July 3, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - In new Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater's scheme, the concept is pretty basic. It's man-to-man, fast, aggressive, straining ... just get to the point of attack, get on the ball.
However, that's not how you sell football season tickets.
So, tackle Jarquez Samuel and linebacker Kent Turene switched from defense to offense on Wednesday, sitting at a table with running back Remi Watson in the Chase Bank on Fifth Avenue, meeting and warmly greeting bank employees and customers, hoping to fill a few more seats at Edwards Stadium for the 2013 season.
They were rookies at the task, the eighth stop of the "Get in Company with the Herd" program and corporate promotion that offers MU season-ticket discounts ... not to mention autographs, team posters, and the chance to snap photos and put a name with a face that's usually hidden behind a facemask.
Season tickets (six games) purchased via a "Get in Company" form at the Herd summer stops are discounted $25. They're only available to new or additional seat purchases, and if filled out on the promotional form, are available through August.
The same discounted prices - ranging from $270 (plus a designated Big Green donation) to $105 (end zone) for six Herd home games -- are available at the MU Ticket Office in the Henderson Center through August, but those purchases must be paid in full at the time of purchase.
As far a heavy hitters, the Chase stop had a big one, too - former Herd star and Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end Vinny Curry, who heads for his second NFL training camp soon.
He was signing his rookie card and "just trying to help the Herd sell some tickets ... I wish we had the kind of offense when I played that these guys have now," Curry said.
After the eighth stop Wednesday, the Herd expects to partner with another 11 more businesses between now and the Aug. 5 start of preseason football camp. About 25 "Get in company" partners are expected by year's end, said Aaron Goebbel, MU's associated athletic director for ticketing and marketing.
(For details or to inquire about a "Get in Company" visit by the Herd, contact Tyler Crockett, MU's assistant director of ticketing, at 304-696-4377.)
To say that Turene and Samuel are anxious to open preseason camp for Coach Doc Holliday's fourth MU team would be an understatement.
Turene, a redshirt freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., finished spring drills on crutches after left ankle surgery on an injury he suffered in his first week in a Herd uniform. Samuel, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound redshirt sophomore, is in a three-man horse race at the 3-technique spot with redshirt sophomore Steve Dillon and senior James Rouse to start alongside senior incumbent Brandon Sparrow at the other tackle.
"We're going to be a whole lot better on defense," said Samuel, a redshirt sophomore, who played in 11 games a year ago. "We learned a lot in the spring; we'll play more as a team on defense.
"We've got a lot more talent on defense than last year, more competition, and that makes you better. The defense is easier to play. Coach Heater just wants everybody to run to the ball ... hats to the ball."
The Herd players are aware of the prognostications from Phil Steele's College Football Preview magazine that include the prediction of a Conference USA title and Liberty Bowl bid for the Herd, which Steele has labeled his most improved team for 2013.
"That's why we're here," said Turene, who - despite never playing a down in college football - made Steele's preseason All-C-USA fourth team at linebacker. "We're here for a championship, trying to make a change (from last season's defensive struggles), and we're putting a lot of effort in, trying to become a team to be successful every year."
Samuel, of Valdosta, Ga., said the Steele forecast is welcome.
"It's good," he said. "It's what you want. I'm glad he's got us high, thinks we'll win. To get there, we've got to work hard, practice hard. It's not going to be easy, but we have a shot and I think it will be good.
"The changes in the conference (membership) are exciting, too. We get to go play in Miami twice (FIU in Miami and FAU in nearby Boca Raton) and we like that. There are a lot of people in our league we haven't played before, and we're looking forward to that, too."
The 6-3, 238-pound Turene will work at weakside and middle linebacker when he returns to the field in August.
"To me, linebacker is linebacker," Turene said. "It's all the same ... hit somebody, that's the game."
A one-time Georgia signee before coming to Marshall and sitting out last season as a non-qualifier, Turene only started running full speed last week following his surgery for torn ligaments from a high left ankle sprain and torn ligaments (connecting the tibia and fibula in the lower leg). He was on crutches or in a boot "for 5-6 weeks."
"Right now I'm on the right track, working day-by-day, trying to get better," Turene said. "Getting hurt when I did (first week of spring ball) was disappointing, but it was a learning experience.
"I had to learn to fight through it, come back, and work hard. It was a lesson learned. I watched a lot of film, every day, studied plays, made sure I had a good grasp of the defense, get every aspect of it down pat, so when I can get back out there, I'll be ready."
Turene said he watched and learned from his on-crutches position in spring ball.
"Every day I saw us improve as a defense," Turene said. "We'll be better as a team, and for me, I learned the defense and what I have to do, where I have to be. I learned about discipline on what you have to be and what you need to do. There was that, and 100 percent effort."
Samuel is enthused about his opportunity, too, and upcoming reps with Dillon and Rouse.
"It's all good," Samuel said. "If I don't get it (the starting job), if they don't get, we'll still be a team. We'll be ready to play when we get called. We're excited about the season."
# # #
More on Steele's preview issue, just out ...
The magazine predicts the Herd to win the C-USA title game over Tulsa for the Liberty Bowl berth that goes with the crown, facing Arkansas (SEC No. 8 or 9) in the Dec. 31 game in Memphis, Tenn.
Steele, who this spring in his online preview called Marshall his "No. 1 Most Improved Team in the country, " wrote he's "had good success using C-USA teams as his Most Improved ..."
He also said expects "a double-digit win season" for Holliday's club and ranks the Herd No. 38 nationally in FBS and fourth among his non-BCS automatic qualifying conference teams, behind Fresno State, Northern Illinois and Tulsa.
In Steele's C-USA positional rankings, Marshall is rated in the top four of the league's 14 teams (Charlotte and Old Dominion are not football members yet) in eight categories (QB, RB, REC, OL, DL, LB, DT and Coach).
The Herd also gets mentions on Steele's 2013 Projected Stats page, where Marshall - led by returning C-USA MVP Rakeem Cato at quarterback -- is ranked first in projected total offense, third in scoring offense (behind Florida State and Oregon) and fourth in pass offense (behind Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Fresno State).
Marshall's defense also received recognition, ranked No. 7 among most improved teams against the run.
Picked behind Marshall in C-USA East, in order, are East Carolina, Southern Miss, UAB, Middle Tennessee, FAU and FIU (tied for sixth). In the West forecast, the Golden Hurricane is followed by Rice, Tulane, Louisiana Tech and North Texas (tied for fourth), UTEP and UTSA.
Besides the Herd, Steele's other C-USA bowl team projections are Tulsa (Heart of Dallas), Tulane (New Orleans), East Carolina (Beef `O' Brady's), Rice (Hawaii) and Southern Miss (Military).
The Herd plays at Tulsa in a Thursday night (Nov. 14) national telecast game on Fox Sports 1.