HUNTINGTON - As expected, Marshall's off week was what the Doc ordered for the usual midseason bumps and bruises.
As a bonus, the Thundering Herd's struggling defense should get some reinforcements this week. But there is also bad news on that front: Running back-turned-cornerback Travon Van has been declared out until further notice.
At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Coach Doc Holliday said defensive tackle Ken Smith and linebacker Billy Mitchell have resumed practice after recovering from long-term injuries.
The 6-foot-3, 288-pound Smith had yet to even practice this season after back surgery, while Mitchell has been out since August with a concussion. Both were ticketed for significant reserve roles.
"Ken Smith, we had lost him earlier this year with an issue, but he's back," Holliday said. "He's practiced now for a couple of [practices]. Billy Mitchell should play, another guy who was a starter for us a year ago who has sat out up until this point. So we've got a few guys back who haven't played the first six games, which should help us a bit.
"They started last week, and they'll take a lot of reps this week."
Both players could return Saturday when the Herd takes on Southern Mississippi at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. EDT, with the game airing on CBS Sports Network.
Smith was a midyear junior college signee out of Blinn (Texas) Community College last December, and enjoyed a solid spring. He looked to be the top reserve at tackle behind either starter at tackle, Marques Aiken and Brandon Sparrow, before his back injury put him in the operating room a week before preseason camp.
"Ken Smith, he worked extremely hard in the offseason, and he had changed his body," Holliday said. "Up until he got ruled out with the issue he had to get fixed, he had worked extremely hard to get to the point he had. He had a lot invested, and all of a sudden, it was taken away from him."
Smith showed his excitement in the Herd's practice Tuesday, grudgingly restraining himself from hitting quarterback Blake Frohnapfel on one pass rush.
"Some people told me to maybe stop playing," Smith said. "But I knew what I wanted to do, and the doctor told me to get the surgery done and I'll have a good chance to come back. That's what I wanted to do and I feel great."