Grading the Herd
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 1, 2011 02:09
True freshman Rakeem Cato and redshirt sophomore A.J. Graham battled for the starting position throughout preseason camp, and Cato was given the nod as the starter earlier this week.
It is difficult to gauge the ability of Cato, considering he will be making his first collegiate start Sunday at Milan Puskar Stadium on Sunday. With that being said, Cato had impressive numbers in high school.
The two-star recruit out of Miami, Fl., threw for 37 touchdowns during his senior season at the 6A level.
Two young running backs will split time for the Herd this season. Sophomore Tron Martinez has some experience from last season, and will team up with highlytouted freshman Travon Van. Van, originally committed to Florida as a four-star recruit out of high school, but academic ineligibility prevented him from qualifying for participation. Van has shown glimpses of greatness through camp and has playmaking abilities.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marshall has some depth at wide receiver and both starters scored a touchdown in last year's game against West Virginia. Antavious Wilson and Aaron Dobson are both explosive wideouts who are both down-the-field threats. Both recorded five touchdowns last season, and each averaged more than 11 yards per catch. The tight end position is a different story, as true freshman Eric Frohnapfel will step in as the starter.
The right side of the offensive line will be solid for the Herd in 2011. Seniors C.J. Wood and John Bruhin both will start at right tackle and right guard respectively. Left tackle will also have experience, with senior Ryan Tillman returning. However, the other two spots will be filled by guys with very little playing experience.
The defensive line will be the strongest section of the defense, because of the return of defensive end Vinny Curry. Curry opted not to enter the NFL Draft and to return for his senior season. Curry recorded 12 sacks and 94 tackles last season.
It is almost impossible to replace a guy like Mario Harvey from last year's squad. Harvey was one of the best linebackers in the state over the past decade and will be missed dearly. This season, Tyson Gale and George Carpenter return as starters, but both combined for nearly 100 tackles less than Harvey.
Omar Brown is the sole returning starter in the secondary this season. Donald Brown would have joined Omar as the other starting safety, but was arrested and dismissed from the team in early July. This will leave a large gap in the back end of the Herd's defense that will primarily be filled by players with very little experience.
Tyler Warner will return as the place kicker to open the season. Warner missed three field goals last season, including an overtime attempt against West Virginia. However, Warner rebounded nicely by not missing a kick in any of Marshall's final nine games. Andre Booker will handle the kick returns, and Troy Evans was slated to return punts, but was arrested and dismissed from the team this week.
John "Doc" Holliday returns as his second season as head coach of the Thundering Herd. Holliday, a former Mountaineer Assistant and West Virginia Alumni, has been known as one of the best recruiters in the country. However, Holliday has yet to prove himself as a head coach.