Marshall Thundering Herd
Head Coach: Doc Holliday
2013 Record: 10-4 overall, 7-1 Conference USA East
2013 Bowl Result: Beat Maryland 31-20 in the Military Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 6 offense, 8 defense
Odds to win 2015 College Football Championship Game: field 30-1
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Last year, the Marshall Thundering Herd won the Conference USA East Division with a 7-1 conference record. The Thundering Herd lost at Rice 41-24 in the Conference USA Championship Game. Still Marshall would upset Maryland 31-20 in the military Bowl to cap off a 10-4 season. The other losses came to Ohio, Virginia Tech and Middle Tennessee, by a total of 13 points. The Herd lost by 8 points in triple overtime at Virginia Tech.
This year 14 starters are back for Marshall under coach Doc Holliday. Marshall is the favorite to win both the East Division and the conference championship game in the new look Conference USA. The Conference lost Tulsa, East Carolina and Tulane to the AAC and added several Sun Belt teams along with Old Dominion who moved up from FCS.
Marshall averaged 294 passing yards and 206 rushing yards per game. The Thundering Herd were #12 nationally in total offense at 500 yards per game and #8 in scoring at 42 points per game. Six starters are back for coordinator Bill Legg and his hurry up offense.
Senior quarterback Rakeem Cato has thrown for over 10,000 yards and thrown 91 touchdowns in his career. Last year, Cato completed 59.7% of his passes for 3,916 yards with 39 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, and also had 99 carries and rushed for 294 yards with 6 touchdowns. Blake Frohnapel was scheduled to be the back-up but transferred to UMass and will start there.
Marshall must replace running back Essray Taliaferro who has graduated. He had 221 carries for 1,140 yards and 10 touchdowns, plus 12 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Steward Butler had 87 carries for 765 yards and 8 touchdowns. Kevin Grooms had 91 carries for 503 yards and 6 touchdowns, and also caught a touchdown pass. He was kicked off the team after his third arrest in 2 seasons. Remi Watson will also get more carries after he had 30 carries for 120 yards last year.
No receiver in NCAA history has ever had three straight 100 catch seasons. Tommy Schuler can accomplish that feat this season after making 106 catches for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Tight end Gator Hoskins is now with the Miami Dolphins. He had 50 catches for 821 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Devon Johnson and Eric Frohnapel will look to replace him at tight end. Johnson had 12 catches for 218 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also added 3 short yardage rushing touchdowns. Frohnapel, brother of former quarterback Blake, had 7 catches for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. Junior Craig Wilkins will also get more targets after making 32 catches for 408 yards and 2 touchdowns. Davonte Allen looks to have a break out season as a deep threat.
Three starters are back for the offensive line, led by first team All-Conference center USA Chris Jasperse.
The defense wasn’t as dominant as the explosive offense, but Marshall only allowed 369 yards per game on defense and 23 points per game. The Thundering Herd were #35 or better nationally in both categories. Eight starters are back for coordinator Chuck Heater. The defense allowed 43 points a game in 2012 and was dramatically improved in 2013. Holliday and Heater expect even more improvement in 2014 with so many starters back.
Sixth year senior James Rouse is back after he was a first team All-C-USA defensive tackle last season. Ra’Shawde Myers had 5.5 sacks last season and will start at one end. Miami-(FL) transfer Ricardo Williams could start at the other end after a good performance in spring practice.
Marshall used only two linebackers for most of last season. The Thundering Herd return a deep and talented corps of linebackers, including projected starters Jermaine Holmes and Evan McKelvey. Neville Hewitt, Stefan Houston and converted safety D.J. Hunter will also see minutes in the rotation.
Marshall used 5 defensive backs last season and will do so again in 2014. Corners Darryl Roberts and Corey Tindal return as well as strong safety Tiquan Lang. Michael Johnson is the new nickel back and A.J. Leggett & last year’s starter Taj Letman will platoon at free safety.
Kicker Justin Haig made 11 of 16 field goals last year but his long was only 42 yards. Amoreto Curraj usually handles kickoffs, but could also attempt longer field goals. The Marshall punting game struggled for the most part last season but punter Tyler Williams did land 4 punts inside the Maryland 10 yard line in the bowl win. Deandre Reeves will handle both kick and punt returns for Marshall.
Outlook / Schedule
Marshall has road non-conference games at Miami-(OH) and Akron, and has home games against Rhode Island and Ohio. In Conference USA, Marshall hosts Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, Rice and Western Kentucky. The Thundering Herd travel to Old Dominion, Florida International, Southern Miss and UAB. Marshall was originally scheduled to play Louisville this season but Louisville dropped the game to play Notre Dame instead. Marshall should be favored in every game with the toughest games coming at home against Ohio, Middle Tennessee, Rice and Western Kentucky. The Thundering Herd have a real shot at running the table and going undefeated.
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