WVU opponent preview: Marshall
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
Last November, this team's season was hanging by a thread on a cold November night in a cold, vacant Liberty Bowl in Memphis, as the Herd trailed 22-10. But MU recovered to win that game, beat East Carolina in an overtime thriller and downed Florida International 20-10 in the bowl game at St. Pete.
In each, the Herd finished strong, which hasn't happened in recent years.
With Conference USA defensive player of the year Vinny Curry off to the NFL, the defense is loaded with questions. And that means the Thundering Herd probably needs to score more than the 21.1 points it has averaged over the past four years.
There is plenty of skill to burn, with the sure-handed Aaron Dobson becoming quite the threat both deep and in the red zone. Tron Martinez and Travon Van provide one of C-USA's best running tandems, though Van will miss the first part of the season after surgery. Someone who needs a bounce-back year: Receiver Antavious Wilson.
Rakeem Cato has won the quarterback job for the time being after A.J. Graham's dismissal. He performed better down the stretch, after being benched a few games.
Defensively, the Herd is deep at tackle with Marques Aiken, Brandon Sparrow and others, but young with question marks everywhere else. Jeremiah Taylor is the veteran at defensive end, but coaches are trying a host of people out at the position.
At linebacker, Billy Mitchell is the veteran, with Jermaine Holmes getting some experience last year. The secondary is the most interesting, with coaches bringing in former Boston College starters Domenick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okhorha. D.J. Hunter is the one with considerable upside, though he has yet to play a game. He had to redshirt with injury in 2011.
With Tyler Warner and Kase Whitehead gone, the kicking game is a worry. Andre Booker, who had an 87-yard punt return for a TD in '11 against the Mountaineers, can be even more dangerous when he doesn't lose his balance.
Over the previous six games against West Virginia, the Herd's broadest mismatch has been its offense vs. the Mountaineers' defense. It's not close - Marshall has scored six offensive touchdowns in the stretch, none in three of those games. ... The three new assistant coaches are Geep Wade (guards, centers), Lytrell Pollard (cornerbacks) and J.C. Price (defensive line). ... Dobson's outrageous touchdown catch against East Carolina has topped the 2-million hit mark in its several renditions on YouTube.
Sept. 1 at West Virginia L, 13-34
Sept. 8 Western Carolina DNP
Sept. 15 Ohio L, 7-44
Sept. 22 at Rice* W, 24-20
Sept. 29 at Purdue DNP
Oct. 6 Tulsa* L, 59-17
Oct. 20 at Southern Miss* W, 26-20
Oct. 27 Central Florida* L, 6-16
Nov. 3 Memphis* W, 23-22
Nov. 10 at UAB* W, 59-14
Nov. 17 Houston* W, 63-28
Nov. 23 (Fri) at E. Carolina* W, 34-27 OT
*Conference USA games