there, though.)

I am not going to put much stock in the afternoon practice. Xavier Gaines seems to have a pretty strong arm, but the youthful QBs and receivers struggled in 7-on-7s and team action. It didn’t help them that Allen was in that practice.

“Shells” are on tap Wednesday and Thursday, times at 9:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. The teams comes together at 9:45 a.m. Friday for the first full-pads workout.