Marshall notebook: No trip home for Herd's Anderson
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Of all the south Florida natives on Marshall's football roster, Kevin Anderson would almost literally be returning to his back yard.
"That's the same street I live on," he said of his Boca Raton home's proximity to Florida Atlantic University.
Alas, the true freshman might not be able to come home today unless he travels himself. Such is the life of a scout-team player, who is typically left home as about 70 of his teammates board the plane for the Thundering Herd's road destinations.
This time it's FAU, where Marshall plays the Conference USA newcomer Owls at 5 p.m. Saturday. Anderson will have to watch on Fox College Sports Atlantic (channel 509 on Suddenlink in the Kanawha Valley).
Marshall takes three quarterbacks on the road - starter Rakeem Cato, well-established No. 2 man Blake Frohnapfel and redshirt freshman Gunnar Holcombe. On Tuesday, Anderson said, "They're trying to get me on, but I might be one short, I'm not sure."
As Anderson prepares for a depth-chart battle in the spring, he is doing a yeoman's job on the scout squad. Shedding his no-contact red jersey, he simulated Texas-San Antonio quarterback Eric Soza last week and worked this week on mimicking FAU's Jaquez Johnson.
Anderson said he is not worried about the contact. Quick whistles are the rule in game-week preparation, but players on the first and second units are still competing for snaps. And this week, Anderson had to run up the middle a lot.
"It's an inside run, and Coach just wants me to lower my shoulder," Anderson said. "There were a couple of times where [James] Rouse, Kent Turene and three big dudes, I was running through a wall, and I just went for it."
The game-week competition is more pressing for the three top tight ends - senior Gator Hoskins, junior Eric Frohnapfel and sophomore Devon Johnson. Heavy on scout work, practices at this time of year are about as exciting as equestrian dressage, but position coach Todd Hartley and his superiors are dissecting every rep.
Johnson, the 6-foot-1, 240-pound bull, gets a few more plays for his versatility. The former linebacker can throw a lead block the few times the Herd uses a fullback and is quickly learning the art of both lining up tight and splitting out.
His work paid off last week when he caught his second pass, a 17-yard touchdown shot from Cato.
"I blocked, I had two running plays called," Johnson said. "And then, all of a sudden, I see a pass play. I said, 'I'm going to have to do this, I've practiced this hard all week running routes; that's all we do.' So I took my stance, went downfield, stuck him [made a hard cut to freeze the defender], came back in and having a great quarterback like Cato - you can run a route and he can probably hit you with four defenders on you - and he just put it right in my hands."
With Jeremiah Taylor out, Marshall's three-man starting rotation at defensive end has been cut down to two, and Ra'Shawde Myers is pulling his weight. He might have had the Herd's best catch of the year against UTSA, a tipped-ball interception he pulled up inches off the Edwards Stadium turf.
Besides that pick, he has 10 tackles, 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks in the last two games.
Marshall coach Doc Holliday said Myers persevered in the fall position battle by getting his body and his mind right.
"He was about 215-220 pounds when he played last season," Holliday said. "Now he's at about 245 pounds. Best thing that ever happened to him is getting married to his wife, Queen. She's a great lady. He's had twins and thank goodness they are doing OK now. He's living right and making good decisions."
So will Marshall's defense roll out its "Radar" formation, which baffled UTSA, again? If one were to bet, it won't be seen this week. Then again it might, so FAU must prepare for it.
And that's part of the plan. There are so many waking hours in the day, and opponents now have to divert a few minutes to watching MU's front randomly shifting around.
Also, it was a morale boost for Herd defenders, who ate it up.
"I can tell you this: [UTSA] didn't like it very much," said defensive end Alex Bazzie, with a grin. "[Defensive coordinator Chuck] Heater let us go out there and have some fun, and seeing the looks on those offensive line and the quarterback's face, it's like, 'What am I supposed to check to?' "
That took Bazzie back to his high school days in Silver Spring, Md., to something more bizarre.
"Back in high school, my coach ran out of plays one time," Bazzie said. "So he called a timeout and said we're going to call this 'Scrambled Eggs.' Everybody looking, 'What is Scrambled Eggs, Coach?' He said, 'Only the nose is going to stay down and the rest of you guys just move around and play basic technique. We were laughing, like, 'This ain't going to work. What if they gash us?'
"It ended up working, and to this day me and [the high school coach] are laughing about it. The first game of the season he asked, 'Remember that Scrambled Eggs play?' I said, 'Yeah, I've been trying to convince my new defensive coordinator to run that.'
"But it looks like Coach Heater already had that in his playbook. I think that's something every defensive coordinator kind of has back there in his secret lock-up cage."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.