SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Marshall Thundering Herd

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Bob Pruett (8th year, 80-13)
2002 record: 11-2 (Beat Louisville 38-15 in GMAC Bowl)
MAC finish: 1st (East)
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 125.8 ypg
(10th in MAC, 84th in nation)
Pass: 369.5 ypg (1st, 3rd)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 172.5 ypg (11th, 86th)
Pass: 161.5 ypg (1st, 6th)
Projected Starters
Offense (6 returning starters in bold)
WR   40   Darius Watts   Sr.  
WR  18  Jason Schroeder  Sr. 
SL   82   Josh Davis   Jr.  
LT  60  Nate Griffin  Jr. 
LG   78   Luke Salmons   Sr.  
70  Joey Stepp  Sr. 
RG  56  Toby Bullock  So. 
RT   71   Nate McPeek   Sr.  
TE   90   Jason Rader   Sr.  
QB  Stan Hill  Jr. 
RB   24   Butchie Wallace   Sr.  
Defense (6)
DE   50   Jonathan Goddard   Jr.  
DT  98  Reggie Hayes  Jr. 
DT   94   Toriano Brown   Sr.  
DE   99   Jamus Martin   Jr.  
WLB   45   Charles Tynes   Sr.  
MLB  33  Dionté Wilson  Jr. 
ILB   32   J.T. Rembert   Jr.  
CB  27  Willie Smith  So. 
CB   2   Roberto Terrell   Jr.  
ROV  Gladstone Coke  Sr. 
SS  Moriah Anderson  Jr. 
Special Teams
18  Ben Lewis  Sr. 
18  Ben Lewis  Sr. 
KR  Roberto Terrell  Jr. 
PR  Roberto Terrell  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  Hofstra 
Sept. 6  at Tennessee 
Sept. 12  Toledo 
Sept. 20  at Kansas State 
Sept. 27  at Troy State 
Oct. 11  Kent State 
Oct. 18  at Buffalo 
Oct. 25  at Western Michigan 
Nov. 1  Akron 
Nov. 12  at Miami (OH) 
Nov. 19  at UCF 
Nov. 28  Ohio 
No one in the MAC knows how to win like Marshall, which has captured six straight East Division championships and five of the last six league titles. With a new quarterback and uncertainty on the defensive line and in the secondary, the challenge is greater. And with a schedule that features games at Tennessee and Kansas State, as well as at Miami (Ohio) and UCF, that challenge grows greater.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Stan Hill doesn't worry about proving himself to be a worthy replacement for Byron Leftwich as the quarterback in Marshall's high-powered offense. He already has.

Hill started in place of the injured Leftwich on Nov. 12 and threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns in a 36-34 must-win, nationally televised game against Miami (Ohio). For good measure, Hill also ran for the winning touchdown on the game's final play, putting into motion comparisons to Leftwich and former Thundering Herd star Chad Pennington. "We're confident in what Stan can do," Marshall coach Bob Pruett said. "We're not going to ask Stan to carry this team by himself."

In fact, expect traditionally pass-oriented Marshall to run more than usual, taking advantage of Hill's mobility and a deep stable of running backs, led by returning starter Butchie Wallace. Speedy Wilbur Hargrove, versatile Earl Charles and bullish Tank Tunstalle also expect to see playing time.

While the Herd figures to run more, they won't abandon the pass, especially with star receivers Darius Watts and Josh Davis. Watts, whose 3,063 career yards rank first among returning receivers in the nation, has a MAC-record 36 touchdown catches.

The key could be a rebuilt offensive line featuring three new starters. Right tackle Nate McPeek and left guard Luke Salmons are joined by a group of talented young players.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

A strong group of linebackers is sandwiched by a young secondary and an undersized defensive front. Dionté Wilson is a first-year starter at middle linebacker but has considerable experience. Charles Tynes is a crushing hitter on the weak side, while hard-hitting J.T. Rembert could be on his way to being one of the school's all-time greats on the inside.

Marshall hasn't been happy with its defensive front the last two years and goes into this season with some concerns on the inside, where quickness, size, leadership and depth are potential problems. Junior first-year starter Reggie Hayes and injury-prone Toriano Brown are the tackles. The end positions are more settled and feature plenty of speed in juniors Jamus Martin and Jonathan Goddard.

Junior cornerback Roberto Terrell is the lone returning starter in the secondary. He is joined at corner by sophomore Willie Smith, who has experience in MU's dime package. Junior strong safety Moriah Anderson reminds some of former Herd star Rogers Beckett.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Gone is Curtis Head, who handled all the kicking and punting chores. Senior Ben Lewis is expected to get a stiff challenge from freshman Ian O'Connor.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

This Marshall team closely resembles the 2000 squad that started 2-4 but finished 8-5 and won the conference championship and a bowl game. While a seventh double-digit victory season in eight years might be too much to ask, Marshall has enough firepower on offense to compete for the league crown again.

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