After taking a one day hiatus from the practice field, Marshall football returned to the trenches this morning for the first of two scheduled practices. With a full roster in attendance, today begins the march towards making the 2-deep or falling to the scout team for several players. Intensity and pace is picking up throughout the session--and of course so are the tempers.
Practice operated through its normal routine of individual drills with the team coach before stretching and getting after it on the field. Contact is certainly picking up as the players begin to separate from the posers.
Rockhead levels Letman
Once again working with the first team offense, Devon "Rockhead" Johnson got a chance to punish the defense in the 10-yard drill. Rakeem Cato handed off to Johnson on a sweep to the left and Taj Letman was the one who suffered the blow. Johnson leveled Letman in what was one of two big hits of the morning. Johnson looked solid on the sweep play and opened several holes on dives plays with his 243 pound frame.
Where are we running?
After seeing Stew Butler running with the threes and fours over the weekend, it was certainly shocking to see him take some reps with the twos. Butler never broke off any big gains but certainly missed out on one when a giant hole developed on the right side. Butler's feet failed him on the cut and he stumbled to the turf.
Remi Watson ran with all three teams today but had a less than stellar morning. Watson never seemed to get into a rhythm, especially after getting blown up by The Freak Jermaine Holmes. Watson did come back with a nice gain after shooting a seem and getting north-south. Coach Barclay has apparently had an impact on redshirt junior, but only time will tell if that will carry onto the field come game day.
Tony Pittman broke through heavy contact to push into the end zone in the same drill but continues to struggle with running the correct blocking schemes out of the backfield. Coach Holliday expects big things from the redshirt freshman but he still has a way to go to be a consistent threat out of the backfield.
A Knight in shining armor?
Josh Knight continues to state his case of deserving playing time as the sophomore had another solid session. Knight made a spectacular diving catch on a ball thrown by freshman quarterback Cole Garvin on a deep jet route down the sideline. Knight however did have a couple of drops today that brought grumbles from his receiver coach Mike Furrey. While this kid did not make a single grab last year, he could be a diamond in the rough while giving Cato another deep target to go to down field.
The Defense shows its power
While working in the 11-on-11 drills, the defensive unit showed its power from all three levels on the field. Redshirt junior Jarquez Samuel busted into the back field while the defensive line flexed its muscle at times. AJ Leggett welcomed redshirt freshman tight-end Deon-Tay McManus to D1 football with a ball-separating hit on a route over the middle. The defense stormed the field to celebrate the devastating hit.
Cato steps it up
After a horrific series in which Cato saw receivers running poor routes, backs not exploding through holes and the defense consistently busting into the back field, the Heisman Trophy candidate exploded on the sidelines demanding more from his unit. They seemed to heed the call from their leader. On the next series, Cato marched his team down the field after connecting with Eric Frohnapfel for a gain of 20 yards on a post route after the O-line provided excellent protection, zipped a pass across the field to a streaking Demetrius Evans and hit a wide-open Angelo Jean-Louis on a 3-step drop as the defense sent the corner on a blitz.
The reception is clear
Redshirt junior Davonte Allen had another solid outing this morning as it appears he may have finally gotten over the hump of inconsistency. Allen has worked well with Cato while running tight routes and making sharp cuts. Allen is expected to provide the deep-ball threat the Herd desperately needs in hope of pulling double-team coverage away from Tommy Shuler.
Gator Green made a shake-and-bake catch while running a flag route. Gunnar Holcombe hit Green in stride at the 5-yard line and the freshman threw on the breaks as the defended flew by allowing him to walk into the end zone. Green is a player that could see action this season but at the same time, would it better serve the Herd to save this season and redshirt him. He appears to be in the running as a returner on special teams at the very least.
This and that
At the end of practice, Cato stood in front of the entire team gathered at mid-field and delivered a very emotional speech. The senior has displayed several examples of leadership throughout camp and this was just another example of how the players have taken ownership.
Running backs Coach Chris Barclay was less than pleased with his units performance as he delivered a motivational message of his own before leaving it to the players to work it out on their own. Watson pulled the unit together for a chat before heading into the locker room.
Clint Van Horn still has the boot on his right foot but was walking without crutches today. He has dressed out with the team every day since the injury and works as a coach beside Coach Mirabal while nursing the injury.
Donaldvan Manning and Tiquan Lang continued their workouts with the trainers on the sidelines. Lang appears to be nearing a return to the field.
Tom Collins went down in a drill with an apparent right-knee injury. He was visibly in pain as the trainers attended to him. No word on his status.
Practice resumes today at 4 p.m.