2010 NCAA football preview: Marshall
Next to Notre Dame, the one college football team that most non-football fans will be able to name is the Thundering Herd of Marshall University. The 2006 film ‘We Are Marshall’ documented the terrible plane crash that nearly wiped out the entire football program in 1970.
Forty years later the program is still going strong. There were a number of rough years following the plane crash in 1970, but then the success of the team was based simply off its ability to exist. In time, the Thundering Herd would become competitive again.
In 1992 they won their first national title (division I-AA) against Youngstown State in a thrilling 31-28 game. Four years later they would do it again, but this time over Montana in a game which they would dominate 49-29.
The following year the team moved up to the division I level when they joined the Mid-American Conference. Immediately, the Thundering Herd made their presence known in their new conference winning the MAC title the first four years they were a part of the conference.
For the 2010 season the team will be breaking in a new head coach in Doc Holliday. After five lackluster seasons, head coach Mark Snyder resigned following the end of the 2009 season. In the Thundering Herd, Holliday inherits a team that will have 14 starters coming back; the trick to their success may be in how well he is able to fill the open first team spots.
Holliday will have the benefit of molding an offense with a three of five starting offensive linemen coming back. Senior Chad Schofield is the leader of the group at guard and will be a solid player in his final season.
The line will need to do a good job of protecting second-year starter Brian Anderson. While not bad, he will need to get much better if the Thundering Herd is going to be competitive. He threw just one more touchdown than interception last season and completed only 58 per cent of his passes. With the receiver he has to throw to he should have a better season in 2010. Antavio Wilson made a good impression during his freshman season; Chuck Walker and Courtney Edmondson are pretty good as well.
Where the offense may hurt is at running back. Gone is 1100-yard rusher Darius Marshall; the next biggest producer last season, Martin Ward, had just under 400 yards. If he can maintain the 4.8 yard per carry average he had on 82 carries over the course of the season then the running game may be in good shape.
The defense was okay last season and may not be any better thanks to off-field issues. In the secondary were two of the better cornerbacks in the conference; T.J Drakeford was kicked off the team last April and DeQuan Bembry has been indefinitely suspended. Bembry is still penciled in to start alongside Ahmed Shakoor.
If the defense is going to maintain its second place ranking in the conference it will do so off the strength of their front seven. Their defensive line was fairly decent last season and with end Vinny Curry and tackle Michael Janac anchoring it the line should be among the best in the conference. Redshirt freshman James Rouse could be tabbed to hold down the other end spot.
At linebacker the team will have one of the better ones in the conference in Mario Harvey. As a junior he used his speed and athleticism to make 117 tackles and seven sacks; it was the second season in a row that he had more than 100 tackles (he had 108 in 2008). Kellen Harris will man one of the other linebacker positions; in 2008 he made 71 tackles. Sophomore Devin Arrington is penciled in to be the third linebacker.
The offense is good, but not great. It will be banking on Brian Anderson to improve and Martin Ward to be able to handle full-time duties; there is no guarantee that either will be able to. Even if they did, the pass defense has to be better than 90th in the nation, and with the issues they are having at cornerback there is no guarantee that they will be able to.