Obscenely Early Bowl Projection Roundup

July 28, 2015 by Derek Redd

Hey, Redd, I know they do these things early now … but this early?

YES, THIS EARLY. DO NOT HATE FUN. WHY MUST YOU HATE FUN? AND NOW MY INCREDULITY CAN ONLY BE EXPRESSED IN ALL-CAPS. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

Ahem. Sorry. Now let’s get on with the show. The system will work like last year. We’ll show where each prognosticator slots Marshall and where he slots the Group of Five pick.

Phil Steele — Miami Beach Bowl vs. Navy; Go5 Pick — Boise State vs. Notre Dame in Fiesta Bowl

Athlon — St. Petersburg Bowl vs. Houston; Go5 Pick — Boise State vs. Oregon in Fiesta Bowl

Associated Press — Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. WVU (chuckle, snicker); Go5 Pick — Boise State vs. Oregon in Fiesta Bowl

Sporting News — Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Rutgers; Go5 Pick — Boise State vs. Florida State in Peach Bowl

Mark Schlabach (ESPN.com) — Bahamas Bowl vs. Toledo; Go5 Pick –Boise State vs. Notre Dame in Fiesta Bowl

Brett McMurphy (ESPN.com) — St. Petersburg Bowl vs. Cincinnati; Go5 Pick — Utah State vs. Notre Dame in Fiesta Bowl

Let’s just get this out of the way early: There’s no way on this planet that the AP’s Heart of Dallas prediction comes true. But, man, the reaction from both sides would be hilarious. Dallas vs. Rutgers? That’s the type of matchup that made Boca so appealing for Marshall last season. Also, I think Mark Schlabach will just pick Marshall for the Bahamas Bowl until it actually plays in one. Otherwise, the pundits see another Florida trip for the Herd this bowl season, which you’ll never hear me complain about.

On the Go5 pick side, it’s nearly unanimous that the experts feel Boise is the team, but check out Brett McMurphy going off the grid with Utah State in the Fiesta Bowl.

We’ll come back later into the season with some more bowl projection roundups, but this should whet your appetite until then. So whaddya think, Marshall fans? Any of these choices sound good to you?

 

To Block or Not To Block, Part Deux — the NCAA responds

July 28, 2015 by Derek Redd

Yesterday, we clarified some of the issues surrounding former Marshall men’s basketball player TyQuane Goard’s transfer to WVU, mainly that claims Marshall blocked the transfer weren’t true. I was curious whether any school had the power to limit the transfer opportunities of a player it kicked off the team, so I inquired with the NCAA.

Spokeswoman Meghan Durham got back to me and said generally speaking, for a student-athlete to transfer and receive an athletics scholarship at his second school, the previous school must first give the second school permission to contact that student-athlete.

Now the way I read that, the school that dismisses a student-athlete does have the power to limit transfer opportunities. And if so, that raises a few more questions. First question: Why?

In dismissing a student-athlete, a university athletic program already has made it clearly known that kid isn’t in his or her team’s future plans. When setting limits on a regular transfer, it provides protection against possible tampering. Yet if a player gets kicked off, what’s to tamper with? You don’t want him, so why tell him, “no, you can’t transfer to school X or Y?”

The one reason I can figure is to keep a student-athlete from getting dismissed on purpose to keep all his options open. But would a kid really take that risk? If he or she behaved so terribly at one school, doesn’t that tarnish his or her reputation elsewhere enough to make other schools stay away?

What say you, blog universe? Should universities have the power to limit transfer options for players they’ve kicked off their teams?

 

To block or not to block? (Answer: Not to block)

July 27, 2015 by Derek Redd

West Virginia University recently announced that TyQuane Goard, dismissed from Marshall’s men’s basketball team for team rule violations in October 2014, would join the Mountaineer men’s basketball team for the 2015-16 season. Plenty of folks reported the arrival, and at least one mentioned that Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni “reportedly” blocked Goard’s transfer to WVU, a claim that has been made since June.

A coach blocking a transfer for a player he kicked off the team? That doesn’t exactly add up. So I called Marshall to see if it, in fact, happened. A Marshall spokesman told me that, according to the university’s compliance department, not only did Marshall not block the transfer, but it gave WVU permission to contact Goard beginning April 24, 2015.

But it’s all a moot point now, anyway, because Goard’s officially a Mountaineer and WVU gets an athletic 6-foot-7 guy who can help in the post and do some damage from the wing, too. Could make this year’s Capital Classic a little spicier, though.

(I also was curious whether a university was even allowed to block the transfer of a student-athlete it already had dismissed from the team. I sent an inquiry to the NCAA, and if I hear back, I’ll update everyone right here.)

Bye, bye, Britton — Banowsky steps down as C-USA commissioner

July 16, 2015 by Derek Redd

Conference USA announced Thursday afternoon that Britton Banowsky, the conference’s commissioner since 2002, was stepping down to serve as executive director of the College Football Playoff Foundation. The CFP Foundation is the organization’s community arm that includes the Extra Yard for Teachers program.

Looking at it that way, this move really isn’t a surprise. Banowsky already was the foundation’s chairman, chair of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and president and founder of the Heart of Dallas Foundation. Community service is a big part of his life.

Since replacing Mike Slive as C-USA commissioner, the conference has weathered some turbulent waters. Most of its larger schools jumped to other conferences. The largest exodus came in 2013-14 when Memphis, Tulane, Houston, UCF, East Carolina, SMU and Tulsa all left for the American. Rather than fold up the tent, Banowsky restocked the conference with smaller teams in mostly major metropolitan areas like Charlotte, FAU and FIU, UTSA and North Texas.

“We focused on universities in large metropolitan areas that were growing and the universities had growth trends as well,” Banowsky told me in 2013. “And they were ones that made some level of facility commitment on a going-forward basis. Because if those things happen and capital improvements get made, there’s a strong likelihood of sustainability going forward.”
The debate can continue as to whether adding the third- or fourth-biggest school in a major metro maintains a footprint in that metro, but this is for sure — Banowsky kept the conference alive when nearly half its membership left. Football has struggled in the changeover. The top end with Marshall and Louisiana Tech is strong, but the bottom end, with Charlotte, FIU and UTSA among others, has some work to do. Basketball-wise, there hasn’t been a C-USA at-large bid to the NCAA tournament since 2012.
He’ll stay on until a successor is named, and that person will have a major task right off the bat. Conference USA’s TV deals with Fox and CBS College Sports last through 2016 and the new commissioner will be the point person in negotiating new contracts. That event could be telling in how well C-USA survived realignment.

Conference USA preseason media poll — my ballot

July 15, 2015 by Derek Redd

Conference USA let us ink-stained wretches handle the preseason poll this year. The final results can be found here. Reader’s Digest version: WKU and Louisiana Tech are picked to win their respective divisions, and Marshall is picked to finish second in the East.

I was among the ink-stained wretches to vote in this poll. Here’s how my ballot stacked up …

West Division

I ranked UTSA sixth, because it returns a whopping two offensive starters — a guard and a tight end — plus four defensive starters from a 4-8 team. That’s not a formula for success. North Texas, another 4-8 team from last year, came in fifth. Southern Miss lost just one offensive starter from last season, and I’ve had a good feeling about Golden Eagles QB Nick Mullens, so I slotted them fourth. Rice is always solid, and David Bailiff has performed miracles there as a coach, but I’m not sold on QB Driphus Jackson taking the next step to become a top-end C-USA quarterback, plus the Owls lost eight defensive starters. I ranked Rice third and put UTEP at No. 2. The Miners had solid 2014 and returns RB Aaron Jones and four OL starters.

Louisiana Tech was my pick to win the West Division. The Bulldogs return seven offensive starters, including RB Kenneth Dixon. Skip Holtz’s one-year wonder QB strategy worked last season with Cody Sokol, and he’s bringing in former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel this year. LaTech should repeat.

East Division

Charlotte went 5-6 with an FCS schedule. The 49ers’ awakening in C-USA will be as rude as living next to a missile testing site. They’re seventh on my ballot. Until Florida International actually does something notable in the post-Mario Cristobal era, I’m not ranking the Panthers any higher than sixth. Old Dominion had a solid conference debut last year, but the guy who made the Monarchs go, QB Taylor Heinicke, is gone. I can’t see ODU any higher than fifth.

Fourth and third were a toss-up for me between Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic. But I’ve said on other sites that FAU should be the surprise of the conference, so I’ll put my money where my mouth is and slot MT into No. 4 and the Owls into No. 3. FAU QB Jaquez Johnson is the real deal and among nine returning offensive starters, and if RB Jay Warren stays healthy, he should provide the run support to give the Owls the nod.

That leaves Marshall and Western Kentucky, who played the craziest game I’ve ever covered last season, a 67-66 WKU overtime win that knocked the Herd from the realm of the unbeatens. Marshall returns a bunch of great receivers, three OL starters including all-conference tackle Clint Van Horn, and superstar RB Devon Johnson. It doesn’t, however, return QB Rakeem Cato, the school’s career leader in nearly every major passing category, or slot WR Tommy Shuler, the Conference USA career leader in receptions. It remains to be seen how the transition from Cato to Michael Birdsong will go, though Birdsong has starting experience at James Madison and looked good during the spring. And while the LB and secondary corps look great for the Herd, it has to replace three of four DL starters, especially James Rouse.

Western returns QB Brandon Doughty, the 2014 conference MVP, plus RB Leon Allen, three starting WRs and three OL starters. Allowing that unit another season to jell could produce offensive numbers that cause scoreboards to flash “TILT.” WKU also returns nine defensive starters. Now, that unit gave up some downright ghastly numbers last season — 509.9 yards and 39.9 points per game — but there’s no way the Hilltoppers would stand pat with that kind of production. They’ll try to figure out something to get those numbers down. Marshall did the same after that disastrous defensive season in 2012.

In the end, the East Division — and probably the overall conference title — comes down to the day after Thanksgiving and the Herd and Hilltoppers in Bowling Green, Ky. Because of all that returning firepower, and home-field advantage in that game, I’m giving the edge to WKU. Marshall was No. 2 on my ballot and Western Kentucky was No. 1.

I now await your pitchforks and torches.

 

WHUTCHA GONNA DOOOO, BROTHER, WHEN TYNDALL-MANIA RUNS WILD ON YOUUU?!!?

June 10, 2015 by Derek Redd

File this under “too good to be true, except that it is.” Former Tennessee men’s basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, also formerly of Southern Miss and Morehead State, has some time to kill. Such is life when you were fired from UT after one season because of your alleged involvement in improprieties back in Hattiesburg.

So what does one do to stay busy? Sudoku is always good. One might take up bird watching.

Or you can become a professional wrestling manager.

Tyndall chose Door No. 3. He makes his pro wrestling debut Saturday when Global Force Wrestling comes to Smokies Park in Knoxville, Tenn. Global Force is the new brainchild of long-time wrestler Jeff Jarrett, who founded TNA Wrestling (which performed last year at Appalachian Power Park) and whose family ran the Tennessee territory for decades.

One of Jarrett’s signature moves was to crack opponents across the noggin with a guitar, as seen below.

Tyndall also could don his orange suit and channel Jim Cornette by wielding a tennis racket. Perhaps a megaphone, like “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart?

Some advice for Tyndall, though: Don’t dodge the microphone like you did after you last loss in Huntington. The best managers don’t pass up the chance to cut a good promo.

Wait … what was that Heart of Dallas Bowl prediction again?

June 9, 2015 by Derek Redd

Oh, this … this is good.

Ralph Russo of the Associated Press unveiled some very early bowl predictions of his. If you’re a Marshall fan — or a WVU fan — pay close attention to his Heart of Dallas Bowl pick.

The participating conferences this year are the Big 12 and Conference USA. His choices for the Dec. 26 bowl?

Just call it the Heart of Dallas Friends of Coal Bowl.

Russo slotted Marshall and West Virginia into that game, a move that should put smiles on plenty of Herd fans’ faces and send WVU fans sprinting for the Tums. Now, I’ve long been an advocate of this game, but others, mostly from the Morgantown side, would rather not see it. ESPN puts it on the list of its five one-sided (emotionally) college football rivalries. WVU President E. Gordon Gee told our Chuck McGill in January, though, that a Herd-WVU football series “makes sense.”

Now, so much has to happen for this prediction to come true. Marshall’s side is a little more flexible. C-USA slots bowl teams based on fit. That’s a reason why, last  year, Louisiana Tech went to Dallas — a relatively short drive from Ruston — and Marshall went to Boca Raton — to face MAC champ Northern Illinois in a Herd recruiting stronghold.  The Heart of Dallas Bowl is the only one on the Big 12 bowl schedule that does not feature a Power Five opponent, so chances are that slot gets filled by the conference’s final bowl entrant. WVU would have to be sitting at six or seven wins (more likely six) to fall that far.

It’s a long shot, but it’s fun to imagine.

Chris Massey talks the NFL Draft

May 2, 2015 by Derek Redd

Chris Massey will be inducted this year into Marshall’s Athletics Hall of Fame. That honor came from his abilities both at Marshall and in the NFL as a long snapper. Drafting special teamers doesn’t happen often, but the St. Louis Rams picked him the seventh round in 2002. He talked about that and more at the Daily Mail’s draft event Thursday at Recovery Sports Grill.

Doc Talk: Spring football, NFL Draft and more

May 1, 2015 by Derek Redd

Marshall football coach Doc Holliday was our first guest at the Daily Mail’s NFL Draft event Thursday night at Recovery Sports Grill. The reigning C-USA coach of the year had plenty to say about the Herd’s recently concluded spring season and the NFL draft. Marshall has several players who should get some consideration in Saturday’s later rounds.

Pay special attention to his comments around the 6:45 mark after I asked him about intangibles and their importance in the draft process. Holliday was quite curious as to whether NFL teams would take players’ character into consideration as much as they claimed they would.

Spring Game Postscript — Rain, rain go away

April 25, 2015 by Derek Redd

Marshall concluded its spring season Saturday afternoon with its Green and White spring game, and showed what happens when football players don’t practice in the elements for more than a month. It was a messy affair at the start, as passes sailed long or awry and receivers had a tough time holding on to them. The rain subsided later in the day and the offense seemed to calm down, as shown in the stats you can find below.

If you’re looking for an official starting quarterback, keep waiting. Doc Holliday didn’t announce one after the game and said it will be Monday or Tuesday, after the coaches watch Saturday’s film, that the decision will be made. But, once again, Michael Birdsong was the first quarterback to take the field, followed by Gunnar Holcombe. That’s been the case with every scrimmage this spring.

Tony Pittman had another very strong showing. He continues to run with power and probably earned some carries in the fall with what he did this spring.

The defense had its best performance of any of the three scrimmages. It scored on a pick-six when Chase Hancock intercepted Chase Litton for a 10-yard score, and Raheim Huskey recovered a fumble in the end zone for another score. Linebackers coach Adam Fuller had a lot of good things to say about Hancock after the game. Looks like the Woodrow Wilson High product could see the field a bit in the fall. Add to that six sacks (well, touch-sacks, since the QBs weren’t live), one for a safety and three pass breakups.

That’s all for now. We’ll have a few stories in this week’s editions of the Daily Mail wrapping up the Herd’s spring season. Until then, satisfy your appetite with the stats below and the video above.

Offense

Rushing

Total 52-280

Birdsong 6-minus-3

Butler 13-84

Pittman 11-127, 2 TD

Gaydosz 13-78

Holcombe 3-1

Team 2-minus-12

Litton 4-5

Passing

Total 22-48-266, 6 TD, INT

Holcombe 11-16-147, 2 TD

Birdsong 5-20-58, 2 TD

Litton 6-12-61, 2 TD, INT

Receiving

Green 5-41, TD

Elzy 3-30, TD

Gaydosz 3-29

Gammon 2-21

Jean-Louis 1-5

Pittman 1-9

Foster 2-26, 2 TD

Byrd 1-5, TD

Knight 1-7

Beal 2-73, TD

Yurachek 1-20

Total offense: 100 plays, 546 yards

Significant defensive statistics

Houston 5 tkl, sack

Carter 5 tkl, FR

Riedel 6 tkl

Hunter sack

Massaquoi sack

Bee sack, resulting in a safety

Dozier sack

Keller sack

Hancock INT for TD

Williams-Hall PBU

R. Allen PBU

J. Smith PBU

Huskey FR for TD