Monday, June 26, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall Thundering Herd
What a difference a year makes for the Thundering Herd, as the team plummeted to a 3-9 record which included a 60-6 loss to Western Kentucky in the season finale. There is a huge part of me that feels as if last season was a blip on the radar, but how far can this program go in 2017 to make sure that the dark season is behind them?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Chase Litton is back at QB, and was one of the dew bright spots on the football team as a sophomore last fall, as he passed for 24 TDs and just nine INTs. He completed 62.3% of his passes, but there is no reason to expect that he will not improve upon that mark this fall. He averaged 261.2 yards passing per game last season.
The line should be rock solid this fall, as four starter return up front. Sandley Jean-Felix (LT), Jordan Dowrey (LG), Levi Brown (C), and Nate Devars (RG) all return. AJ Addison, the backup at LT last fall, shifted over to the right side this spring, and is in the lead to be the starter there.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The Herd rushed for a pitiful 108 yards per game last season, one of the worst marks in the nation. Trey Rodriguez has transferred from FAU, and left spring ball with the lead at RB, ahead of Keion Davis, who led the team in rushing last fall with just 469 yards. Rodriguez will be expected to infuse a jolt into the run game, which is much needed.
The Herd also seems to be starting over at WR. Willie Johnson is the only holdover from the starters or the bench players that caught a pass last season to leave spring camp with a lock on a starting job, but he caught all of six passes last fall. RS Freshman Darian Owens is in the lead for a job, as is Miami transfer Tyre Brady.
The OK game was a mess last fall, as Amoreto Curraj hit just 4/10 FG attempts on the season. He will need to be pushed this fall, but left spring camp with the job still in his hands.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
UCF transfer Blake Kellar has moved from backup to starting DE this fall after finishing with four TFLs as a rotation player last fall. Davon Durant, and Arizona State and Butler CC transfer will start opposite him after playing as a key reserve last fall. Ryan Bee returns at DT after posting 6.5 TFLs, while Channing Hames showed some flashes as a freshman last fall at NT.
Three starters will return in the secondary. CBs Rodney Allen and Chris Jackson are both back, while Kendall Gant is back at Safety. Allen broke up 12 passes and forced four fumbles last fall, while Jackson broke up nine passes. They combined for four INTs as well. Gant finished with 77 tackles, and broke up three passes. CJ Reaves, a Virginia Tech and East Mississippi transfer, will start at the open CB spot, while sophomore George Davis moves up to play NB when needed.
Kaare Vedvik returns at Punter after averaging 40 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
While the changes on the line are exciting, they are still uncertain, and that is the bad part about rebuilds and mixing and matching. The line was victimized last season, and needed a rebuild, so the hope is that any improvement at all is a good thing.
The rebuild has bled into the LB corps as well. Omari Cobb and Chase Hancock, both starters last fall, left spring camp as second stringers to transfers Donyae Moody and Artis Johnson. RS junior Juwon Young fills the other spot.
Marshall allowed a whopping 35.3 points per game last fall, and allowed over 201 yards rushing per game, Something has got to change if Marshall is going to get back into the business of competing for CUSA titles.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Miami (Ohio), 9/9 at NC State, 9/16 Kent State, 9/30 at Cincinnati, 10/7 at Charlotte, 10/14 Old Dominion, 10/20 at Middle Tennessee, 10/28 FIU, 11/3 at FAU, 11/11 Western Kentucky, 11/18 at UTSA, 11/25 Southern Miss
Final Overview
Marshall and head coach Doc Holliday are getting hip deep in the transfer business in trying to rebuild the roster, but that rarely ever works to any major degree. Recruiting has got to pick up, but they are playing with what they have, and that may be a tough hand to play. I see an opportunity for the Herd to get back to six wins, but they are riding a thin line on a fence to get there. If they fall in any trap games, returning to a bowl is a story for 2018 rather than 2017, and Holliday will start hearing about it. It was a fast fall, but now there has to be a quick rising.

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