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Notes: Plenty of options for MU ground game

The Associated Press
Travon Van splits a pair of Florida International defenders in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl last season.

HUNTINGTON - The time is coming when Marshall coaches are going to have to sort out the deep, deep running back stable.

How deep is that position? Put it this way: Redshirt freshman Remi Watson is good for two or three double-digit-yard runs per practice, but stands to be No. 5 in the pecking order.

That would be behind Travon Van, Tron Martinez (if healthy), Kevin Grooms and Steward Butler. The latter two, 2011 nonqualifiers, are good for two or three highlight-reel runs.

Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday has seen a lot of talented running backs in his stops at West Virginia, North Carolina State and Florida, but he's not sure he's seen that much depth. With a week and half left in camp, the dilemma looms larger.

"When you get down to it, you can't get six guys ready to play," Holliday said. "You try to get six of them ready to play, you can't get anybody. There's going to come a time when we've got to cut back the reps that certain guys get. So right now, they're fighting for reps when they get an opportunity.

"I think you can get four ready. There are places for [the other] athletes - they're going to play on special teams, and they're going to do some things. You can get four to five somewhat ready to go, and a couple of guys really ready to roll, and go play."

 

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    Evan McKelvey saw some first-team reps at weak-side linebacker late in Tuesday's practice, as Devin Arrington sat out. Nothing to read into that, at this point.

    And interesting development was the rotation of cornerbacks: Penn State transfer Derrick Thomas is receiving a better split of reps with Monterius Lovett, opposite Keith Baxter. Darryl Roberts remains out for an undetermined period, but could return soon.

    On the offensive side, Gage Niemeyer worked on the first string at left tackle, with Jordan Jeffries behind him. The rest of the line remains constant: left tackle Josh Lovell, center Chris Jasperse, right guard John Bruhin and right tackle Garrett Scott.

    The Herd has been working with some short-yardage packages, with Spring Valley graduate Zach Wellman, Cortez Carter and Devon Johnson auditioning as fullbacks. The latter two are linebackers, Carter a sophomore and Johnson a freshman.

    Some players remaining out with injuries included tight end C.J. Crawford, defensive tackle Jarquez Samuel and defensive end Matt Pickett. Van did intensive agility work after practice, so he seems to be progressing. On the other hand, Martinez hasn't done a lot.

    Another walk-on, safety Isaiah Haskins, has left the team.

     

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    Positive news on Marshall's scariest void, the punting game: Tyler Williams is becoming more consistent, both in avoiding shanks and getting off long punts.

    He does have a lively leg - when he gets a hold of one, it's going 50 or more yards in the air.

    "Last couple days [I've noticed]," Holliday said. "I thought he was tremendous yesterday, and he carried over into today. That's a positive."

     

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    Doug Chapman, the Herd's No. 2  all-time rusher, will serve as game analyst on some Conference USA games, CBS Sports Network announced Tuesday.

    Chapman is in his second season at the network, having served as game analyst for ESPN. He also has been an NFL expert for CBS-Atlanta and a writer for the NFL Players Association.

    He will team up with play-by-play announcer Brad Johansen and sideline reporter Lisa Byington for Division II games and select Conference USA contests. Most C-USA contests will be handled by play-by-play man Dave Ryan, with former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster the analyst and Evan Washburn on the sidelines.

    The network also announced the hiring of two other recently fired head coaches, Ron Zook and Houston Nutt. They will serve as studio analysts on the network's college football shows.

    Marshall has three games on CBS Sports: a home game Oct. 6 at 3:30 p.m. against Tulsa; Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Southern Mississippi and Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. at East Carolina. The latter game is a Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

     

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    Finally, a few words from Holliday on the offensive line. Good words, even.

    "Those guys had a lot of criticism, including [from] me," Holliday said. "I went in the room today and said, 'I'm not going to tell you I like you yet, but when I walk in the room, at least I'm not puking.'"

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

     


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