Football Starts Spring Practice Tuesday


Cody Slate is one of the nation's top returning tight ends.

Cody Slate is one of the nation's top returning tight ends.

March 30, 2009

HUNTINGTON -

Marshall Spring Guide with Roster in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

Marshall University's football team will open spring practice this week with three scheduled workouts at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Thundering Herd's first practice, set for Tuesday, is closed to the public, however Herd fans are invited to watch the Thundering Herd practice on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Marshall Head Coach Mark Snyder enters his fourth spring at his alma-mater with 15 returning starters in camp and a wealth of experience throughout the roster. The Thundering Herd returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense. Among the top returnees are 2008 leading tackler Mario Harvey at linebacker, All-Conference USA defensive end Albert McClellan, Mackey Award Candidate Cody Slate at tight end and 1,000-yard rusher Darius Marshall at running back.

Tuesday is Marshall's first of the 15 NCAA allowed spring practices that will be spread out throughout the month of April. MU will conclude spring drills with the annual Green & White Game on Saturday, April 25 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington. Kickoff for the spring game is scheduled for 3 p.m.

A brief position-by-position spring outlook follows:

Marshall Offensive Coordinator John Shannon will have many weapons at his disposal this spring as Marshall welcomes back seven starters from last season. The Thundering Herd boasts one of the nation's top receiving tight ends in Cody Slate and a deep group of running backs that is headlined by returning 1,000-yard rusher Darius Marshall. The Thundering Herd also boasts talented depth up front and returns All-Freshmen C-USA tackles Ryan Tillman and C.J. Wood. Sophomore Mark Cann returns at quarterback and he will compete this spring with junior Brian Anderson, who turned in a strong performance in last season's finale against Tulsa, and a highly touted duo of junior college quarterbacks for the starting job. At receiver, MU returns veterans Bryant Milligan, Courtney Edmonson and Tavaris Thompson among others.

Quarterback
Mark Cann threw for 1,767 yards and 14 touchdowns last season in 11 starts. The sophomore-to-be averaged 160.6 yards per game while completing 50.2% of his passes despite being hampered by injuries down the stretch.
Brian Anderson filled in for the injured Cann in last year's season finale against Tulsa and responded by completing 14-of-19 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions to nearly lead the Herd to an upset (L, 38-35).
• Highly touted JUCO transfers Press Taylor (Norman, Okla.) and Jacob Laudenslayer (Modesto, Calif.) will also compete for the starting nod. Taylor led Butler County C.C. to back-to-back Junior College National Championships.

Running Back
• Marshall features a talented and deep running back corps. All-Conference USA selection Darius Marshall is coming off of a stellar sophomore campaign that saw him rush for 1,095 yards and five touchdowns.
Terrell Edwards also returns and gives MU a powerful runner that showed in limited action last year what he is capable of by reeling off a touchdowns of 49 yards against Illinois State and 53 yards against Tulsa.
• Highly touted freshmen Martin Ward and Jordan Taylor were redshirted last season and will now push for playing time in the backfield along with Antawn Booker.

Wide Receiver
• The Herd will be looking to replace Darius Passmore who led the team with 945 receiving yards and seven touchdowns last season. Despite the loss, Marshall returns several veterans in the receiving corps, including senior Courtney Edmonson, Bryant Milligan and Tavaris Thompson.
• Junior college transfer Wayne Bonner, Julian Poindexter, Demetrius Thomas, Chuck Walker, Antavius Wilson and Jamal Wilson will all push for playing time and give the Thundering Herd quarterbacks a deep group of targets in the passing game.

Tight End
• All-America candidate Cody Slate is arguably the top tight end in all of college football. Slate will enter his senior season with 2,012 career receiving yards and 19 career touchdown receptions. Slate is such a valuable weapon that Marshall also utilizes him in the running game where he managed four carries for 60 yards last season.
• Junior Lee Smith is a powerful compliment to Slate at tight end. Smith, a six-foot-six standout, is an outstanding blocker and pass catcher in his own right that gives Marshall a tremendous one-two punch at tight end.
• Last year highly-touted junior college transfer Maurice Graham joined the program, however an injury kept him sidelined for the season. He will compete with redshirt-freshman Jamie Hatten, junior Robert Henry and freshman Zack Tenuta for playing time.

Offensive Line
• Marshall's offensive line welcomes back a strong group this spring that includes both starting tackles - C.J. Wood and Ryan Tillman. Wood and Tillman started all 12 games last season en route to earning All-Freshman Conference USA honors. They will be joined by fellow returning starters Chad Schofield and Josh Evans who split starts last season at left guard.
• Experienced seniors Daniel Baldridge and Jimmy Rogers and junior Brandon Campbell also return and provide the Herd with quality depth and plenty of game experience throughout the line.
• Sophomore John Bruhin is a candidate to replace departed senior Brian Leggett at center, while Chris Bowers and Drake Kowcheck will add even more depth up front.

Marshall Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter enters the spring with a talented and experienced unit that welcomes back eight starters and seven of its top 10 tacklers from last season. First-team All-Conference USA defensive end Albert McClellan returns for his senior season to lead a stout Thundering Herd defensive front that features four returning starters. The Marshall linebacking corps welcomes back the team's top tackler from a year ago in junior Mario Harvey who recorded 107 tackles as a sophomore. Freshman All-American DeQuan Bembry and fellow freshman standout T.J. Drakeford return at the cornerback spots, while seniors Ashton Hall and John Saunders appear ready for increased roles with the departure of seniors C.J. Spillman and Aaron Johnson.

Defensive Line
• Marshall is loaded with experience throughout the defensive line. Standout defensive end Albert McClellan, junior end Michael Janac and junior tackles Delvin Johnson and Johnny Jones are all returning starters.
• Senior end John Jacobs and senior tackle James Burkes are veterans with plenty of career starts between them as well. Marshall also welcomes back senior Montel Glasco who missed all of last season with an injury, and junior Erik Vint up front.
• Junior Vinny Curry and redshirt-freshman John Youboty are talented defensive ends that give the Herd tremendous depth.

Linebacker
• Marshall returns two starters at linebacker with junior Mario Harvey, who led Marshall with 107 tackles last season and senior Brandon Burns (69 tackles last season).
• Marshall's only loss was starting middle linebacker Maurice Kitchens and emphasis this spring will be put on filling that spot.
• Junior Corey Hart, who recorded 33 tackles last season, senior Andre Portis, junior Howard King, sophomores Kellen Harris, Tyson Gale and George Carpenter all have game experience heading into the spring.

Defensive Back
• Starters DeQuan Bembry and T.J. Drakeford will be looking to build on outstanding campaigns at cornerback. Bembry earned All-Freshman C-USA honors and was recognized as a Freshman All-American by several media outlets by recording 80 tackles, a team-high 7.5 sacks and 11 pass breakups a year ago. Drakeford added 47 stops and nine breakups. They are joined by seniors Zearrick Matthews and Josh Miller, along with returnees Kevin Perry, DeNathian Robinson, Ahmed Shakoor and D.J. Wingate.
• Seniors Ashton Hall and John Saunders return at safety where they will compete for playing time with sophomore Omar Brown and a host of others.

Special Teams
• Marshall returns its starting kicker, punter, long snapper, and kick returner.
• Senior placekicker Craig Ratanamorn returns, along with sophomore kicker Tyler Warner, who filled in admirably for Ratanamorn when he suffered an injury early in the season. In fact, Warner earned All-Freshman C-USA honors and is expected to challenge for starting duties this fall.
• Sophomore punter Kase Whitehead returns after handiling all punting duties a year ago, as well as senior longsnapper Sean McClellan.
• MU's return game is in good hands with standout running back Darius Marshall who averaged 26.3 yards per kick return a year ago.