2008 Conference USA Insider Spring Questions
Marshall DE Albert McClellan
Marshall DE Albert McClellan
Posted Mar 7, 2008

With spring ball kicking in, here are some of the Conference USA's key questions answered by the inside sources, the Scout publishers.

2008 Spring Preview

Key Conference USA Questions Answered

- 2008 Conference USA Spring Analysis

Is Albert McClellan ready to be Albert McClellan again? Will his return finally mean the defense will be effective?

From Greg Perry, GoHerd.com

Absolutely, McClellan is ready to be the Albert McClellan that drove opposing offenses crazy during his breakout freshman year.

Losing McClellan during late-summer drills was a pretty significant blow to the Marshall defense in 2007, make no mistake about it. Everything we're hearing is that Albert is ready to go in spring drills, and hopefully we'll see evidence of that in March and April.

Combine that news with a look at coach Mark Snyder's excellent recruiting class (John Youboty, anyone?) and you can see it's going to be an interesting year for Marshall football in 2008. Snyder, fans, everyone around the program can see that improvement is coming, and fast.

Is it possible for Tulsa to replace QB Paul Smith?

From Wesley Allen TulsaInsider.com
"Tulsa will struggle early in 2008 to match the leadership, intelligence, and play making that Paul Smith gave the offense. If the Hurricane do find a suitable replacement, it will be a race between Senior David Johnson, Sophomore Clark Harrell, and JUCO Transfer Jacob Bower".
What's being done to improve the defense?

"Recruiting season focused mostly on meeting defensive needs. Tulsa signed 7 defensive backs and 4 linebackers, to improve the pass defense. The 2008 unit should be more athletic and will have another season of experience in the 3-3-5 defense.

Will Rice get any better under David Bailiff?

From David Mooney, Publisher, OwlDigest.com 

Rice just signed several cornerbacks (Jarrett Ben, Chris Jammer, Michael Patterson) and a couple of defensive linemen (John Gioffre and Mike Smith) that will play this fall. Signing P/K Kyle Martens out of Spearfish, S.D. will help us with field position too. He was rated the #7 punter in the country by Chris Sailer and had 90% of his kickoffs go for touchbacks. The Owls also have two players moving from offense over to the defensive line. One is RS-FR Davon Primus (6-3 310) who has lost 35 pounds in the Rice conditioning program since arriving at Rice. The other is former TE Chance Talbert, a 6-5 280 pound tackle who's returning to the D-line where he played as a freshman. He's also playing on the Rice basketball team right now. We also have a returning senior Free Safety - Bencil Smith was a two year starter who was injured on the first play of last season. Also coming back is redshirt sophomore LB (Jonathan Arceneaux, 6-0 222). He sat out last year but was playing as a true freshman when he severely injured his knee. Overall, we played a lot of true freshmen on defense last year - we were decimated with injuries and lack of depth. We had 23 surgeries during or after the season! Those freshmen have hit it hard in the weight room so hopefully the experience they gained last year combined with their offseason workouts will result in a much improved defense.
Freshman All American DE Scott Solomon will be a player to watch - he is currently 6-3 262 and just benched 427. Brian Raines is the Iron Owl (strongest player on the team), he played hurt all last year and looks to rebound with a big senior season. Speaking of strong, Senior nose tackle Chris Ptaszek is another converted OL who played his first full season on the DL last year. By season's end coaches were really pleased with his progress - at 6-4 310 he boasts a 450 bench. 
On offense, we return all but 3 starters from season's end. What we're adding to the group is speed. We just signed 3 players that will likely play this fall, Shane Turner at RB (4.4), Denzel Wells at WR (4.34!), and Roddy Maginot at the Slot position (4.4). All three are also kick/punt returners. Returning starting RB Justin Hill is pushing 220 pounds, runs 4.4, benches 400 lbs and has a vertical of 37". All American and Biletnikoff Award nominee Jarett Dillard will see far fewer double coverages as a result of the influx of speed. He will attempt to improve his record best 42" vertical to 44" next week. We also return a big weapon (literally) in Freshmen All American James "Thor" Casey, at a chiseled 6-4 250 pounds, he runs 4.6 and also benches over 400. He can play QB, TE, or inside receiver. Another freshman, that will give us great blocking and another red zone option is TE Kody Emmert, 6-7 260. The O line likely will be improved too, as we will have freshman starter Scott Mitchell back, he finished the season as the starter last year at LT weighing only 250 pounds after an August bout with esophagitis. He's up to 270 now and will play at 285 this fall. David Berken will return at guard (6-4-300) after going through his first offseason in two years, previously missing due to injuries. Another freshman guard the Owls are high on is Jake Hicks (6-4 290), who would have played last year if not for a bout with mono. Then there's senior QB Chase Clement, who set 18 school records last year. He won't have to learn any new terminology this spring and will have more weapons at his disposal this time around. Most don't realize it but this will be the first spring in 3 years that the Owls will have the same coaching staff. Speaking of last spring, we only had about 60 players available for drills. This year including walk-ons, we'll have about 90..