Herd's senior day ceremony will be short, bittersweet
HUNTINGTON - Marshall's senior day will be short Saturday, with just eight players accepting their last applause at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Injuries will make that ceremony even more bittersweet - upward of half of those eight will be sidelined, including wide receiver Aaron Dobson.
Dobson and Andre Snipes-Booker are good bets to miss the Thundering Herd's noon game Saturday against Houston. Dobson, the Dunbar native, suffered a knee injury two weeks ago against Memphis; Snipes-Booker suffered an apparent concussion on a kickoff return last week at Alabama-Birmingham.
Those two, best friends since their official visit four years ago, are seeing an early end to their home career on two counts: Injuries and the fact that they lost their redshirts as true freshmen, a decision by previous coach Mark Snyder in his final year of 2009.
They may not dress, and neither may linebacker Devin Arrington, who was injured early against Central Florida, three games ago.
At his weekly press conference Tuesday, coach Doc Holliday said he was not sure about the return of right guard John Bruhin, but the injury-plagued sixth-year man has expressed his determination to play. He attended player interviews Monday and did not appear to be favoring his ankle.
That leaves wide receiver Antavious Wilson and running back Martin Ward as the remaining seniors who were recruited by MU. That six was bolstered by the one-year visit from former Boston College safeties Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha.
While Holliday talked about the contributions of the eight departing players, he also bemoaned the unusually small class.
"You want to get to the point where we've got to go out there 30 minutes early, because you've got a bunch of seniors," he said. "That's when you know you're good. Next year, for example, there are going to be 23 or 24 run out there.
"Whenever you've got six seniors - you take the BC guys out and you have six guys running out there - you haven't done a very good job keeping guys around. That has to change."
Snipes-Booker's kick return duties stand to be divided between Kevin Grooms (kickoffs) and Tommy Shuler (punts).
In Houston, the overwhelming concern was about cornerback and captain D.J. Hayden, who nearly lost his life in a freak injury. As it turns out, he left the hospital Monday afternoon and even visited with the team.
Hayden, a junior-college product who was Conference USA's defensive newcomer of the year in 2011, suffered a near-fatal vein rupture in practice on Nov. 6 as the Cougars were preparing for their game against Tulsa. He was rushed into immediate surgery for a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.
The injury is most associated with high-impact motor vehicle crashes, and is 95 percent fatal in the field. It seems nobody, including Houston team physician Walter Lowe, has heard of that happening in football.
"It puts things in perspective for everybody," UH coach Tony Levine said at his press conference Tuesday. "I go back to last Tuesday when after stretching we called the team together for a huddle, D.J. gave them a 30-second motivational talk, broke them down and then they split up into their groups.
"First part of practice, 20 minutes later a collision occurs and his life changes. That message was understood by everybody in the room."
The Cougars (4-6 ,3-3) may have three of their four captains sidelined for the bowl-elimination battle against the Herd (4-6, 3-3). Hayden and left tackle Jacolby Ashworth have been ruled out, and running back Charles Sims is doubtful. Levine said he would know more about his star running back's situation after Tuesday's practice, but Sims is not listed on the depth chart in the team's game notes.
Sims missed the Tulsa game after hurting his ankle the previous week against East Carolina.
"He's a great back, an NFL back," Holliday said. "He was hurt in the East Carolina game and it looked pretty bad. He's an excellent player. I hate to see anybody get hurt."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.