Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Marshall Football Day 3 Morning Practice Recap

As the team works into day 3 of the 5 day NCAA acclamation period before full contact begins Friday, the difference in the performance of the players could not only be seen physically, but also psychologically. With the addition of shoulder pads in today's practice, players were forced to make adjustments after spending the last two days in helmets and shorts.

Practice ran under a different format than the previous two days as the skill players went directly to the field rather than working on the sidelines. Receivers ran routes out of multiple formations while the running backs worked through the "brier patch drill" where they are contacted with a giant pad trying to knock the ball free from their grasps.

For the first time in camp, I can finally report on something from the defense. Today, they worked on the shed and tackle drill where they had to break free of the block that engages with them and wrap up the running back that tries to bust past the block. The defensive backs got a chance to work against the receivers in the skeleton drill (no linemen) which was a change of pace not only for the receivers who were walking through their routes, but also for the quarterbacks who now had to read the changes the defenders were creating.

Hyleck Foster (2) and Gator Green (5)
Much like the first two days, the stand-outs once again were receivers Hyleck Foster and Gator Green. Although both are true freshmen, they could be playing themselves into the two-deep. Foster needs to work on his physical nature as he was easily pushed off his route by the more physical linebackers and defensive backs. However, if he gets a free release from the line, his speed creates major issues down field. Green could easily be the successor to Tommy Shuler. He appears to be in the running to return punts this season and works out of the slot with precision. Green's explosive speed burned freshman safety LaDerrick Hammond as Michael Birdsong hit Green for six. Green then used his speed in a different fashion--juking freshman safety Chase Hancock out of his cleats--and taking a 5 yard quick slant into another big gain from Birdsong.

"They are both like a Tommy Shuler look-a-like," Birdsong said referring to Foster and Green. "They both do a good job getting open and are extremely quick and have great hands. Them being able to play behind and watch Tommy (Shuler) is a big benefactor for them and for whoever takes over this program next year."

Birdsong also connected with freshman TE Ryan Yurachek on a deep seam route for a big game. Although Birdsong has to sit out due this season due to transferring from James Madison, he admits getting a full season to watch Heisman Trophy candidate at work is not a bad thing.
Michael Birdsong works with the offense

"Being able to sit out and watch Cato run this offense is huge for me because it allows me to focus on bettering the mistakes I made as a freshman and a sophomore while learning from one of the best in the business," said Birdsong.

Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg echoed Birdsong's comments of having a year to play behind Cato.

"Anytime you have the opportunity to absorb for a period of time you stand a better chance in the long run of being an immediate impact once it is time for you to play," Legg said.

Cole Garvin continues to look for his rhythm as many passes sail over the intended target while he struggles to adjust to speed of the game. QB coach Bill Legg worked with the freshman in a drill yesterday to help him make better and faster reads down field.

Tempers seemed to stay in check during the first morning of shells practice. Red-shirt sophomore Cody Carter offered a nice welcome to red-shirt freshman running back Tony Pittman who broke into the second level. Needless to say, Friday's full-contact practice should be fun.

Chris Jasperse made an apperarnce for the third consecutive morning as he spent time with the offensive line as well as Birdsong and Garvin. Mirabal and Birdsong both welcome the coaching of the red-shirt senior center who finds his name on the Rimington Award watch list given to the nation's best center.

"When I arrived at Marshall I asked the offensive line what their legacy was going to be," Mirabal said. "The legacy gets passed on to the freshman and they will continue to pass it on when they become upperclassmen. Chris (Jasperse) has really taken that to heart as he comes out here every morning and coaches the heck out of the younger guys."

"I'll guarantee that in two years from now that Nathaniel Devers will be doing the same thing because someone did it for him," added Mirabal.

"Chris is a great mentor and a great coach as he has been out here every morning," Birdsong said. "He actually helped me pick up on the blitzes and the checks, something a young center may not see. He is helping me out with how to relay that information to my line so its huge to have a guy like him out here."

Only one injury to report from the morning session as linebacker Kent Turene came off the field early and spent the remainder of practice on the sidelines working out with the trainer. Turene has battled injuries throughout his career and was fighting for a spot in an already deep linebacker core. Antavis Rowe who rolled his ankle earlier this week during a punt return, was back on the field today and showed no signs of the injury as he spent much of the live sessions locked up with Andre Scott with Rowe getting the better of Scott.

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