Preview 2007 - Marshall Offense
Marshall Thundering Herd Offense Preview
Preview 2007 - Offense
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need to know:
Not since Byron Leftwich graduated has Marshall been Marshall on
offense. That should begin to change this fall provided erratic
senior quarterback Bernard Morris can make the most of a
receiving corps that’s brimming with young game-breakers.
All-conference back Ahmad Bradshaw, a 1,500-yard rusher in 2006,
left early for the NFL, leaving Chubb Small to shoulder the
load. If he can’t handle the promotion, look for one of three
blue-chip freshmen to rise up and accept an expanded role.
While the offensive line has pending issues at tackle, Doug
Legursky is a beast at center that could parlay big efforts
early versus Miami and West Virginia into post-season awards.
Passing: Bernard Morris
116-188, 1,346 yds, 8 TD, 12 INT
Rushing: Bernard Morris
82 carries, 324 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Cody Slate
43 catches, 685 yds, 6 TD
Star of the
Sophomore TE Cody Slate
Player that has to step up and become a star: Morris
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Darius Passmore
Best pro prospect: Legursky
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Legursky 2) Slate 3) WR
Strength of the offense: Receiver depth, interior of the
Weakness of the offense: Backfield, offensive tackles
Projected Starter: Up
until this point, senior Bernard Morris has mostly been a
6-4, 211-pound tease for the Herd. Big, fast and strong-armed,
he’s thrown just 14 touchdown passes to 18 interceptions as a
two-year starter. Exciting and frustratingly inconsistent at
the same time, he has to deliver on his potential and raw
physical talent if the Marshall offense is going to turn the
corner after four straight seasons of mediocrity. More than
anything else, Morris needs to cut down on his mistakes and get
to another level on the finer points of the position, such as
reading defenses and not staring down one receiver.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Brian
Anderson has a lot to learn at this early stage of his
career, but he’s on target to be the starter in 2008, if not
sooner. While he won’t floor anyone with his arm strength foot
speed, he has a soft touch and reads defenses and manages
offenses like an old pro. Anderson is the definition of a
quarterback, which is what used to be said about Chad Pennington
when he was in Huntington.
Sophomore Wesley Beardain is in the hunt for the backup
job, but is more likely to settle in as the No. 3 man. A bit
undersized at 6-1 and 198 pounds, he’s got nice zip on his
passes and can makes plays when flushed out of the pocket.
Watch Out For… more downfield passing from
Morris. He’s been saddled with a vanilla receiving corps the
last two years, but that’s about to change in 2007. Some of the
Marshall newcomers can fly, which will encourage Morris to
occasionally unleash his cannon.
Strength: Morris’ legs. He won’t always wow you
with his throws, but when Morris slips into the open field, he
becomes a very unique and dangerous weapon for the Marshall
Weakness: Consistency in the passing game. This is
Marshall, for heaven’s sake, the same school that produced
Pennington, Byron Leftwich, Randy Moss and some of the most
exciting aerial attacks of the past decade. Finishing 10th
in passing in Conference USA last year needs to be erased in
Outlook: The receiving corps finally has a few
playmakers so Morris no longer has any excuses for performing
like a novice. He should have the most prolific season of his
Marshall career, or else the Anderson era will begin earlier
How do you begin to replace Ahmad Bradshaw, arguably the best
back to ever play for Marshall? It sure won’t be easy. First in
line to fill his shoes is junior Chubb Small, a
legitimate 4.4 burner that can catch passes out of the backfield
and go the distance when given even a sliver of daylight. At
only 5-9 and 193 pounds, the pressing question about Small is
whether he can be an every down player that moves the chains, or
is best suited as a change-of-pace and third-down back. Only
once in two years has he been asked to carry the ball more than
ten times in a game.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Kelvin Turner
was expected to push Small this spring, but wasn’t healthy
enough to mount much of a challenge. That ought to change when
the Herd reconvenes in August. He’s a coachable kid, with good
speed and strength; however, his upside will remain a mystery
until he can get on the field for an extended period of time.
Turner’s absence in April allowed redshirt freshman Darius
Lewis to get more snaps than anticipated. While not a
threat to win the job, at 6-0 and 215 pounds, he’s a bigger
option than Small and Turner in short yardage situations.
Watch Out For… the arrival of true freshmen
Terrell Edwards, Darius Marshall and JoJo Cox.
Mark Snyder enjoyed a recruiting haul at the position last
February at a most opportune time. Small hardly padlocked the
top job during the spring, so any one of the trio could see
significant playing time in 2007.
Strength: The kids. Not only are all three good
enough to get big-school offers, but their presence will create
an atmosphere of competition that was sorely lacking during the
Weakness: Lack of a proven No. 1. If Small is
unable to step up his game and become the horse on the ground,
Marshall will have to hold out that Turner or one of the
freshmen can quickly exceed expectations.
Outlook: The first year after Bradshaw could be a
rough one on the ground for Marshall. However, patient fans
will enjoy their first glimpses of Edwards, Marshall and Cox,
the future of the Herd running game.
Thanks to the recent emergence of junior Darius Passmore
and sophomore Courtney Edmonson, Marshall will have
downfield threats for the first time in years. Those close to
the program are almost giddy about Passmore, a 6-3 blur who
transferred from the College of the Sequoias (Calif.). He
gained a truck load of confidence in the spring, showing his
deep speed and terrific ball skills. Although not as big,
Edmonson is similarly quick when he doesn’t get tied up at the
line of scrimmage. He’s set for a breakout year after finishing
strong as a freshman in 2006.
For the second straight year, the steadiest of the receivers
will be Emmanuel Spann, who caught 38 balls for 383 yards
and three touchdowns in his return from knee surgery. Yet
another speedster, he’ll be good for 50 catches now that the
supporting cast can deflect some attention away from the
The headliner of the passing game is sophomore tight end Cody
Slate, an All-America candidate that exploded for 43 catches
for 684 yards and six touchdowns in his college debut. Now 6-4
and nearly 230 pounds, he makes all the tough catches and has
the wheels to create mismatches with most linebackers.
Projected Top Reserves: With seniors Marcus
Fitzgerald and Shawn Lauzon providing depth on the
second unit, there’s a nice veteran presence on a unit that’s
still pretty inexperienced. Although Fitzgerald won’t conjure
up images of big bother Larry, he does bring 16 starts and 64
career receptions to the Herd offense. Marshall has to find a
way to get the 6-6 Lauzon more involved with the passing game
this season. A former walk-on, he was all set to improve on
2005’s 31 catches and three touchdowns before a hip injury
limited him to a single game.
Senior Brian Shope started 11 games last season, and is
the stronger tight end Marshall will turn to when it needs a
little push on third-and-one.
Watch Out For… Sophomore tight end Lee Smith.
Yes, the Herd is loaded at tight end. Smith may be buried on the
depth chart for now, but the 6-6, 245-pound Tennessee transfer
with the spotty past is way too talented to be in dry dock for
Strength: Depth at tight end. Marshall isn’t
exactly known for its development of tight ends, but at least
for one year, that’ll change. Slate’s pass-catching, Shope’s
blocking and Smith’s combination of the two give the Herd plenty
of reasons to consider two-tight end sets in 2007.
Weakness: Big plays. Yeah, yeah, the potential
now exists to make this look silly, but let’s see it in
September. This is essentially the same group that didn’t have
a wide receiver in 2006 with more than 383 receiving yards or
with a play of 50 yards or more.
Outlook: As Bernard Morris builds more chemistry
with Passmore and Edmonson, the Herd receivers have the outside
speed and inside consistency with Slate to wreak havoc in
opposing secondaries like in the good old days.
If the Herd line is going to keep the momentum going from a solid 2006,
it must replace both starting tackles. That means senior John Inman
and sophomore Daniel Baldridge will be under a microscope from
the opening kickoff. Primarily a guard throughout his career, Inman
will be in charge of protecting Bernard Morris’ blindside. Somewhat
compact for a tackle, he has good feet and slides with the ease of an
oversized tight end. At 6-9 and 315 pounds, Baldridge passes the eye
test, but is still unpolished and is a long way from being consistent.
With long arms and a strong upper body, he’s hoping to lock up small,
fast ends that otherwise would bolt around the edge.
The rock of the line is center Doug Legursky, a perennial
Rimington Award candidate and a sure-fire NFL lineman in 2008. A team
leader with an infectious work ethic, he’s quick off the snap, powerful
as a run blocker and technically about as sound as any center in the
Junior Brian Leggett is back for his second season at right
guard. A 12-game starter in 2006, he relies on his leverage and
surprising strength to offset an undersized, 6-1 and 285-pound frame.
Injuries have clouded the situation at left guard.
Redshirt freshman guard Josh Evans has been forced into the
starting lineup a year earlier than expected. Slated to spend most of
this year watching, the well-sized drive blocker could get plenty of
on-the-job training instead.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior walk-on Matt Altobello
has used his versatility to gradually climb the depth chart. A guard
throughout most of his career, he’s now an insurance policy in case
Legursky suffers an injury.
Redshirt freshman Chad Schofield is the biggest of the guards at
6-4 and 320 pounds, and suddenly has been elevated to a vital role on
the second string.
All of a sudden, the third tackle behind Inman and Baldridge has become
extremely important. Fighting to fill that role includes redshirt
freshmen Brandon Campbell and Erik Vint, and 254-pound
Joe Bragg, a converted tight end.
Watch Out For… the health of senior guard David Ziegler.
While he won’t contend for any post-season awards, the dependable
veteran has started 23 straight games, bringing leadership to the line.
Unfortunately, his future is in doubt because of a right shoulder injury
that could require a second surgery. With Ziegler in the lineup, the
first unit is steadier. And so is the second.
Strength: Legursky. The consummate college center, he
instills a fiery attitude into the Marshall line, while consistently
creating running lanes for the team’s backs.
Weakness: Depth. With a second unit that’s as green as the
school jerseys, there is absolutely no margin for error for the Herd’s
starting five linemen.
Outlook: Although it’s taken a while, Legursky will
finally get some of the national attention he deserves, as NFL scouts
swirl around campus to watch him. Otherwise, it’s an average Marshall
that’ll struggle in September before stabilizing in the second half of