2008 Marshall Preview - Offense
Marshall TE Cody Slate
Marshall TE Cody Slate
Posted Apr 30, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Marshall Thundering Herd Offense

Marshall Thundering Herd

Preview 2008 - Offense

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

What you 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.

Returning Leaders
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

Star 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 offensive line


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 the Badgers.
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.. 
Rating: 5

Running Backs

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.
Rating: 6.5


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 fall. 

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 Conference USA. 
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.        
Rating: 7

Offensive Line

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 last season.
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.
Rating: 5