Marshall Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Marshall Thundering Herd
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Marshall Thundering Herd Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Amen for Ahmad – Since the days of Michael Payton (yeah, Marshall fans, there’s a blast from the past), the Marshall offense has always been lethal.  Whether it was Payton throwing to Troy Brown, Pennington to Moss or Leftwich to Watts, this offense screamed points, yards and explosiveness.  The RBs weren’t as well known, but Doug Chapman was fantastic in the undefeated season of 1999.  However, after Leftwich left for the NFL, the team’s offense started to fall off and if it weren’t for RB Ahmad Bradshaw last season, Marshall may not have had an offensive unit that could’ve put up 200 total yards per game.  Now, take into account the adjustment to a new head coach and staff, and the lack of offense isn’t too surprising – it’s just that Marshall faithful aren’t used to seeing such ineptitude on the offensive side of the ball.  However, with Bradshaw in green and white, the offense has a go-to weapon 60 minutes a game, 12 games a year.  He might be the best running back who you’ve never seen take the field.  Some guys are underrated, but people at least have heard the name.  Consequently, no one knows who Bradshaw is, at least not nationally.  And, that’s a raging shame.  Here’s a guy who was just under a thousand yards rushing, three yards short to be exact.  In addition, he led the team in receptions with 56.  But, beyond his tremendous numbers, Bradshaw is a brilliant mix of power and speed, vision and quickness and running behind a fullback this year should provide some electric moments for the junior from Virginia.  As much as Bradshaw might want to carry the ball or catch the ball on every down, the Marshall offensive staff is going to have to be careful how they utilize him, more importantly, to not overuse him.  Although the offense has potentially emerging stars at receiver, the offense is Bradshaw’s to carry, again.

2nd and Seven – Weekends at Bernie’s, or Skinner’s – Although Bradshaw is the dominant personality on offense, the ultimate key to the season for the Thundering Herd is Bernie Morris’s improvement in the passing game and all around game management.  Or, maybe Jimmy Skinner’s improvement.  Oh boy, don’t you just love a QB ‘situation’.  Morris and Skinner offer such different traits, but Morris is higher reward.  If you can handle the higher risk.  Morris has the running ability that Skinner doesn’t, while Skinner probably knows the offense a bit better than his counterpart.  Skinner was much more accurate in the passing game, although he threw eight interceptions to Morris’s six.  Regardless of the numbers that this duo generated last season, the man who can manage this offense the best, get the ball to Bradshaw, but also put pressure on the defense in any way possible needs to have the ball in his hands. 

3rd and Three – Keyes to the season – Curtis Keyes is a dynamic safety presence who will be the leader of this defense, and in the secondary, his experience is going to be invaluable as Keyes is the only returning starter in the back four. But, at least, he’s a good one.  He was third on the team in tackles with 88, and plays more like a fourth linebacker.  Last year, when the secondary was the 12th best pass defense in the nation, giving up only 179 yards per game, Keyes could float near the line of scrimmage and be effective against the run.  Considering that Marshall gave up 162 yards per game rushing, Keyes needed to be that ‘eighth man in the box’.  This year, though, Keyes must be more a part of the pass defense to help keep that unit together.  Now, being a part of the pass defense could entail more blitzing off the edge or delay blitzes up in the A and/or B gaps, not just dropping into coverage.  But, that should be his strong suit, in addition to making big plays for this defense in 2006.

4th and One – The road heavily traveled – Everyone’s got a story.  How an individual gets from point A to point Z is unique and different for everyone.  Some people just follow an ‘interesting’ path from here to there.  Example A - Josh Johnson, one of the biggest signees in this year’s recruiting class, and a guy who could take over in the middle of the Marshall defense very soon. As a blue chip recruit from Stone Mountain, GA, Johnson was sought by some SEC schools – UGA, Florida and South Carolina.  Although he signed with Georgia, academic problems felled the youngster who then headed to Georgia Military School in 2005.  Little did Johnson know that a trip to Huntington awaited him after his stint in military school.  But, Marshall got lucky winning the battle for this young man.  This kid is physical, can fill inside gaps with power and quickness and is as quick to the ball as any young linebacker around.  He’s the type of player who, when he figures out what the opposing offenses are doing to him and the defense, explodes to the ball carrier with a ‘mean’ on.  This kid has phenom written all over him, and with his ability to fill and scrape, he could be a star earlier than later.
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