Will the 2010 Thundering Herd be defined by its obvious strengths, its apparent weaknesses, or the transition to a new coaching staff?
Marshall ended the 2009 season with a 21-17 victory over Ohio in the Little Ceasar's Pizza Bowl. Question: Was it merely a slice of things to come?
First-year coach Doc Holliday has 30-plus years experience behind him that includes stops at Florida, N.C. State and West Virginia.
More than a dozen starters return and the defense is anchored by senior linebacker Mario Harvey and defensive ends Vinny Curry and Michael Janac.
Brian Anderson returns at quarterback after throwing for more than 2,600 yards with 14 TDs and 13 interceptions in 2009. He'll be at the controls of a more spread-out offense that seeks to utilize space and speed.
Rain limited the April 24 Green and White Game to three quarters, but the rain did not dampen Holliday's enthusiasm about his first Marshall team.
"A good spring. We got as much out of it as we could," Holliday told the Herald-Dispatch.
But he also allowed that there is much to be done before the first game.
"We need to work on everything," Holliday said.NOTES, QUOTES
--Four Marshall football greats were part of the 2010 Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame class: Bryon Leftwich, Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and John Wade.
--Marshall quarterback Brain Anderson admitted to feeling a little bit like a kid around current NFL QBs Leftwich and Pennington, telling the Herald Dispatch: "You almost want to turn around say, `Can I have your autograph?'"?
RB Martin Ward -- With Ward expected to carry the bulk of the running load this season, the staff needed to see a lot from the sophomore. For the most part, his play was reassuring.
QB A.J. Graham -- Any backup QB is just a play away from leading the team. Graham worked well under quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen. "I progressed a lot," Graham told the Herald-Dispatch. "But I came a lot further as a quarterback mentally than I did physically."
CB Ahmed Shakoor -- While the secondary was a concern with injuries and off-field issues, Shakoor was rock-solid all spring.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got several different ways we can hurt you." -- Back-up QB A.J. Graham to the Herald-Dispatch, talking about the Thundering Herd offense under first-year coach Doc Holliday.?STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
?? 2010 OUTLOOK: Marshall's season could be one to remember or one to forget. The team returns more than 40 letter-winners and is strong defensively up front, which should keep Marshall in every game.
The quarterback has experience and there appears to be a capable lead running back.
But the offensive line has been hit hard with injuries, and an inexperienced, under-manned offensive line often leads to a long season.
The secondary is also filled with question marks. Putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks will be crucial.
?? SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The new coaching staff has brought with it the spread attack that is prevalent throughout the powerful SEC.
To take advantage of this, coach Doc Holliday has shifted Andre Booker, who goes 5-9 and 178, from receiver to running back. More evidence that the staff likes this offense: The first recruiting class included the signing of Antwon Chisholm, a 5-9, 175-pound running back from Florida.
So this isn't a one-year deal, it's the offense the Thundering Herd will run going forward.
"There's a lot more space now," Booker told the Herald-Dispatch. "(Coach) likes the speed that smaller backs have."
Centers John Bruhin and Chad Schofield spent the spring rehabbing injuries and left guard Ryan Tillman had arthroscopic knee surgery. The O-Line desperately needs to heal up.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: It's hard not to love this defense up front with Harvey, Janac and Curry leading the way. Harvey, nicknamed "Thumper" for his hard-hitting, had 117 tackles last season, 8.5 for loss, and seven sacks.
But the secondary was hit hard in the spring by injuries and discipline issues. The return of D.J. Wingate and Monterius Lovett from injuries would somewhat ease fears about what could be the most vulnerable part of this football team.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Junior Tyler Warner will have to fill the large shoes of Lou Groza Award semi-finalist kicker Craig Ratanamorn. Junior Kase Whitehead returns as a punter after averaging 39.2 yards per punt last season with a long of 57 yards. The return game should be bolstered by an influx of speedy young receivers fighting to get on the field any way they can. Freshmen Jazz King, Gator Hoskins and Fred Pickett are all contenders here.
--Senior LB Howard King's career is likely over after he tore the ACL in his right knee late in spring workouts.
--Left guard Ryan Tillman was an early spring casualty and had to have arthroscopic knee surgery.
--Offensive tackle Daniel Baldridge has agreed to terms with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010