Marshall Preview 2006
Marshall Thundering Herd
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Last year appeared to be a step back to take a big leap forward.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It was a big season of change for the Marshall program with the beginning of the Mark Snyder era as well as the first season in Conference USA. While the league was there for the taking, Marshall couldn't find enough offense and had way too many problems with its consistency to make much of a dent on the way to the program's first losing season since the move up to D-I in 1997.

Known for offensive fireworks with players like Randy Moss, Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington, Marshall had problems putting points on the board averaging a league low 18.55 per game with the best output of the season coming against D-IAA William & Mary.

The optimist looks at 2005 and notices the team was this close to finishing 7-4 with a loss to Kansas State late on an all-time bonehead play, a loss to Southern Miss in overtime, and a loss to East Carolina by five. The pessimist looks at last year and notices that MU was five points away from going winless against D-I teams and finishing 1-10. 

Head coach: Mark Snyder
2nd year: 4-7
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 25, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Herd Players
1. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Jr.
2. SS Curtis Keyes, Sr.
3. LB Matt Couch, Sr.
4. DE Albert McClellan, Soph.
5. OT Seth Cook, Sr.
6. LB Dennis Thornton, Sr.
7. C Doug Legursky, Jr.
8. QB Bernie Morris, Jr.
9. DT Juan Underwood, Sr.
10. WR Hiram Moore, Sr. 

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 at West Virginia
9/9 Hofstra
9/16 at Kansas State
9/23 at Tennessee
10/4 UCF
10/14 at SMU
10/21 at UAB
10/28 Memphis
11/4 Tulane
11/11 at East Carolina
11/18 UTEP
11/25 at Southern Miss

 2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/1 William & Mary W 36-24
9/10 Kansas State L 21-19
9/24 at UCF L 23-13
10/1 SMU W 16-13 OT
10/8 at Virginia Tech L 41-14
10/15 UAB W 20-19
10/22 at UTEP L 31-3
10/29 at Tulane W 27-26
11/8 So. Miss L 27-24 OT
11/19 East Carolina L 34-29
11/26 at Memphis L 26-3

So which is it? Is Marshall on the verge of being a contender in Conference USA, or is it still a few years away from getting the talent to where Snyder and his staff need it to be? Most likely it'll be a contender.

21 starters return with the biggest boost in production likely to be on offense with quarterback Bernie Morris and Jimmy Skinner a year older and wiser after their first seasons in the new system. four returning starters to the offensive line, the receiving corps is loaded with experience, and all-star back Ahmad Bradshaw will do everything to carry the attack when needed. Top linebacker recruit Josh Johnson and receiver Darius Passmore provide an instant upgrade to the overall talent level.

The defense should be better against the run with a good linebacking corps coming back led by Matt Couch and Dennis Thornton (though they might be combining to play one spot), a big, deep line, and a secondary that likely won't be too bad if a second corner emerges to help out J.J. Johnson.

If UCF and Tulsa can rise up and be stars in Conference USA, then a team with the experience, potential, and coaching staff at Marshall can certainly play for the title. The program has been too good for too long to be lousy two seasons in a row.

The Schedule: Seven games are on the road starting out with the one Herd fans really want at West Virginia. Yes, Marshall played well against Kansas State last season, but the team has to expect a loss on the trip to Manhattan and at Tennessee before the Conference USA opener, and most likely, the team's make-or-break game in the East race against UCF. Missing Tulsa and Houston from the West helps, but playing UTEP at home isn't a plus. The final three games are nasty going away to play East Carolina and Southern Miss from the East, and both are better, to go along with the game against the Miners.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Ahmad Bradshaw. He not only led the team in rushing, he also led the Herd in receiving as a one-man show at times for the attack. Most importantly this season, he has to stay healthy with little in the way of developed depth behind him. He could be the type of difference maker who finishes as the Conference USA Player of the Year while carrying the Herd to the title.

Best Defensive Player: Senior SS Curtis Keyes. Back for yet another year as an all-star, the senior has to be even better as the only returning starter to the nation's 12th best pass defense. He's a huge hitting safety with 233 career tackles, but his production against the pass has dipped a bit as he has been needed more against the run.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Bernie Morris and/or senior QB Jimmy Skinner. Throw senior Derek Devine in the mix, too. The Herd can't be in the Conference USA title race if it's another year of musical quarterbacks. Morris needs to be the star of the show with his running ability and overall potential to make big things happen, but Skinner and Devine are better passers. The starter has to crank out more production than the Herd got last year.

The season will be a success if ... Marshall wins the East. The league is better, but it's not all that great with a good team able to rise up in a hurry. Marshall has way too much experienced to be as bad as last year and needs to make winning the East the main goal.

Key game: Sept. 2 at West Virginia. Of course the divisional showdowns with UCF, East Carolina and Southern Miss are more important, but a win over the Mountaineers would probably mean even more to Herd fans than a Conference USA title. In any event, beating the Sugar Bowl champions and ruining their national title dreams would be the type of win that could spark a good Herd team to really big things.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth quarter scoring: Marshall 75 - Opponents 39
- Penalties: Opponents 70 for 541 yards - Marshall 58 for 426 yards
- Rushing yards per game: Opponents 161.8 - Marshall 127.2

The Last Time Marshall…
…played in a bowl game…2004 (Fort Worth Bowl vs. Cincinnati)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Ohio)
…was shutout…2000 (Toledo)
…scored 50 points…2002 (Buffalo)
…went undefeated…1999
…won a conference title…2002 (MAC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2002 (Byron Leftwich)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2003 (Earl Charles)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2001 (Darius Watts)
…had a first-round draft choice…2003 (QB Byron Leftwich)

Related Stories
Marshall Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Marshall Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 7, 2006
Marshall Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 7, 2006

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