HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Tommy Shuler said that back in his hometown of Miami, nobody ever took a day off. Not that he was blaming Marshall coaches and trainers for allowing another week to let his foot heal.
But as the 5-foot-7, 190-pound junior has performed in non-contact drills, he's getting the itch to rejoin all those pass-catchers, including the resurgent Davonte Allen and Devon "Moo Moo" Smith.
Thundering Herd Coaches are going to have fun - in a good way - getting all those players the ball. Shuler is loving the experimentation, too - and he's encouraged by his fellow 5-7 receiver, Smith.
"It's going to be sweet. I feel like he's going to take the top off the defense," Shuler said after practice Monday. "Today, we moved [Smith] to the outside so me and him could be on the field together. It's sweet."
By all accounts, Shuler would take the field if the Thundering Herd's opener against Miami (Ohio) were today. But that game is still a week and a half away.
No old-school Miami tough guy for Shuler this week.
"My foot is back strong," he said. "They just don't want me to out there and do something crazy. Our defense is hungry, and somebody could go out there and twist my foot or just mess it up. So they gave me one more week, I guess, to get it back strong."
The running back position is hardly hurting, though Kevin Grooms did get dinged up last week and did not scrimmage Saturday. Herd fans know Steward Butler, Remi Watson and Essray Taliaferro can pick up the slack.
But Taliaferro is the one who has been doing the heavy lifting, running with the first unit most of this month.
"I just never doubt myself," said the 5-9, 183-pound senior. "I just know when the opportunity is presented I can perform. It wasn't unexpected by me - when [position] Coach [Thomas] Brown came, he said, 'Clean slate. Last season, two years ago doesn't mean anything. Talk to the guys who perform in the springtime and the fall, you talk to the guys who will play.' "
The Washington native got the call in a big way last November in the season finale at East Carolina, when he carried for 130 yards on 27 carries, caught three passes for 50 yards and returned three kickoffs for 41 yards.
He and the Herd suffered a bitter ending, as he fumbled in the second overtime. His offensive mates picked him up, telling him the game should have never gone that far (the defense yielded 52 points in regulation in the 65-59 loss).
The most positive effects were a major shot of confidence and a priceless memory in finding out he would shoulder the running game. The rest of the runners were either out or limited by injury.
"It was mind-blowing," Taliaferro said. "I was waiting for the opportunity the whole time, because I know I could do it."