Marshall notebook: Injured Dobson still contributing
HUNTINGTON - There was a No. 3 running around catching footballs in Marshall's practice Tuesday, but it wasn't Aaron Dobson. It was a reserve mimicking A.J. Guyton, Central Florida's dangerous receiver.
Dobson entered practice late, sore left foot in a protective boot. That may be the routine from now until the Thundering Herd's Nov. 5 bye week, or even the rest of the season.
Coach Doc Holliday isn't worried about that, as long as he gets Dobson's best on Saturday. The junior from Dunbar caught a single pass for 27 yards last week against Louisville, but that wasn't the end of his efforts.
"Thing I was so happy about with Aaron, he put himself in on that last punt, as a missile," Holliday said. "He went down and made the play there [helped pin Louisville inside its 20-yard line], and he's doing a lot of things you don't read on the stat sheet.
"We scored that touchdown, he took that corner and put him right on his back. And he doesn't have to play 80 snaps now; he can play 40 to 50 and we can get the kind of effort we need to get out of him."
There were other injury-related sights in practice Tuesday, including the right side of the offensive line. Right tackle C.J. Wood hit the stationary bike, with his place taken by Josh Lovell.
Right guard John Bruhin participated, but yielded most of the contact snaps to freshman Sebastian Johansson. Cory Tenney (also seen on a bike) has been listed as Bruhin's backup, but it has been thought that Alex Schooler would be the top sub at guard, on either side.
At the receiver corps, Craig Wilkins is expected to return from his injury, but Demetrius Evans is doubtful again.
Marques Aiken did not practice Tuesday, and that may be a pattern. He is trying to get through the rest of the season before having hernia surgery, and is spelling Brandon Sparrow instead of the other way around.
Aiken did start at Louisville, and had one tackle.
"I'm proud of Aiken. He's done a nice job, and he helped us in there," Holliday said. "Hopefully, we can get him to the end of the season and get him surgery at that time. When he's in there, it provides us the depth we need."
Holliday issued a "we'll see" statement on whether Justin Haig remains the field-goal kicker ahead of Tyler Warner. Warner was benched after missing one field goal and having a 19-yarder blocked, and Haig was the kicker in field-goal drills Tuesday.
There was a protection issue at Louisville, yes, but Holliday said it wasn't the entire issue.
"We had a little penetration, but you've got to get the kick up in the air," Holliday said. "He didn't get height on the kick."
Holliday continued to rave about 5-foot-10 Andre Booker, who handled an outside receiver role usually reserved for taller athletes, and caught his first three passes for 66 yards. His first two receptions went for 28 and 31 yards on long passes, and could have been even longer.
"Booker's got a big ol' heart, man," Holliday said. "Booker's just a fun guy to be around, and he's just a great kid. If you're going to crawl into a foxhole with somebody, Booker is surely one of the guys I'd like to have in there. He'll fight you, and we saw a little bit of that.
"I wish he'd quit falling down when he gets the ball, though. He had a couple of opportunities to score, and he's going so fast he trips over his own feet."
UCF has had an extra week to reevaluate its 2-2 start, which was a few plays from being 4-0.
The Knights opened with a 62-0 rout of Charleston Southern and an impressive 30-3 beating of Boston College, but they enter the Marshall game coming off seven-point losses to Florida International and Brigham Young.
"Central Florida, uncharacteristically on their part, turned the ball over," Holliday said. "That's not a George O'Leary-coached team. Against BYU, they have a muffed punt that cost them the game; FIU, guy had a fumble that was picked up and ran in that cost them the game.
"That's not the way George's teams have won in the past, and I'm sure he got that corrected with the open date he had last week."
O'Leary pretty much confirmed that Tuesday: "Those are games we wish we had back. We can't do the three things that cost us games: Turn the ball over, poor decision making and special teams. We have to improve our return yardage in both punt and kickoff returns.
"We're doing a lot of good things too, gaining over 400 yards and giving up less than 200 yards [per game]. We have to improve the areas we made mistakes in, in order to be successful."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.