HUNTINGTON - Marshall's spring practice will begin today without two veterans, defensive tackle Marques Aiken and receiver Jermain Kelson.
University officials confirmed Monday that Aiken, who is wrapping up his degree work, declined to return as a fifth-year senior, and Kelson left for personal reasons.
Aiken's departure will sting. He was a two-year starter and one of the bright spots in the struggling Thundering Herd defense, recording 37 tackles, 61/2 for loss and two sacks. The native of Lauderhill, Fla., also had four quarterback hurries, forced a fumble and blocked two kicks.
Kelson caught 23 passes for 208 yards in his sophomore season of 2011, but that fell to seven receptions for 69 yards last year. The Miami native's most unusual task was preparing for an emergency quarterback role for the Herd's 2011 bowl game, as all possible backups to Rakeem Cato were sidelined.
Coach Doc Holliday expects about 10 players in red jerseys in spring. Some may participate in limited drills but not be engaged in contact.
Most of the 15 practices are open to the public, but there is one major change - fans will have to sit in the east side of Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The west side is blocked off, as construction continues on the new sky suites and other changes to the press-box structure.
Fans are asked to use Gate D, the northeast concourse entrance.
Practices this week are at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and then settle into a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday pattern the remaining four weeks. The Saturday workouts are at 9:15 a.m.
The April 13 and April 20 scrimmages will be restricted to those with a valid Big Green membership card or a copy of their 2013 football season ticket renewal form.