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2008 CFN Marshall Preview
Marshall DE Albert McClellan
Marshall DE Albert McClellan
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 30, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall Thundering Herd

Preview 200
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By Richard Cirminiello    

- 2008 CFN Marshall Preview | 2008 Marshall Offense  
- 2008 Marshall Defense | 2008 Marshall Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Marshall Preview | 2006 CFN Marshall Preview

Head coach: Mark Snyder
4th year: 12-23
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 18, Def. 22, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Herd Players
1. DE Albert McClellan, Jr.
2.
TE Cody Slate, Jr.
3. FS C.J. Spillman, Sr.
4. RB Darius Marshall, Soph.
5. WR Darius Passmore, Sr.
6. LB Maurice Kitchens, Sr.
7. WR Emmanuel Spann, Sr.
8. LB Josh Evans, Soph.
9. SS Ashton Hall, Jr.
10. DE John Jacobs, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Illinois State
Sept. 6 at Wisconsin
Sept. 13 Memphis
Sept. 20 at Southern Miss
Sept. 27 at West Virginia
Oct. 3 Cincinnati
Oct. 11 OPEN DATE
Oct. 18 at UAB
Oct. 28 Houston
Nov. 1 OPEN DATE
Nov. 8 at East Carolina
Nov. 15 UCF
Nov. 22 at Rice
Nov. 29 Tulsa

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2007 Record:
3-9

Sept. 1 at Miami  L 31-3
Sept. 8 West Virginia L 48-23
Sept. 15
N Hampshire L 48-35
Sept. 22 at Cincinnati L 40-14
Oct. 2
at Memphis L 24-21
Oct. 13 at Tulsa L 38-31
Oct. 21 So Miss L 33-24
Oct. 27
Rice W 34-21
Nov. 3 at UCF L 47-13
Nov. 10 East Carolina W 26-7
Nov. 17 at Houston L 35-28
Nov. 24
UAB W 46-39

After just 12 wins over the last three years, there’s an unmistakable sense of urgency for the Herd and head coach Mark Snyder to win right now.

Snyder has brought in new coordinators for each side of the ball and an uncharacteristic seven junior college transfers to help ignite a program that started 0-7 a year ago and hasn’t had a winning season since 2003. A very young squad the last couple of years, Marshall returns a slew of veteran players, including star DE Albert McClellan, who missed all of last season with torn knee ligaments.               

While it might be do-or-die time for Snyder, he finally has the depth and experience to make a strong push for that long-awaited return to a winning record and a postseason game. While the presence of McClellan gives an enormous lift to the defense, the offense must develop a steady quarterback who can distribute the ball and keep the chains moving.

Marshall might be far away from the glory days when bowl games and league titles were annual events, but with a faster start, this team has the ingredients to catch Conference USA napping.

What to watch for on offense: Mark Cann. Although it feels like a few decades, it’s only been a few years since Byron Leftwich left Marshall, leaving a giant void behind center. The Herd has been pining for its next big-time quarterback, a role Cann is hoping to fill. Just a redshirt freshman, he took a lead in the spring to replace Bernard Skinner, an underachiever for much of his career. He’s got a big arm and a firm grasp of a new up-tempo offense that could help transform him into a monster producer.

What to watch for on defense: A greater reliance on the 3-4. New coordinator Rick Minter wants to get as many of the program’s big, fast linebackers on the field at the same time, and a shift in alignment is one way to get it done. Plus, most of the Herd’s defensive ends, such as Albert McClellan, Ian Hoskins, and John Jacobs, are built like outside linebackers anyway. If Minter can get his 11 best athletes on the field at the same time, he believes more pressure and big plays will be the result.

This team will be far better if
…it creates more takeaways. You can’t generate only seven turnovers over the course of an entire season and expect to win many games. No team in the nation had fewer takeaways than Marshall in 2007, a damning result that has to be reversed. At one point in the season, opponents threw nearly 200 consecutive passes without being picked off. Not surprisingly, the Herd lost each of those games.      

The Schedule:
The schedule has just enough big games to make some Conference USA noise, but it's just tough enough overall to finish with a losing record. Opening with Illinois State will get things rolling, but going to Wisconsin and West Virginia and hosting Cincinnati will make for a tough first half of the year. With a road trip to Southern Miss, a 2-4 start is possible before getting a week off. On the plus side, there aren't two road dates in a row over the second half of the season, but playing Houston and Tulsa from the West is an awful break.

Best Offensive Player: Junior TE Cody Slate. One of the most prolific tight ends in the country over the last two seasons, Slate has already hauled in 109 passes and 11 touchdowns.. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, he moves like a well-sized wide receiver, creating mismatches with the linebackers forced to cover him. He’s got sticky hands and a knack for picking up yards after the catch, averaging a healthy 13.7 yards a catch since becoming a starter.  

Best Defensive Player: Senior FS C.J. Spillman … for now. Until McClellan can prove he’s all the way back from his ACL tear, Spillman is the headliner of the defense. The team’s leading tackler and a feisty pass defender, he’s got next level abilities on a defense pining for more playmakers. He does a little bit of everything for the Herd and is never very far from the ball.         

Key player to a successful season: Junior DE Albert McClellan. Without McClellan a year ago, the defense just wasn’t the same. There was limited pressure to assist the defensive backs and no one that warranted more than one blocker. Assuming he’s fully recovered from last year’s ACL tear, he’s a true difference-maker with the explosiveness and pass rushing skills to make everyone around him more effective. If Marshall has any chance of returning to the postseason, No. 96 must provide a sequel to his monstrous sophomore season.   

The season will be a success if ... the Herd reaches .500. Considering the schedule, which includes Wisconsin, Cincinnati, and West Virginia, anything better than 6-6 would be cause for a parade. Although there are still too many unknowns to be thinking division crown, Marshall is capable of doubling last season’s three-win total. If it doesn’t, AD Bob Marcum could be conducting a search for a new head coach in December.

Key game: Sept. 13 vs. Memphis. Through two weeks, Marshall should be 1-1, beating Illinois State and falling to Wisconsin. It’s here, with a visit from Memphis, that the program will get a better idea if it’s going to compete in the East Division. After beginning last year 0-7, a fast start is a must for a school with a fragile psyche. Beating a decent Tiger team and nudging above .500 could be just the momentum the Herd needs to carry it through the final three-quarters of the season.     

2007 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)