2011 Marshall Preview
Marshall WR Aaron Dobson
Marshall WR Aaron Dobson
Posted May 28, 2011

CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall Thundering Herd

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Doc Holliday
2nd year: 5-7
Returning Lettermen
Off. 20, Def. 24, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Marshall Players
1. DE Vinny Curry, Sr.
2. WR Aaron Dobson, Jr.
3. FS Omar Brown, Sr.
4. WR Antavious Wilson, Jr.
5. LT Ryan Tillman, Sr.
6. RG C.J. Wood, Sr.
7. LB Devin Arrington, Jr.
8. SS Donald Brown, Jr.
9. LB Kellen Harris, Sr.
10. RB Martin Ward, Jr.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 4 at West Virginia
Sep. 10 Southern Miss
Sep. 17 at Ohio
Sep. 24 Virginia Tech
Oct. 1 at Louisville
Oct. 8 at UCF
Oct. 15 Rice
Oct. 22 at Houston
Oct. 29 UAB
Nov. 12 at Tulsa
Nov. 19 at Memphis
Nov. 26 East Carolina

The Doc may be good, but he's no miracle worker.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday had a predictably rocky debut in Huntington, going 5-7 with a team that had marginal talent compared to the balance of Conference USA. For the coach, it was a year to begin putting down the ground floor, installing new systems, espousing a new philosophy, and hitting the recruiting trail with a vengeance. For the program as a whole, however, it was another step further from the glory days, when winning titles was an annual expectation. The Herd has now lost at least six games for seven straight seasons, appearing in two second-rate bowl games. Last year's squad finished strong against the softer portion of the schedule, winning four of the final five, yet still ended up a lethargic 5-7.

Despite the recent trend, Marshall will begin 2011 with optimism, hoping to transform Holliday's vision into positive results on the field. For a change, the Herd will look to its defense for guidance. The unit held up reasonably well in 2010, and returns nine starters. None will be more visible than No. 99, DE Vinny Curry, a ferocious pass rusher and one of the school's top pro prospects in years.

The D will have to be stout because the offense figures to be stuck in neutral once again. So potent when this program was at its peak, the attack has been feeble, scoring at least 300 points in a season just once since 2003. From the school that made national headlines with Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, developing a playmaking quarterback has been at the heart of the problem. Next in line will be sophomores A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan, who have battled to an uninspired dead heat in the offseason.

Championships will have to wait for now. Marshall simply wants to get the program pointing in the right direction and inching closer to the top of Conference USA. This is an important year for Holliday and his staff, who'd like to show some signs of progress to the players, administration, and hungry fan base.

What to watch for on offense: Van trailin'. While RB Travon Van will begin summer camp fourth on the depth chart, it's hard to imagine him staying there through August. After originally committing to Florida, he changed his mind and headed to Huntington. A dynamite all-around athlete from the same high school that produced Reggie Bush, he's capable of stoking a running game that ranked 114th nationally a year ago. If he can get the offense down in a hurry, he'll quickly rise up the pecking order in a Herd backfield flush with mediocrity.

What to watch for on defense: Siccin' Curry. Knowing that he'll be double and sometimes triple-teamed, the coaching staff will do whatever is necessary to free up all-star DE Vinny Curry. It'll move him around and even drop him back in coverage at times. Still, he's going to make his plays this fall. The key, however, will be the response of his linemates. If the opposition is throwing a bunch of resources at the senior, it'll be up to the other ends, Jeremiah Taylor, James Rouse, and Trevor Black, to take advantage and make the other team pay.

This team will be far better if … it establishes a more consistent running game. If Marshall is going to edge forward, it has to have more success sustaining drives and scoring points. In a year that the quarterbacks will be young and erratic, it'll be particularly important to get something going on the ground. The Herd averaged just 97 yards a game and 3.4 yards a carry, putting the offense in too many third-and-long situations and getting crushed in time of possession on a weekly basis.

The Schedule: The Herd gets the always emotional game against West Virginia to kick things off, and doesn't get much of a break in non-conference play with Virginia Tech and Louisville to deal with along with a road trip to face a good Ohio team. In a miserably bad break, MU has to go to face, arguably, the two best teams from the West, Houston and Tulsa. As if the schedule wasn't harsh enough, the big game against the defending champ, UCF, is on the road.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Aaron Dobson. When Antavious Wilson was saddled with injuries last fall, Dobson took advantage by catching a Herd-best 44 passes for 689 yards and five touchdowns. A big-play receiver, he's averaging close to 20 yards a catch for his career and has nine scoring receptions already. At 6-3 and 203 pounds, he has the size to leap above defensive backs and the speed to stride past them. With Wilson healthy again, this should be one of the best receiving tandems in Conference USA.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Vinny Curry. The classic case of a late-bloomer, Curry has gone from overlooked recruit to a pro prospect. One of the nation's top pass rushers in 2010, he piled up 94 tackles, 18 stops for loss, and a dozen sacks. Fast around the edge, with the long arms to swim past opposing tackles, he's quickly becoming a complete defensive end. Beyond just the physical attributes, he also has a tremendous work ethic, bringing energy and intensity to the defense.

Key players to a successful season: Sophomore QBs A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan. And it's not even close. Although no one is asking the eventual winner of this battle to be the next Byron Leftwich, he will have to make plays for the Herd to succeed. He'll also have to avoid turnovers, which was a perennial quest of predecessor Brian Anderson. When Marshall was Marshall, the program flourished through the air, and this squad has the receivers to get it done as well. Now it needs a capable passer to emerge and distribute the ball consistently.

The season will be a success if ... the Herd becomes bowl-eligible. Regardless of the record, a bonus game would serve as a nice rallying cry for Doc Holliday to his team. There are plenty of tough road trips, such as West Virginia, Louisville, UCF, and Houston, so Marshall will need to be near perfect at Edwards Stadium in order to pick up the six weeks needed to continue playing in December.

Key game: Oct. 15 vs. Rice. If Marshall is going to get hot down the stretch for a second straight year, this visit from the Owls could provide a launching point. It'll be homecoming and a much-needed winnable game following a wicked stretch versus three quality opponents. Plus, after six games, the Herd should have a much feel for its situation behind center than it will when the season begins in Morgantown.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards: Marshall 1,166 – Opponents 1,743
- Red zone touchdown %: Marshall 69% – Opponents 56%
- Time of possession: Marshall 27:31 - Opponents 32:29

- 2011 Marshall Preview | 2011 Marshall Offense
- 2011 Marshall Defense | 2011 Marshall Depth Chart
- Marshall Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006