The first point any coach makes about the MTSU offensive line: Left tackle Darius Johnson and left guard Josh Walker are studs.
"Their left side is as good as we've faced," said defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. "We're very impressed with that side; I know they've been trying to piecemeal everything else with some injuries."
Yes, MTSU's duct tape has been worn out from the center to the right side. At right guard, true freshman Daniel Stephens could get his third start Thursday, and redshirt freshman Hunter Rogers played in the Oct. 12 game at North Texas - a development that persuaded coach Rick Stockstill to leave mobile freshman quarterback Austin Grammer in for the rest of the game.
And there is this: The Raiders are down to third-string center Nick Nunez, with starter Josh Chester (ankle) doubtful and No. 2 Jesse Graham (knee) said to be available on a limited basis.
The right side of the line may benefit from the 12-day gap between games, though. Reports from Murfreesboro indicate starting right guard Jadareius Hamlin may play on a limited basis, while right tackle Isaiah Anderson is expected to play Thursday.
That helps explain the struggles by what was expected to be an explosive offense. The Raiders gained just 205 total yards against North Texas and ran for just 89 yards against East Carolina.
To make matters a little tougher, 6-foot-1, 220-pound back Jordan Parker has been bothered by a hip injury and has run for just 67 yards on 29 carries the last three games. Reggie Whatley, who ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns against FAU, is the smaller (5-7, 167), speedier back.
In simple terms of playing games, this is the Herd's lightest part of the schedule - and the lightest in a few years.
Put it this way: Marshall played at Virginia Tech on Sept. 21 and had two full weeks before the Oct. 5 game against UTSA. A week later, the Herd played at Florida Atlantic, then has 12 days before the MTSU game Thursday.
So on Thursday, the Herd will play its third game in 33 days. The last time the Herd had a longer gap was in 2008, when a 15-day layoff and a Tuesday night game conspired to for a 36-day stretch over three games.
You'll never get an MU player or coach to even consider it, but the issue of rust can't be dismissed. Then again, this Herd team is healthier than anybody could expect in late October.
"Sometimes in practice, you'd see a bunch of red [no-contact] jerseys," said center Chris Jasperse. "Now, hey, let's go play. It's good for us to have everybody out there, ready to go."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.