2009 CFN Marshall Preview
Marshall DE Albert McClellan
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Marshall Thundering Herd
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about Marshall football?
Marshall is staring at a crossroads…again.
Head coach: Mark Snyder
5th year: 16-31
Off. 20, Def. 25, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 23
Best Herd Players
1. DE Albert McClellan,
2. RB Darius Marshall, Jr.
3. TE Cody Slate, Sr.
4. LB Mario Harvey, Sr.
5. CB DeQuan Bembry, Soph.
C.J. Wood, Soph.
7. OT Ryan Tillman, Soph.
8. DE Michael
9. CB T.J. Drakeford, Soph.
10. LB Brandon
2009 Record: 0-0
9/12 at Virginia Tech
9/19 Bowling Green
9/26 at Memphis
10/3 East Carolina
10/10 at Tulane
10/17 at West Virginia
11/1 at UCF
11/7 OPEN DATE
11/14 Southern Miss
11/28 at UTEP
2008 Record: 4-8
State W 35-10
9/6 at Wisconsin L 51-14
Memphis W 17-16
9/20 at So Miss W 34-27
9/27 at West Virginia L 27-3
10/3 Cincinnati L 33-10
10/11 OPEN DATE
at UAB L 23-21
11/1 OPEN DATE
11/8 at E Carolina L 19-16 OT
UCF L 30-14
at Rice L 35-10
Tulsa L 38-35
Last season was supposed to be do-or-die for head coach Mark Snyder. He didn’t
deliver, yet still survived to get one more crack at getting this right. It’s
been four years, and he’s produced only 16 wins and countless groans from
restless fans. From 1997-2002, the Herd created lofty expectations for a non-BCS
school, winning five MAC championships and five bowl games. In the seven years
since? How about no league titles and a single bowl game, a 32-14 loss to
Cincinnati in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl?
The expectations have been lowered under Snyder, but not by that much. They
still expect to win titles in Huntington, which is why the coaching staff is
under such intense scrutiny. And why a four-game losing streak at the tail end
of a respectable 4-4 start still lingers around campus like a bad odor.
There’s still a good core of talent at Marshall, including the return of eight
starters to each side of the ball and most of the special teams unit. Put
differently, there’s enough talent to manufacture seven wins in a wide-open
league that has no immovable objects. Plus, both coordinators enter their second
seasons with the program, presumably facing fewer roadblocks to success. If the
Herd can’t parlay all of this into a December bowl game, it’s hard to imagine
Snyder or his assistants getting a second reprieve from the governor.
What to watch for on offense: The
battle at quarterback. Like it or not, it’s going to make headlines around
Huntington until Mark Snyder names his starter in the summer. Maybe even beyond
that point. While Mark Cann is the incumbent, he failed to close the door on the
competition. Brian Anderson was lights out in his only audition of 2008, a
three-touchdown, mistake-free game. Press Taylor and Jacob Laudenslayer weren’t
brought in from junior college just to mimic the other team’s quarterback on the
What to watch for on defense: A more cohesive unit. Too often last year,
the defense appeared lost, blowing coverages and allowing big plays. While those
days aren’t completely over, they should be less common. It’s going to help
having defensive coordinator Rick Minter in the system for a second year. He
knows his personnel much better, and his system is no longer foreign to the
players. It’ll also help having eight starters and a slew of letterwinners back
on campus. If DE Albert McClellan can regain his pre-ACL injury form, he’s good
enough to ignite and inspire the entire D.
This team will be far better if …the passing game significantly narrows
the gap on the running game. A year ago, Marshall was 95th nationally
through the air and 50th on the ground, an unbalanced attack that
cannot continue. To be successful, coordinator John Shannon needs to keep teams
guessing and opposing defenses from ganging up on RB Darius Marshall. Throughout
its history, Marshall was at its best when it was able to go up top to make
plays. No one expects the second coming of Chad Pennington, but the team has to
perform much better at quarterback this season.
The Schedule: There's the in-state rivalry against West Virginia and
the nasty game against Virginia Tech, but Southern Illinois and Bowling
Green aren't bad non-conference dates. The big break comes in
interdivision play getting Tulane, SMU, and UTEP; three teams that
didn't go bowing. Getting the stars of the East, East Carolina and
Southern Miss, at home is big, and playing three home games in four
dates, with a bye week in the midst, should mean a nice finishing kick.
However, the back-to-back road games against Tulane and West Virginia
will anchor two stretches of three road games in four weeks.
Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Darius Marshall. Senior TE Cody Slate
would also make sense in this space. Marshall, however, gives the Herd a
consistent running threat and its best back since Ahmad Bradshaw left
for the NFL. A slippery, fundamentally-sound runner, he ran for 1,095
yards and generated 165 all-purpose yards a game, en route to a spot on
the All-Conference USA second team.
Best Defensive Player: Senior DE Albert McClellan. Was McClellan all the
way back from his ACL tear last year? No. Can he get to that spot this
fall? You bet. A little rusty in 2008, he still earned first team
all-league honors, requiring plenty of attention from opposing blockers
and getting routine pressure on the quarterback. When he’s at peak
performance, No. 96 is one of those lightning-quick edge rushers, who’s
capable of taking over games.
Key player to a successful season:
Sophomore QB Mark Cann. Or whoever wins the starting job. Yeah, there
are question marks elsewhere on the depth chart, but none that even
approaches the significance at quarterback. The Herd needs to better
than average behind center, which it’s been ever since Byron Leftwich
graduated earlier in the decade. If there’s a revolving door at the
position because no one can seize the job, it’ll be another quiet
postseason in Huntington.
The season will be a success if ... the Herd sneaks above .500 and
bowls for the first time since 2004. Hey, this is Marshall, where the
locals used to expect titles when Bob Pruett was on the sidelines. A
measly December bowl game isn’t asking for too much, right? Only two of
the 12 games, at West Virginia and at Virginia Tech, go right in the
loss column, so seven wins is achievable for a squad that returns 16
starters and all of the special teamers.
Key game: Sept. 26
at Memphis. This is a crossroads game early in the season against an
East Division rival. The Tigers are also one of those middling
Conference USA programs, which will be scrapping for bowl eligibility
late in November. The winner gets to take some much-needed momentum into
October. The loser could easily fall a win shy of the postseason when
the final results come in.
2008 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Marshall 22 for 174 yards - Opponents 13 for 90 yards
- Turnovers: Opponents 23 - Marshall 17
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 10-of-12 (95%) - Marshall (50%)
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