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Herd football signs two juco defenders

HUNTINGTON - Marshall may not hire its defensive coordinator until about the second week of January, but the Thundering Herd added some reinforcements in the holiday season.

Coach Doc Holliday announced Wednesday the signings of defensive end Arnold Blackmon and safety Taj Letman, as the midyear junior college signing period began.

"If you get that defensive end that can pressure the quarterback, fix that issue," Holliday said Wednesday. "Get that linebacker situation a little better, and then the safety position. I think everywhere else, we're in pretty good shape."

Blackmon, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound native of the Houston suburb of Bellaire, Texas, played for Navarro College in Corsicana, south of Dallas. He helped the Bulldogs go 10-4 last fall, and he is joining a school-listed eight players heading to major-college programs.

Letman, listed at 6-3, 195, is an Elberton, Ga., native who comes from Holmes Community College in Mississippi. He redshirted as an injury case this year, so he will have three years to play three seasons.

ESPN.com's scouting report has some criticisms, but concludes, "Letman is a potential impact player at the BCS level once he steps on campus."

Those two recruits are all that Marshall can announce. For instance, wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis has committed to joining the Thundering Herd out of Fork Union Military Academy, and is expected to enroll in the spring semester next month. But he will not be able to sign a letter of intent until the first Wednesday of February, the national signing day.

Holliday said Devon Johnson, who spent his freshman season as a lightly used fullback, will head back across the ball and try for a linebacker position. Evan McKelvey, who looked promising at linebacker before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, should return for light work in the spring, and nonqualifer Kent Turene became eligible with the end of the fall semester.

Also, defensive end candidates Gary Thompson and Larry Jefferson are expected to become eligible in May. Jefferson was a Louisville signee; Thompson signed with the Herd in February.

Holliday said it is not certain that D.J. Hunter will get switched back to safety after being named a freshman All-American by Sporting News as a strong-side linebacker. The cornerback spots should be reinforced merely by recoveries from injury - Darryl Roberts and A.J. Leggett should return after missing the season. A move by one to safety is not ruled out.

Cornerback Derrick Thomas, reportedly involved in auto accident, is OK, Holliday said. Also at safety, Andre Scott is expected back from injury, though he likely will be held out of contact in the spring.

Holliday expects to hire his defensive coordinator a few weeks before signing day, but warns a hiring is not imminent. For one thing, the top candidates are likely still in their seasons, as the bowl schedule has barely gotten underway.

He said the replacement for Chris Rippon will be a current coordinator, or have coordinator experience.

"Number one, we want to be aggressive defensively," Holliday said. "We want a guy in here that's very technique-sound, fundamentally sound. We're going to have some players, and we'll be fine."

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  • Some other items from Holliday's postseason press conference:

  • He said quarterback Rakeem Cato, who suffered knee and ankle injuries in the season-ending loss at East Carolina, does not need injury and has participated in offseason workouts.
  • On the current tsunami of conference realignment, Holliday said, "I think a lot of people may have buyer's remorse - be careful what you ask for. It's crazy what's happening out there right now. It will all shake out at some point, but I think our conference - I don't think, I know it is - is in great shape."
  • Punter Tyler Williams, who would be ninth in the nation if he had enough attempts to qualify, received a scholarship. He averaged 45.2 yards per punt, but was one attempt short of the 3.6 per game required.
  • Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

     


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