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Preview 2007 - Marshall Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 12, 2007


Preview 2007 Marshall Thundering Herd Offense Preview

 

Marshall Thundering Herd

Preview 2007 - Offense

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

What you 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.

Returning Leaders
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 offense: 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 Emmanuel Spann
Strength of the offense: Receiver depth, interior of the line
Weakness of the offense: Backfield, offensive tackles

Quarterbacks

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 offense.
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 2007.
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 than expected.
Rating: 6


Running Backs

Projected Starter
s: 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 spring session.
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.
Rating: 5.5


Receivers


Projected Starters: 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 junior. 

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 very long.
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.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: 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 country. 

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 the year.
Rating: 6

 

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








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