Monday, August 11, 2014

Marshall Football Day 7 Practice Recap

After spending the morning session in full pads to begin week two of Marshall football's fall camp, the team worked out in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts in the afternoon. The only problem was about 10 minutes after the team had made it onto the field, mother nature forced them off due to lightning. Per NCAA guidelines, the team had to vacate the field for 30 minutes. During the delay, heavy rain and winds graced Joan C. Edwards for the first time for fall camp and the brand new surface held up great. Very few puddles collected on the field and these were gone within 15 minutes of the rain stopping. We even had a brief moment of sunshine that blanketed the field before the clouds and intermittent rain showers returned. It was a good session, here are the details.

Vedvick drops the boom

Prior to the team entering the field each day, the team's kickers perform their workouts and sometimes even try to stretch their limits a bit. For redshirt-freshman kicker Kaare Vedvik stretching a bit is an understatement. Vedvik booted a field goal from 60 yards that split the up-rights only to one-up his own kick with a 65-yarder. With Amoreto Curraj nursing a nagging injury, Vedvik could see the field if needed as he has been taking care of the kickoff duties in Curraj's absence. 

Don't second guess the Doc about the Rock

The biggest question looming around fall camp has been why is Devon Johnson running with the ones and why is Stew Butler working with the threes and fours. Johnson provided an answer in his own way. In a drill today that matched the running backs against the linebackers with a tackling dummy as the quarterback. The task at hand, on the whistle, the linebackers started from 7 yards away and it was the running backs job to pick up the blitz and keep him away from the quarterback. Of all the linebackers who challenged Johnson, on DJ Hunter was able to get past and it was still a bit of a struggle. Johnson went toe-to-toe with everyone who tried to get his quarterback and most was not within 2 yards.

On the other side of that drill, Butler did not fare quite as well. Butler could not withstand the bull-rush from the linebackers and was trucked by Raheem Waiters sending the back into the would-be quarterback. Butler has the speed but at 185 pounds, his blocking skills were not comparable to that of Johnson and Watson.

Watson did a good job in the drill against much of the competition. Although a few did get to the quarterback against Watson's blocking attempts, he did for the most part keep the blitzing linebackers at bay long enough to allow Cato to throw the ball or step up scramble. Tony Pittman did a fair job but the speedy Stefan Houston used his 6-3 frame and a nice swim move to blow by the redshirt-freshman.

Is Beal for real?

In a week that Coach Holliday begins to make his final roster decisions, today was time for eager rookies fighting for a roster spot to step up and impress. It appears that true freshman Emanuel Beal got the message. Working with back-up quarterback Gunnar Holcombe in the 11-on-11 drills, Holcombe was forced to scramble after a good push by the defense. As Holcombe moved towards Beal, he released down the sideline and Holcombe tossed a floater over the covering defensive back for a nice gain. But Beal was not done yet.

After Holcombe was picked off by Michael Johnson in the end zone during the red zone drill on a pass intended for freshman Hyleck Foster, Holcombe went right back at Johnson with the next pass attempt except this time the intended target was Beal. As Beal worked toward the back flag in the end zone it appeared that Johnson was about to pick-off his second consecutive pass. Beal had other plans as he climbed the ladder and reached over Johnson to make a spectacular catch for the touchdown. For the first time in camp it was the offensive unit the erupted onto the field including Cato who sprinted from midfield to the end zone to celebrate with the rookie. The catch is easily one of the top 3 thus far in camp.

How's the reception?

When the team worked in a mini-scrimmage 11-on-11 drill, the receivers for the ones included Tommy Shuler, Davonte Allen, Angelo Jean-Louis and Deon-Tay McManus at tight-end. McManus made a sick catch from a Cato pass on a crossing route that he had to reach behind his body to pull in the pass before going hard to the turf. Cato has shown he trusts McManus as he is not afraid to feed him the ball. Jean-Louis hauled in a great catch in the end zone over Darryl "Swagg D" Roberts. Jean-Louis is a serious contender for playing time and very easily could work himself into a starting start if he continues the production. Josh Knight showed he is hungry for time on the field after skying for a catch in the back corner of the end zone on a pass from Holcombe. Knight did not catch a single pass last year and if he can carry over his production from camp into games, he is going to make a name for himself in a hurry.

Pick 6 Waiters

For the third time in camp, linebacker Raheem Waiter picked up his third interception and was headed to the house before the play was blown dead. All three of Waiters' interceptions have been pick-6s. Holcombe appeared to never see Waiters sitting in coverage and as he tried to fire the ball into the end zone, Waiters plucked it from the air and was gone. Waiters is a skillful player that should give the Herd linebackers some valuable minutes this season.

Who said big guys can't run?

Don't tell that to Devon Johnson as he busted the biggest run we've seen in an 11-on-11 drill. Johnson took a handoff off right tackle and busted past Jermaine Holmes before he had a chance to subdue the back. Johnson had only one guy to beat, Taj Letman, but was not able to do so after the safety pulled Johnson to the ground after a gain of 40 yards. 

Johnson also found pay-dirt from 20 yards out on a sweep to the left that appeared to be going for only a short gain. However, Blake "Big Cheese" Brooks had other thoughts in mind as the guard moved up field and delivered a block that allowed Johnson to make a nice cut up field for the score. Brooks called Johnson a bowling ball and that once you get him moving, nothing can stop it.

Watson continued to show he has bought into Coach Barclay's philosophy of running north and south and attacking the hole as soon as it opens. Watson made several nice cuts for gains that average around 4-5 yards per carry.

Injury Report

Tom Collins was at practice in a full leg brace and walking with crutches after suffering a knee injury this morning. No word on the extent of his injury or how long he will be sidelined.

Clint Van Horn is walking without the boot and crutches on his ankle. He appeared to have a splint on the ankle and was wearing tennis shoes. Coach Holliday sounded favorable on his return.

Finally got the official word on Curraj's absence from doing any kicking as Doc said today he has been nursing a nagging injury and they don't want to do anything to rush him back and aggravate it. With the way Vedvik and Nick Smith has been kicking the ball, the kicking duties are well under control.

This and That

The USA Today continues to rank the teams in D1 football and announced #26 today which was not Marshall meaning the Herd will be ranked in the Top 25. Information I gathered about this report yesterday has the Herd coming in around #19.

Only one session tomorrow which will begin at 2:45.

I will be out of practice tomorrow as my boy and I are headed to Cincy to see the Red Sox visit the Reds. Its my son's 17th birthday present and our first chance to see the Sox live. I will be back Wednesday when the team goes back to dual practice sessions with the first beginning at 8:45.

Be sure to check out my first full skill player rankings report at

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