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2011 College Football Season Preview: Marshall Thundering Herd

2010 Record: (5-7, 4-4 in C-USA)

Head Coach: Doc Holliday (5-7 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: beat Ohio 21-17


9/4: at West Virginia (2010 result: lost 24-21 OT)

9/10: Southern Miss (2010 result: lost 41-16)

9/17: at Ohio (2010 result: won 24-23)

9/24: Virginia Tech (2009 result: lost 52-10)

10/1: at Louisville

10/8: at UCF (2010 result: lost 35-14)

10/15: Rice

10/22: at Houston

10/29: UAB (2010 result: won 31-17)

11/12: at Tulsa

11/19: at Memphis (2010 result: won 28-13)

11/26: East Carolina (2010 result: lost 37-10)

2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 20.8 ppg (11th in C-USA, 101st in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 97.17 yds/game (11th in C-USA, 114th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 217.1 yds/game (9th in C-USA, 63rd in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 314.3 yds/game (11th in C-USA, 102nd in Nation)

2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 28.8 ppg (4th in C-USA, 74th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 145.5 yds/game (6th in C-USA, 55th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 240.5 yds/game (6th in C-USA, 94th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 386.0 yds/game (4th in C-USA, 71st in Nation)

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: -0.50 per game (6th in C-USA, 88th in Nation)

Penalties: 54.8 yds/game (10th in C-USA, 72nd in Nation)

Returning Starters:

Offense: 5

Defense: 9

Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB Eddie Sullivan, Soph (6 of 24 for 134 yds, 1 TD)

Rushing: RB Martin Ward, Jr (96 for 345, 1 TD)

Receiving: WR Aaron Dobson, Jr (44 rec for 689 yds, 5 TD)

Tackles: DE Vinny Curry, Sr (94)

Sacks: DE Vinny Curry, Sr (12)

Interceptions: 3 tied with 3

Marshall started off the 2010 season by going 1-6 with their only win being over Ohio. Their schedule eased up during the second half of the year and the Thundering Herd were able to rebound and win 4 of their last 5. This year the schedule will again start off with a bang. Marshall must play West Virginia, Southern Miss, Virginia Tech, Louisville and UCF in five of their first six games. That's going to be a really tough stretch for a team with a second-year coach that will also be breaking in a new QB. We turned to the Devin from the Marshall Thundering Blog to find out his thoughts on the 2011 season. 

Doc Holliday went 5-7 in his debut season at Marshall. What did he do well and what does he need to work on as a coach?

Despite finishing 5 -7 I think coach Doc Holliday did a great job keeping his players focused. Marshall lost six of its first seven games but Holliday kept the Herd moving forward. MU ended up winning four of its last five games, a testament to Holliday's motivational skills.

Holliday has also done a great job on the recruiting trail. Marshall's 2011 recruiting class was ranked number one in C-USA by ESPN.

Coach Holliday needs to work on MU's offense. Marshall was pitiful on the ground and through the air last season. The Herd must shore up holes on it's offensive line and have a quarterback emerge for 2011 to be successful.

Marshall struggled to score points last year, finishing 101st in the Nation. Who are the guys who need to step up this year to get the offense to the next level?

Marshall has a history of developing great quarterbacks, most notably Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. The offense needs one of two sophomore signal callers, Eddie Sullivan or A.J Graham, to emerge as a clear number one. Coming out of spring practice neither had taken hold of the job.

Heading into 2011 Marshall has a stable of running backs ready to carry the load. Returning backs Tron Martinez, Essray Taliaferro, and Martin Ward had impressive springs. Everyone in Huntington is eagerly awaiting the debut of Florida transfer Travon Van. Incoming freshman Steward Butler and Remi Watson, both 3 star prospects according to Rivals, could also make an impact.

Marshall’s chief offensive concern heading into 2011 is the o-line. MU could potentially start three underclassman along the front five. Returning seniors C.J Wood and Ryan Tillman will be tasked with anchoring the young group. JUCO transfer Colin Munro is also expected to challenge for early playing time. Without an improvement from this group Marshall’s offense will continue to struggle scoring points.

Who are some newcomers that you think can come in and immediately challenge for playing time?

As mentioned previously Marshall had an impressive 2011 recruiting class. A few players could be counted on to make an immediate impact.

Incoming freshman Cornelius Jones (WR/ATH), Corie Wilson (DB), and Evan McKelvey (DB), all participated in spring practice and could shed red-shirts in September.

Running back Travon Van sat out last season after transferring from Florida and should compete for immediate playing time. The coaching staff is also hoping that JUCO offensive lineman Colin Munro can fill a hole at guard.

On defense incoming four star linebacker Armonze Daniel could replace departed leading tackler Mario Harvey. Three star prospect Deon Meadows could also compete for playing time in the linebacker core.

Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games for Marshall this year?

Marshall faces a daunting schedule this year. The Herd only has five home games and will be playing three BCS opponents, West Virginia, Louisville, and Virginia Tech.

Even though Marshall plays three BCS conference schools its most important game comes week two against Southern Mississippi. A early season win over USM will put the Herd on top of C-USA’s eastern division.  A loss could make a brutal September schedule even more daunting.

With road conference games at Central Florida, Houston, and Tulsa, Marshall must defend it’s home turf in C-USA play. Victories at home over Rice, UAB, and East Carolina will be vital to a successful 2011 campaign.

What is the one game on the schedule that the fanbase wants to win the most this year?

After last years near miss against West Virginia, Marshall fans would love nothing more than to beat WVU in Morgantown on national TV (ESPN) September 4th.

Marshall has many rivals but Herd fans have a special disdain for WVU. Beating them on their own field with a WVU grad leading the green and white would be extra sweet.

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

As mentioned earlier Marshall faces a brutal 2011 schedule. The Herd kicks off  against six straight bowl teams from 2010 including defending ACC champion Virginia Tech. Marshall will be doing this while breaking in a new starting quarterback who has completed no more than ten collegiate passes.

I hate to say it but I see a similar record to last year, either 5-7 or 4-8.

Even though Marshall’s record may not improve the Herd can still move forward in 2011. I will count next year as a success if either A.J Graham or Eddie Sullivan establish themselves at quarterback, the defense finishes among the top three in C-USA, and the offensive line helps establish a rushing mark over four yards per carry. If the Herd can do those things despite a losing record it will show real progress.

Next Preview: East Carolina

2011 Team Previews

C-USA- Houston, SMU, Southern Mississippi

MAC- Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Toledo

MWC- UNLV, Wyoming

Sun Belt- FAU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy, ULM

WAC- Idaho


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