2007 Marshall Preview

Posted Jun 12, 2007

Marshall hasn't exactly dominated over the last few years, but head coach Mark Snyder has upgraded the talent. Is this the type of team that can finally make a run at the Conference USA title, and possibly give Miami and West Virginia hard time along the way?

Marshall Thundering Herd

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2007 Marshall Offense Preview | 2007 Marshall Defense Preview
- 2007 Marshall Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Marshall Preview 

Back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in a quarter century has Marshall and third-year coach Mark Snyder in the unfamiliar position of really needing something to feel good about in 2007.  A Southern Conference and MAC powerhouse for more than a decade, the Herd has been slipping since 2003, the last time it had a winning season.

Head coach: Mark Snyder
3rd year: 9-14
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 21, Def. 17, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Herd Players
1. DE Albert McClellan, Jr.
2. C Doug Legursky, Sr.
3. TE Cody Slate, Soph.
4. LB Josh Johnson, Jr.
5. WR Emmanuel Spann, Jr.
6. FS C.J. Spillman, Jr.
7. CB Zearrick Matthews, Soph.
8. QB Bernard Morris, Sr.
9. RB Chubb Small, Jr.
10. NT Byron Tinker, Sr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1

at Miami

Sept. 8

West Virginia

Sept. 15

New Hampshire

Sept. 22

at Cincinnati

Oct. 2

at Memphis

Oct. 13

at Tulsa

Oct. 21

Southern Miss

Oct. 27


Nov. 3

at UCF

Nov. 10

East Carolina

Nov. 17

at Houston

Nov. 24


2006 Schedule
2006 Record: 5

9/2 at West Virginia L 42-10
9/9 Hofstra W 54-31
9/16 at Kansas State L 23-7
9/23 at Tennessee L 33-7
10/4 UCF L 23-22
10/14 at SMU L 31-21
10/21 at UAB W 31-24
10/28 Memphis W 41-27
11/4 Tulane W 42-21
11/11 at East Carolina L 33-20
11/18 UTEP W 49-21
11/25 at Southern Miss L 42-7

At its peak in the 1990s and the first part of this century, Marshall was known for its prolific passers, such as Michael Payton, Eric Kresser, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, but a reliable quarterback hasn’t passed through Huntington since Leftwich graduated almost five years ago.  Not coincidentally, the Herd has gone 23-24 since then.  Versatile Bernie Morris is back for his third year as the starter, but he’s done little over the last two years to prove he’s the answer for the offense.       

Marshall must replace some productive players, especially star rusher Ahmad Bradshaw, but returns a solid core of regulars that’ll try to build on the momentum of a respectable 4-2 second half in 2006.  Leading the way will be a couple of linemen with All-America potential, center Doug Legursky and defensive end Albert McClellan, as well as tight end Cody Slate, who caught a team-best 43 passes for 684 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman in 2006.

Marshall really likes Snyder and believes the program is slowly heading in the right direction, but unless the passing game steps up, the talent isn’t quite there to make a marked improvement over the last two seasons.  With a non-conference schedule that includes trips to Miami and Cincinnati and visits from West Virginia and a dangerous New Hampshire team, a return to glory won’t happen this fall, with the Herd expected to hover around the .500 mark.      

What to watch for on offense: Morris is 6-4 and moves well outside the pocket, but he has to make better decisions and stay healthy for an entire season if he’s going finish his college career with any notoriety.  If he leaves an opening this summer, either Brian Anderson or Wesley Beardain could steal the job.  The quarterbacks will be helped immensely if either Chubb Small or Kelvin Turner steps up and lessens the blow of losing Bradshaw, arguably the most talented running back to ever play for the school.  A ton of bigger programs whiffed on not going after Slate, a sure-handed receiver who can stretch a defense with uncommon speed for a tight end.        

What to watch for on defense: With good reason, Snyder wasn’t pleased with the play of his 101st-ranked defense in 2006, so he canned Jim Collins in favor of veteran defensive coach and West Virginia native Steve Dunlap.  Dunlap’s philosophy meshes with Snyder’s, believing in a four-man front and an attacking defense that takes the tempo to the opposition.  He inherits seven starters, none more dynamic than McClellan, a fierce edge rusher who had 11½ sacks a year ago and is on the cusp of having a monster junior season that could generate national recognition.  Tackle Byron Tinker was a pleasant surprise in 2006, but as part of the unit’s weakest link, he’ll have to be even better at clogging the middle this fall.       

The team will be far better if …the special teams become an asset instead of a costly liability.  Marshall needs to do the little things well to challenge for bowl eligibility, but last year, it allowed three blocked punts, hit just 5-of-13 field goals and was 84th nationally in net punting. These issues must be reversed in 2007.    

The Schedule: The non-conference schedule is a monster, as Marshall plays at Miami and Cincinnati along with the rivalry showdown with West Virginia, with a breather against New Hampshire. Making matters tougher is a three-game road trip before coming home to face Southern Miss in a critical East battle. On the plus side, the Herd gets the Golden Eagles, along with the other likely division favorite, East Carolina, at home. However, not only are there games against Houston and Tulsa, the two best teams from the West, they're both on the road.

Best Offensive Player: Senior C Doug Legursky. One of the best all-around offensive linemen in the league and an All-America candidate, the 6-3, 311-pound senior saw time at several spots along the offensive line before turning into a star at center in his sophomore season. He’s strong, tough, and extremely quick on the move.     

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Albert McClellan. A burgeoning star after a good freshman season, McClellan blew up into the league’s best defensive player, making 77 tackles, 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss with four forced fumbles.  At only 6-2 and 225 pounds, he’s more of an outside linebacker than a true end, but he’s going to crank out huge numbers once again.   

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Bernard Morris. There’s no Jimmy Skinner to fall back on or Ahmad Bradshaw to hand off to if Morris is inconsistent again. He threw too many interceptions and didn’t throw for more than one touchdown pass against a D-I team, but he has the 6-4, 220-pound size and tantalizing speed to be an all-around star. Now he has to put it all together and finally be good all season long.

The season will be a success if ... the Herd gets back to a bowl game for the first time since 2004. It won’t be easy with a tough non-conference schedule and few breaks from the Conference USA slate. The defense, supposedly Snyder’s forte, has to be far better, while the offense has to start putting up points on a more consistent basis. With 15 starters returning, anything less than a winning season might mean a new coaching staff next year at this time.

Key game: Oct. 21 vs. Southern Miss. The non-conference schedule ends with Cincinnati on September 22nd. After nine days off, the Herd has a manageable, must-win road game at Memphis, ten days off, a road game against Tulsa, seven days off, and then the showdown with Southern Miss that'll make or break East title chances. While MU might not have the best of records by mid-October, it will be rested.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Marshall 30 for 196 yards; Opponents 19 for 109 yards
- Field goals: Marshall 5 of 13; Opponents 16 of 20
- Fumbles: Marshall 27 (lost 15); Opponents 18 (lost 10)


Related Stories
Preview 2007 - Marshall Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 11, 2007
2007 Marshall Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 11, 2007
2007 Marshall Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jun 11, 2007

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