2007 Marshall Preview - Defense
Marshall Thundering Herd Defense Preview
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 Marshall Preview |
2007 Marshall Offense Preview
2007 Marshall Depth
| 2006 CFN
need to know:
Disgusted with the play of last year’s defense, head coach Mark
Snyder changed course, hiring veteran Steve Dunlap as the
coordinator. While last year’s team sat back, and often paid
for the conservative approach, the 2007 edition will attack
wherever and whenever it makes sense. The chief attacker will
be junior end Albert McClellan, a sack machine that’ll be in the
mix for just about every individual award given to defensive
players. At linebacker, junior Josh Johnson is good enough to
consider early entry into the 2008 NFL Draft once the season
concludes. Dunlap’s biggest concerns in his first season on the
job surround a pedestrian group of tackles and a beatable
secondary that allowed way too many long gainers last season.
C.J. Spillman, 79
Albert McClellan, 11.5
Interceptions: J.J. Johnson, C.J. Spillman, 2
Star of the
Junior DE Albert McClellan
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Ashton Hall
Best pro prospect: McClellan
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McClellan 2) Johnson 3)
FS C.J. Spillman
Strength of the defense: McClellan, team speed
Weakness of the defense: The interior, pass defense
Projected Starters: In one monster season, junior
end Albert McClellan went from a nice freshman prospect
to a defensive force, terrorizing the rest of Conference USA for
77 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and four forced
fumbles. Much more than just an edge rusher, he’s also stout
against the run and one the program’s hardest workers outside
On the opposite side, the beneficiary of McClellan’s magnetism
will be sophomore John Jacobs, who played in 12 games
last year and had 17 tackles. A high-motor guy at 6-3 and 240
pounds, it’s imperative that he wins some of the one-on-one
battles he’ll see all season.
Senior nose tackle Byron Tinker anchors a soft underbelly
of the Marshall interior. Although he can get bullied at times
on running plays, his quickness off the snap accounted for an
impressive eight tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last fall.
Rounding out the front is junior Montel Glasco, a
first-year transfer from Lackawanna (Penn.) Junior College, who
was impressive stopping the run in April despite being just 6-3
and 280 pounds.
Projected Top Reserves: Although senior Ryland
Wilson and junior Bilal El-Amin provide some
upperclassmen experience at tackle, at 6-3 and around 250 pounds
apiece, both are very vulnerable on straight-ahead run plays.
Although he felt the freshman could help right away, Mark Snyder
resisted the temptation to remove the redshirt from end
Michael Janac in 2006. He’s big, fast and a few extra
pounds of muscle away from being an integral part of the
Marshall pass rush.
Watch Out For… McClellan to be used all over the
field in 2007. New defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap wants to
get the most of his star’s size-speed combo, while occasionally
getting him to spots where he can’t be doubled. McClellan’s
numbers will benefit along with his NFL draft grade.
Strength: McClellan. He’s bulked up to 245 pounds
over the off-season, yet hasn’t lost any of the burst that made
him virtually unblockable in October and November. McClellan’s
presence draws so much attention, it makes the job of the other
ten Herd players a little easier.
Weakness: Size. The two-deep averages only 6-3
and 250 pounds, making the defense vulnerable to physical
offensive lines determined to run the ball right at the Herd.
Outlook: Although McClellan will be a tour de
force for a second straight year, he’s going to need a lot more
help from his fellow linemen if the unit is going to be more
than just a one-man show.
Projected Starters: Rock solid on the first team,
Marshall now needs to begin developing some of the young, fast
talent waiting in the on-deck circle. The headliner of the
group, junior Josh Johnson, debuted last year with 72
tackles in a sneak preview of bigger things to come in 2007. A
Georgia cast-off for disciplinary reasons, he’s big, physical
and very quick going sideline-to-sideline. As he begins to out
grow his surroundings, the biggest challenge for Johnson this
year will be to remain motivated and dedicated.
Flanking Johnson on the outside will be last year’s starters,
juniors Ian Hoskins and Maurice Kitchens. At
strongside, Hoskins is on his way back from knee surgery that
ended his sophomore year after ten games. Surprisingly athletic
at 245 pounds, he forms an intimidating tandem with Johnson.
Long and lean at 6-3 and 225 pounds, Kitchens moves into the
lineup after being a reserve in all but one game last year. His
closing speed will be a nice fit for a new defensive staff
seeking to apply pressure and step up the aggressiveness.
Projected Top Reserves: Until the freshmen arrive
in August, the second team consists of three players, junior
Mahala Wiggins, sophomore Daniel Wells and freshman
Howard King, with no experience at this level. Depth has
become such a concern for the Herd, senior Will Albin, a
converted fullback, has switched sides of the ball. He actually
played real well last spring, and will challenge for playing
time when the season begins.
Watch Out For… a very different depth chart in
October than in July. With talented freshmen, such as Antwan
Booker and Mario Harvey, now eligible after sitting
out last year, only Johnson’s job will be safe in 2007.
Strength: Johnson. In a sea of uncertainty at
linebacker, he’s an SEC talent playing against Conference USA
competition. After setting the table last year and trimming
some fat in the off-season, Johnson is primed for a huge season.
Weakness: Depth. There’s plenty of linebacker
talent in Huntington, but most of it is very young and unlikely
to make significant contributions this soon in their careers.
Outlook: Not unlike the defensive line, the linebackers
have one budding star that’s surrounded by a bunch of question
marks. If everyone returns, this could be a scary good crew in
Projected Starters: Marshall allowed 20 touchdown
passes and more than 250 yards a game through the year, so the
return of three starters isn’t exactly cause for celebration.
Sophomores Zearrick Matthews and Ashton Hall are
back to patrol the corners. Despite being only 5-9 and 162
pounds, Matthews proved to be quite a playmaker in his first
season, making 43 tackles, breaking up six passes and tying for
the team lead with four forced fumbles. Although disruptive and
physical, he needs to hone his pass coverage skills. Hall has
made a quantum leap since the end of his true freshman season,
passing 12-game starter J.J. Johnson in the process.
While still learning in just his second year, he has the
physical make-up and footwork to set the standard in the
secondary before long.
Junior free safety C.J. Spillman started nine games in
2006, finishing with 79 tackles and a pair of picks. He’s
terrific in the box, but like most of his teammates, needs to
improve when the ball is in the air. Replacing standout Curtis
Keyes at strong safety will be Phillip Gamble, a
hard-hitting junior that’s mainly played on special teams up
until this year. After looking sharp in the spring, the
217-pounder now needs to carry that momentum into the summer and
Projected Top Reserves: Johnson, a junior, has
slipped behind Hall on the pecking order, but still has a key
role in the secondary, likely as the nickel back where he
excelled as a freshman two years ago. Last season, he had 66
tackles and broke up ten passes, but too often was caught out of
Pushing for time at safety will be junior Jon Moravec
behind Gamble and sophomore John Saunders at free
safety. Moravec is a scrappy, 190-pound vet whose best work has
come on punt and kick coverage. A local walk-on, Saunders is a
snot-knocker that’s still unpolished in his assignments and
Watch Out For… the corners to live, and
occasionally die, on an island this season. New coordinator
Steve Dunlap wants to bring the heat this season, which means
plenty of man coverages for a secondary that still has some
growing up to do.
Strength: Run defense. Not only do the safeties press
up and support the run well, but the undersized cornerbacks can
be surprisingly feisty tacklers in the open field.
Weakness: Pass coverage. Last year’s numbers
don’t lie; Marshall struggles to shut down good receivers and
passing attacks. The starting corners are young, still maturing
and a poor match up with the game’s taller wideouts.
Outlook: Collectively, the secondary will be
better than 2006, when the Herd finished 114th in the
nation in pass defense. However, the length of its stride will
depend on how well the sophomore corners handle the pressure of
performing with little or no safety net.
Projected Starters: If you have a strong leg and
eligibility left, contact head coach Mark Snyder. Junior punter
Marty Biagi tore knee ligaments in the spring, meaning
the Herd needs to find a new punter and a new holder for at
least the early part of the season. Enter Jake Fields, a
true freshman who practiced this spring after spending last
season prepping at Hargrave Military Academy. The situation at
kicker is nearly as unstable. Senior Anthony Biswanger
has plenty of leg strength, but was a nightmare in his first
season out of Diablo Valley (Calif.) College. He was just
5-of-13 on field goal attempts, while missing four extra
The return men should be the same as last year, with juniors
Emmanuel Spann and Chubb Small both spending time
handling kickoffs and punts. Had he fielded three more punts in
2006, Spann’s 12-yard average would have easily led Conference
Projected Top Reserves: Unless Snyder can locate another
punter on the fly, Biagi’s injury ensures that the Herd special
teams unit will basically be performing without a net this
season. For better or worse, Biswanger is the kicker and Fields
is the punter.
Watch Out For… the development of Biswanger in his
final season. The raw ability and experience are there;
however, he needs to conquer the mental side of things by
completely setting aside last year’s debacle and starting over.
Strength: Spann. More than just the program’s
most consistent returner, Spann will also be supplanting Biagi
as the holder on field goals and extra points.
Weakness: Placekicking. Marshall is inconsistent
across the board on special teams, but Biswanger’s erratic play
is simply intolerable for an up-and-down offense that was held
to ten or fewer points four times in 2006.
Outlook: This is a messy situation that could cost
the Herd a game or two, and subsequently a shot at the
post-season, if Biswanger and Fields can’t suddenly morph into
reliable spokes in the special teams wheel.