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Marshall notebook: Reaves added to the mix at wide receiver

By Doug Smock, Staff writer

HUNTINGTON — The doors to Marshall’s outside receiver positions are wide open, and Deandre Reaves figures he might as well run through them.

Anything to get on the field.

“Wherever they need me,” Reaves said Wednesday. “If they need me to play center, I’m going to play center. If they need me to replace [quarterback Rakeem] Cato, somehow, some way, that’s what I’ve got to do.

The Thundering Herd’s situation is hardly that dire, but the outside receiver spots can use the additional competition.

Enter Reaves, a 5-foot-1, 175-pound junior from Sterling, Va. In his Marshall career, he has been a running back, a slot receiver and a special-teams player. Most notably, he returned kickoffs most of last season, averaging 25 yards on 37 attempts.

Wednesday morning, as the Herd continued its second week of preseason camp, Reaves took snaps at the “X” and “Z” wideout positions, even on the first unit.

When the Herd reconvened Wednesday afternoon, he was running on the second unit at “X,” opposite Craig Wilkins. The latter is the incumbent at “Z,” having started 11 games there last year, catching 32 passes for 408 yards and two touchdowns.

And Wilkins is not safe there. After all, Angelo Jean-Louis was the first-teamer on that right side Wednesday afternoon, with Davonte Allen at the “X.”

“I felt like we had three or four guys who we think can play inside,” said MU coach Doc Holliday. “We wanted to take a look at him outside, and he went out there a day or so ago and did a pretty good job. They said competition brings out the best in them, and at the end of the day we’ll have four or five guys [who can play outside].”

Reaves has different challenges on the outside, such as fighting through cornerback Darryl Roberts and occasionally getting double-teamed. But Reaves is as flexible about his opposition as he is about his role in general.

“It’s not like it’s a significant change or anything,” he said. “Inside receiver you have the safeties on you and he’s back a couple of yards, and then at outside receiver you have a corner who’s up on you. Really, it’s not too much different; you’re still a receiver.”

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There are the usual nicks and aches along the rosters, but the noticeable absences Wednesday came on the offensive line. Both starting guards, Blake Brooks and Michael Selby, joined right tackle Clint Van Horn on the sidelines.

That meant a patchwork offensive line, for sure, but Holliday doesn’t foresee a long absence for the guards. “[Brooks] and Selby both, a couple of days, if that,” Holliday said.

Sandley Jean-Felix has been taking Van Horn’s first-string reps since the Beckley native was sidelined last week. Van Horn was out of his ankle splint Wednesday.

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OK, so Jacob McCrary isn’t coming to Marshall after all. Apparently, Shawn Petty is.

Petty is reported to be transferring from Maryland, swapping sides from the teams in the Dec. 27 Military Bowl. The 6-foot, 235-pound junior linebacker from Greenbelt, Md., attended the Herd’s afternoon practice but did not participate. That may come next week, as MU’s semester starts.

Petty had 24 tackles last year, four for loss with two sacks and one pass breakup. He had two solo tackles against West Virginia, a 37-0 win in Baltimore, but did not make the stat sheet in the Terrapins’ loss to Marshall in the bowl game.

He left the Terps before spring drills. He would have to sit out the 2014 campaign, but that would serve as a redshirt season he hasn’t taken. He would have two years of eligibility at MU.

He was ticketed for a redshirt year in 2012, but injuries forced him into taking the field as a quarterback. He was 39 of 84 passing for 500 yards and six touchdowns, with a rushing score.

Meanwhile, McCrary announced his intention to go to a junior college, a day after the WVU signee announced via Twitter his plans to enroll at Marshall. “My heart belongs West V … And that’s where I want to be,” he tweeted.

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In case it ever comes to play in 2015 or 2016, Herd quarterback Michael Birdsong hit a 35-yard field goal before the afternoon practice. That appears to be the extent of his range, but there it is.

Birdsong is the James Madison transfer who is sitting out this season.

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Finally, fans have until Friday to purchase tickets for the 17th annual “Paint the Capital City Green,” which takes place Thursday, Aug. 21 at the Embassy Suites.

Individual tickets are $60, with $30 tickets available for MU faculty and staff members. To order, call 304-696-7138 or e-mail paintthecapital@marshall.edu.

Reach Doug Smock at dougsmock@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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