2010 Marshall Preview – Offense
Marshall RB Martin Ward
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Marshall Thundering Herd Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: One player rarely makes a program or even a unit. That said, Clemson transfer Willy Korn is going to have a chance to be an impact player immediately in Huntington ... provided he unseats incumbent Brian Anderson behind center. Marshall has a good mix of talent elsewhere, from RB Martin Ward and a seasoned offensive line to WR Antavious Wilson and TE Lee Smith. Unlocking this group's potential, however, is contingent upon the play at quarterback improving. Enter Korn, the one-time can't-miss recruit, who never achieved his potential in the ACC. He has a new lease on his college career and an enormous opportunity to be the guy who finally builds a bridge to the days when the Herd perennially flourished at producing big-time quarterbacks.
Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Antavious Wilson
Passing: Brian Anderson
231-398, 2,646 yds, 14 TDs, 13 INTs
Rushing: Martin Ward
82 carries, 393 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Antavious Wilson
60 catches, 724 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Willy Korn
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Martin Ward
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Lee Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) Wilson, 3) Senior C Chad Schofield
Strength of the offense: Quarterback depth, receivers and tight ends, the left side of the line
Weakness of the offense: Passing efficiency, red zone offense, big plays
Projected Starter: While a new wave of contenders arrives in the summer, at least for now, 6-3, 213-pound senior Brian Anderson is the man to beat heading into summer. The incumbent, he played to mixed reviews in 2009, going 231-of-398 for 2,646 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. His experience over the past two seasons will be his biggest advantage, but will it be enough to hold off the improving competition? That'll be the looming question throughout the month of August. He's not the type of hurler who'll wow you with his physical ability, leaning more on his know-how and savvy behind center.
Projected Top Reserves: The surprise of the offseason has been 6-4, 208-pound redshirt freshman A.J. Graham, who has pulled into the spot just behind Anderson. A key get from the 2009 class, he's a passer first, but also has the athleticism to hurt defenses with his feet. He has the type of frame that can take on more weight and enough overall upside to be considered the quarterback of the future in Huntington.
Though he's slipped considerably in the pecking order, 6-4, 237-pound junior Mark Cann still has a valuable role on this team. The most experienced of the reserves, he actually started 11 games in 2008, going 154-of-307 for 1,767 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. An immobile pocket passer, he has decent arm strength, but has a lot of ground to make up in order to jump back into this competition.
Watch Out For … the Herd to free Willy. Clemson transfer Willy Korn arrives in the summer, surrounded by a ton of well-deserved hoopla. One of the nation's most coveted quarterback recruits just three years ago, he's struggled with injuries and was beaten out by Kyle Parker in 2009. He has two seasons of eligibility to recapture the high school magic and give Marshall its best quarterback since Byron Leftwich graduated.
Strength: Experience. Marshall boasts not one, not two, but three quarterbacks with relevant experience at this level. Anderson is the incumbent. Cann was the starter in 2008. And Korn brings relevant reps from his days at Clemson. With this many veterans, the new staff has a luxury at the most important position on the field.
Weakness: Passing efficiency. Sure, there's experience, but that's not exactly a guarantee of results. A year ago, the Herd was No. 90 nationally in passing efficiency, which was actually 10 notches better than 2008. Marshall has an unfavorable touchdown-to-interception ratio, and too often dinks and dunks instead of stretching the defense.
Outlook: If the staff can handle everyone's ego this fall, it's going to inherit a rather favorable situation at quarterback. The Herd now has two veterans, a young up-and-comer, and a wild card in Korn. Expect the competition to be fierce and the winner to be looking over his shoulder in the early stages of the season.
Unit Rating: 6
Projected Starters: The decision of Darius Marshall to leave early for the NFL was a costly one for the Herd offense, which will miss its 1,000-yard rusher. It's a good thing 5-9, 201-pound sophomore Martin Ward got a taste of action late last year because his role is about to explode. Most of his 393 yards and three scores on 82 carries and MVP honors in the bowl game came in the final three games, when Marshall was unavailable. A top 2008 recruit, who had offers from SEC, Big East, ACC, and Big Ten schools, he runs low to the ground and with a noticeable sense of purpose. Don't be shocked if the Herd running game doesn't skip a beat with No. 29 as the new workhorse.
Projected Top Reserves: Bucking for more snaps as the No. 2 back will be 5-10, 178-pound sophomore Andre Booker . Though most of his big plays in his debut came on special teams, he did land 15 carries for 73 yards and caught four passes for 25 yards. An exciting talent in the open field, he has that extra gear to get around tackle and the stop-and-start quickness to make people miss. As a compliment and third-down back, he can expect far more touches than a year ago.
Adding additional veteran depth will be 6-2, 215-pound junior Terrell Edwards . In 2009, he finished third on the team in rushing, compiling 217 yards and three scores on 58 carries, including his first 100-yard day versus SMU. One of the more powerful runners in the stable of Herd backs, he possesses the desired blend of size and quickness needed to deliver his most productive season since arriving in Huntington.
Watch Out For … Ward to motor for 1,000 yards in his first season as the regular. Yeah, Marshall will be missed, but Ward gave a sneak peak of his potential late in his first year, going for 268 yards and three touchdowns on just 48 carries. He has feature-back skills and a chance to be one of this year's surprises in Conference USA.
Strength: Mix and match backs. Booker has flash. Edwards will provide the thump. Ward is a combination of the two, all wrapped up in a sturdy 5-9, 201-pound package. The Herd has plenty of options even without last year's 1,000-yard rusher.
Weakness: Proven feature back. While the sky is the limit for Ward, he's never had to prove it over the course of an entire year. For that matter, none of the Herd backs has been in that position before. They should be fine, but it's all speculation until the season actually gets going.
Outlook: If the line does its job, there's no reason why Marshall should suffer any significant departure from the results of the past couple of seasons. Ward is going to embrace the 20-25 carries he gets a game, and Booker will sprinkle in the occasional big plays as a runner and a receiver.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Projected Starters: With so many returners back at wide receiver and tight end, the Herd should be in good shape here throughout the year. The budding star of the ensemble is 6-0, 196-pound sophomore Antavious Wilson, the program's leading receiver at the "X" spot in his first year of eligibility. He won a job and then backed it up by catching 60 balls for 724 yards and three touchdowns. Already a polished pass-catcher, he really started to erupt in November, catching a season-high 13 passes against Southern Miss and nine more at UTEP.
After starting all 13 games at "Y" receiver a year ago, 5-10, 197-pound senior Chuck Walker is battling to be right back in the same spot in 2010. He had a workmanlike debut out of Laney (Calif.) College, catching 33 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. However, a big chunk of those receptions came in the opener, and he tended to be a little streaky. The Herd is looking for a more consistent senior year, and ideally, a player who can take some of the inevitable pressure off Wilson.
In the slot, or "H" receiver, the Herd is welcoming back 6-0, 190-pound senior Courtney Edmonson , who was granted an additional year of eligibility. Slated to be one of the veterans a year ago, he never got out of the gate, suffering a season-ending injury in the opener. He has good speed, the strength to bounce off tacklers, and 32 career receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns. His experience will be a nice complement to all of the young wide receivers.
Marshall has to be one of the few programs in America that can lose a player of Cody Slate's caliber and still feel good about its situation at tight end. Senior Lee Smith got thrust into the spotlight after Slate was injured, responding with 23 catches for 335 yards. A hulking 6-6, 267-pound Tennessee transfer, he played well enough to consider early entry into the 2010 NFL Draft. Wisely, he was patient, knowing that a full season as the regular could do wonders for his stock. He has the size and strength to impersonate a guard on running plays, yet also has the soft hands to win the confidence of the quarterbacks on intermediate routes.
Projected Top Reserves: While still somewhat raw and unproven at "X" receiver, the staff is very excited about the long-term prospects of 6-3, 203-pound sophomore Aaron Dobson. He made the most of his limited opportunities and proved to be a bona fide field-stretcher, parlaying just 15 catches into 362 yards and four touchdowns. He uses his body well, won't be out muscled, and is beginning to show a knack for picking up yards after the catch. While not quite in Wilson's league just yet, he still has a bright future ahead of him.
In multiple wide sets, 6-2, 194-pound senior Tavaris Thompson will be filling out "Z" receiver. Although this will be his fifth season with the program, he's had problems getting on the field, catching just a single pass for eight yards during his time. He has all of the physical tools to be successful, but needs to actually put it all together and start producing before time runs out on his college career.
Behind Thompson at the "Z" is his virtual twin, 6-3, 199-pound senior Wayne Bonner . He, too, looks the part, yet has failed to deliver on high expectations. The former can't miss transfer from East Mississippi Community College was an afterthought in the offense, making just eight receptions for 89 yards. However, both players performed well in the spring, lending hope about their final seasons of eligibility.
Watch Out For … Smith to attract a bunch of pro scouts to Huntington. He actually flirted with the idea of leaving early before wisely returning to Marshall for the 2010 season. He has the size and overall package of talent to be a key weapon for the passing game, creating downfield mismatches.
Strength: Physical ability. If nothing else, the Herd has done a consistently good job of attracting outstanding athletes to Huntington. Even the reserves, such as Thompson and Bonner, possess the triangle numbers to break free from defenders and become open targets for the quarterbacks.
Weakness: Consistency. As athletic as this group can be, it hasn't prevented poor execution in the form of dropped passes and sloppy routes. Young receivers coach Zach Smith is in charge of taking all of this raw talent and molding it into a more consistent group of pass-catchers.
Outlook: In the span of one year the Herd has come a long way at receiver. This is suddenly a decent mix of veterans and young playmakers with bright futures. Wilson and Dobson, in particular, have high ceilings, which the new staff is cautiously optimistic they'll begin reaching this fall.
Unit Rating: 5.5
Projected Starters: Three starters return to a unit that did a solid job last season. The leader of the group will be 6-4, 304-pound senior Chad Schofield , the team's center and only blocker to earn any All-Conference USA recognition. A versatile blocker, with good size and point-of-attack strength, he plays with a blue-collar mentality, finishing his blocks until the whistle blows.
Back at left tackle for another season as the starter is 6-5, 312-pound senior Brandon Campbell , the most physically imposing of the Herd's linemen. After disappointing early in his career, he began showing progress in 2009, using his size and long arms to become a more effective pass protector. While he still needs plenty of work with his technique, if he can turn the corner in his development, he possesses the ingredients to finish with his best season as a member of the program.
Next to Campbell at left guard will be 6-5, 289-pound junior Ryan Tillman , who is about to enter his third season as a starter. A former tackle, he's settled in nicely on the interior, adding weight and increasing his overall strength. Still, his biggest asset remains his athleticism and footwork, getting out of his stance quickly and making key blocks downfield.
At right tackle, there's high hope that this is the year junior C.J. Wood maximizes his potential. One of the program's top recruit of 2007, he's lacked consistency and had difficulty holding on to his starting job a year ago. However, he's coming off his best offseason, and at 6-5 and 305 pounds, has an ideal frame to play the position and the light feet to put last year's disappointment behind him.
Bucking to be the final piece of this massive puzzle is 6-5, 314-pound senior RG Landis Provancha . A former transfer from Grossmont (Calif.) College, he saw his first action last season, even starting three games when injuries hit the unit. At his best when operating in a phone booth, he can control linemen with his upper body strength, provided he isn't forced to roam too far out of his comfort zone.
Projected Top Reserves: Providing cover for Schofield at center will be veteran John Bruhin , a 6-4, 318-pound junior coming off a season-ending back injury in 2009. A powerful run blocker, with terrific upper body strength, he gives the Herd a physical presence in the middle of the line when he's healthy.
One of the rising stars on the inside is redshirt freshman Alex Schooler , the backup at left guard. A lightly-recruited tight end out of high school, he moved to the offensive line for the first time and has just kept getting bigger and stronger. He held up well when receiving first team reps in the spring and has assured himself of being a part of the rotation in the fall.
Watch Out For … Wood's trajectory. The staff raved about him throughout the offseason, but will that trend continue in September? It has to if the offensive line, in general, is going to make positive strides. If he can reach his full potential, the Herd will have a talented bookend protecting the pocket.
Strength: The left side. From Schofield going left, the Herd has three veterans, with a tremendous amount of experience between them. Campbell and Tillman are quality pass protectors and two of the team's better blockers among the linemen.
Weakness: Proven depth. The experienced backups, Bruhin and senior Erik Vint , have a back issue and limited career reps, respectively. If the spring is any indication, there's a very good chance that the majority of the second team will be comprised of freshmen.
Outlook: By Conference USA standards, this is an above average offensive line that boasts excellent size and just enough experience on the first unit. Plus, it's a bonus that the holdovers seem to be excelling under the guidance of line coach Bill Legg. If it can gel and avoid having to go too deep down the bench, this group will do more harm than good for the skill players.
Unit Rating: 5.5
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2010 Marshall Defense |
Marshall Depth Chart
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