Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Marshall Preview |
2008 Marshall Offense
2008 Marshall Depth
2007 CFN Marshall Preview |
need to know:
New coordinator John Shannon is installing an up-tempo, one-back
offense that was a smashing success at Toledo. His first
objective will be to find a triggerman out of a tightly-packed
group that includes last year’s backup Brian Anderson, Georgia
Tech transfer Jonathan Garner, and redshirt freshmen Mark Cann,
the favorite coming out of spring. Whoever gets the ball will
spend plenty of time looking for WR Darius Passmore and TE Cody
Slate, and handing the ball off to Darius Marshall. The Herd is
deep at the skill positions, meaning the play of the quarterback
and an unproven offensive line will dictate whether the offense
sputters or shines in Shannon’s debut.
Passing: Brian Anderson
12-28, 94 yds, 0 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Darius Marshall
123 carries, 631 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Cody Slate
66 catches, 818 yds, 5 TD
of the offense:
Junior TE Cody Slate
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman QB Mark Cann
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LG Josh Evans
Best pro prospect: Slate
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Slate 2) Senior WR
Darius Passmore 3) Sophomore RB Darius Marshall
Strength of the offense: Skill position talent
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at quarterback, the
Projected Starter: The race to replace Bernard
Morris was in full swing in April, and won’t be decided until
late. Head coach Mark Snyder doesn’t want to waste too much time
naming a starter, hoping his choice will have as much time as
possible to prepare for the opener with Illinois State. Although
he’s yet to be anointed the guy, highly-touted redshirt freshman
Mark Cann exited spring as the front-runner. A
traditional drop-back passer, he has the strong arm and pocket
presence you’d expect from a 6-4, 237-pound southpaw. Even more
important, he’s also got it upstairs, digesting John Shannon’s
new West Coast offense faster than the other competitors.
Projected Top Reserves: Making sure Cann doesn’t
become comfortable will be 6-4, 218-pound junior Jonathan
Garner and 6-3, 209-pound sophomore Brian Anderson.
Garner is next in line behind Cann, a Georgia Tech transfer and
another left-handed pitcher. One of the nation’s top pro-style
recruits of 2005, he throws a soft pass and is especially
effective on play-action and intermediate routes. Physically,
he’s right there with Cann, needing to display a better grasp of
the new system.
Anderson is the only quarterback with game experience, yet is
the longshot of the group. When his number was called last year,
he couldn’t deliver going 12-of-28 for 94 yards and three
interceptions. Considered the future at the position not long
ago, he’s a student of the game and more of a touch passer.
Watch Out For… Cann to be the man. Snyder wants
him to cross one more hurdle and elevate his game, but he made a
loud statement in the spring that he’s ready for the job. It’s
been a while since Marshall had a quarterback it could build
around. Cann has shown early signs of being that type of player.
Strength: The future. The past may be a clean
slate for Marshall’s top three contenders, but the future is
loaded with all kinds of potential. Cann, Garner, and Anderson
all have at least two seasons to stake their claim as the next
big thing in a Herd hurler.
Weakness: Experience. Basically, there is none to
crow about. Anderson’s brief stay behind center last fall is
something the program would like to forget. The new starter gets
a break with Illinois State visiting in the opener before
traveling to Wisconsin and getting a baptism under fire versus
Outlook: The bad news is that whoever starts is
sure to endure growing pains for at least the first half of the
season. The good news is that his chances of blossoming into the
program’s quarterback of the future will be enhanced by throwing
to one of the league’s best corps of receivers. It’s a trade-off
the offense will have to endure to grow..
Projected Starters: While the Herd boasts as many
as four backs good enough to handle the workload, 5-10,
193-pound sophomore Darius Marshall has already
distinguished himself as the go-to guy. In his first season out
of high school, he raced for a team-high 631 yards and three
touchdowns, adding 14 receptions for 119 yards, and a mess of
big plays on special teams. A darting, cut-back runner, he’ll
wait patiently until a play develops, following his blockers
through the hole. He won’t be the only back to play this fall,
but he should be the feature back.
Projected Top Reserves: The veteran of the
backfield is 5-9, 193-pound senior Chubb Small, a
three-time letterwinner and one of the fastest players in the
program. A legitimate 4.4 blazer with soft hands, he rushed for
a career-high 424 yards and five touchdowns on just 69 carries,
an average of more than six yards. Ideally suited as a
change-of-pace or a third-down back, he’s slated to get 5-10
touches a game.
At 5-10 and 200 pounds, senior Kelvin Turner possesses
the leg strength and downhill running style to be used in short
yardage situations. In limited action, he ran 52 times for 158
yards and a Herd-high seven touchdowns on the ground.
While only a redshirt freshman, 6-2, 211-pound redshirt freshman
Terrell Edwards made a statement in the spring for more
playing time. Possessing an ideal blend of size and burst, he
exploded in April, finishing the session with 77 yards and three
touchdowns on just 14 carries.
Watch Out For… incoming freshman Martin Ward.
Yeah, there isn’t much room for another back in the
already-loaded Marshall stable. Ward, however, isn’t an ordinary
recruit. Marshall beat out the likes of Georgia, Louisville,
Purdue, and South Carolina to land his services, and won’t be
shy about burning his redshirt year.
Strength: Depth and talent. With the development
of Edwards, the staff is confident it has four backs good enough
to carry the load on the ground. Even better, each of the backs
offers something a little different to the offense.
Weakness: Lack of a true workhorse. Only in his
second season, is Marshall ready to handle 20 carries a game on
a weekly basis? If not, it’s not as if Small, Turner, or Edwards
has a proven track record as an every-down runner.
Outlook: The Herd has officially recovered from
the early departure of Ahmad Bradshaw to the NFL a little over a
year ago. This is as much backfield depth as the program has
ever had, combining the youth of Marshall, Edwards, and Ward
with the veteran leadership of Small and Turner. The challenge
for coordinator John Shannon will be to push the right buttons
and ride the hot hand.
Projected Starters: Senior Darius Passmore
was as good as advertised in his first season out of the College
of the Sequoias (Calif.), leading the wide receivers with 45
catches for 660 yards and five touchdowns. A truly gifted
overall athlete, he’s a 6-3, 186-pound flyer with the legitimate
4.3 speed to get behind a secondary. He’s the Herd’s
game-breaker in the passing game, a field-stretcher who’ll clear
out the congestion for the underneath receivers.
The steady veteran of the group is 5-11, 195-pound senior
Emmanuel Spann, who caught 25 passes for 442 yards and two
touchdowns in his return from a serious knee injury. While not
as fast as Passmore, he’s got good speed, soft hands, and a
knack for running crisp routes. He’ll be even more effective in
his second season back from the injury.
In three-wide sets, 5-11, 165-pound senior E.J. Wynn will
line up at Z receiver. A reliable player on the intermediate
routes, he enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, catching a
career-best 31 balls for 309 yards and a touchdown. With
Passmore and Spann commanding so much attention, he should be
able to equal those numbers this fall.
Junior Cody Slate drew closer to being the nation’s
premier pass-catching tight end a year ago, making a Herd-high
66 receptions for 811 yards and five touchdowns. Like having a
fourth wide receiver on the field, he’s 6-4 and 220 pounds with
the speed and agility to create mismatches with most
linebackers. On the lip of the All-American cup, he’s a
dominating weapon in the middle of the field.
Projected Top Reserves: Not far behind Wynn at
flanker is 6-0, 184-pound junior flanker Courtney Edmonson,
coming off his best season with the program. A deep threat when
he can break free from jams, he started four games, catching 21
passes for 276 yards and a touchdown. His competition with Wynn
for the starting job won’t be over until late in August.
On many programs, 6-6, 245-pound Lee Smith would be the
featured tight end. On Marshall, he’ll be a backup until Slate
graduates. In his first season since transferring from
Tennessee, he caught a pair of passes and was mostly used in
blocking situations. He provides more of a physical presence
from the position and will see increased playing time this
Watch Out For… even greater use of Slate and
Smith. First-year coordinator John Shannon loves getting the
most out of his tight ends, and has the best tandem in
Strength: Speed. Passmore and Spann have jets and
Slate is one of the quickest tight ends in the country. If the
new quarterback can reach his targets, the Herd has a slew of
exciting receivers capable beating defenders on the deep ball.
Weakness: Depth at receiver. Edmonson is a quality
reserve, but after him, the drop-off is noticeable and
concerning. Mega-recruit O.J. Murdoch was expected to
fill one of those slots, but he failed to qualify academically.
Outlook: Much like the backs, the receivers are in
their best shape in years. In terms of front-line talent,
Marshall will cause weekly headaches in a conference short on
quality cornerbacks and air-tight pass defenses. While Passmore
and Slate are all-leaguers, it’ll help if one more playmaker can
step up in support.
Projected Starters: The line will move forward
without two starters, namely Doug Legursky, one of the best
centers to ever play for the school. In his place steps 6-1,
285-pound senior Brian Leggett, a two-year starter at
guard making the move inside. While not very big, he’s quick off
the snap and has the right level of experience and intelligence
to make this transition work.
Taking over at Leggett’s old right guard spot is 6-1, 301-pound
senior Matt Altobello, a program guy and a former walk-on
with limited game experience. Although he’s been around for a
while and knows the system, there’s a reason it’s taken this
long for him to crack the regular lineup.
Flanking Altobello on the left side is arguably the program’s
best blocker, sophomore Josh Evans. A 6-4, 324-pound
mauler, he impressed as a 12-game starter after being forced
into the starting rotation. He’s as tough and physical as any of
the linemen, now needing to make strides in pass protection.
The likely tackle tandem consists of 6-9, 307-pound junior
Daniel Baldridge on the right side and 6-5, 319-pound
sophomore Brandon Campbell on the right. Baldridge missed
the spring recovering from an injury, but is expected back after
starting 11 games as a sophomore. Although he has the long arms
needed to ward off edge rushers, he still needs to become more
physical and assertive at the point of contact.
Campbell is the type of bookend who the Herd will build around
over the next few seasons. He received on-the-job training as a
rookie, starting a pair of games and earning a letter. Once he
refines his technique and fundamentals, he has the raw power and
athleticism to blossom into a Conference USA all-star.
Projected Top Reserves: The closest thing the Herd
has to a veteran on the second unit is 6-4, 320-pound sophomore
G Chad Schofield. He’s been around the program for a
couple of years, but hasn’t seen the field, a dry spell that’ll
change this fall.
The staff is banking on 6-4, 325-pound junior James Rogers,
a junior college transfer, contributing in his first season out
of Mississippi Delta Community College. Highly-touted and
hotly-pursued, if he can’t deliver, it’ll be to redshirt
freshmen, such as Brandon Curry and C.J. Wood, to
bolster the depth chart behind Baldridge and Campbell.
Watch Out For… Marshall to continue having
problems with pass protection. After finishing 108th
nationally in sacks allowed, an inexperienced quarterback and
two unproven tackles is a recipe for leftovers and a repeat of
Strength: The inside. Relatively speaking, the
strength of this unit is at guard and center, where the Herd
will have a couple of seniors and a sophomore, Evans, with
All-Conference USA potential.
Weakness: Pass protection. After surrendering a
league-high 38 sacks, there’s reason to believe that the worst
is yet to come. Last year’s starting quarterback, Bernard
Skinner, couldn’t escape the heat, and he was one of the best
athletes in Huntington. Depth is another grave concern that’s
unlikely to be resolved before 2009.
Outlook: If the Marshall skill position players
struggle to get out of the blocks, it’ll be because this group
didn’t do its job. The Herd lacks consistency up front, and a
sure-thing now that Legursky is out of eligibility. Even more
than the uncertainty at quarterback, the problems on the
offensive line are what’s giving the coaches sleepless nights.