#61 Marshall Football 2016 Preview

Marshall Thundering Herd
Overall Rank: #61
#2 Conference USA
Marshall was basically in a transition year in 2015, yet still went 10-3 overall and 6-2 in conference action. The season culminated with a less than thrilling 16-10 victory over Connecticut in the St. Petersburg Bowl, but it was still a bowl win. For the most part, the rebuilding is behind Coach Doc Holliday, so this is a Thundering Herd squad that is eyeing a trip to the Conference USA Championship game.
2015 Record: 10-3, 6-2
2015 Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl vs. Connecticut (W 16-10)
Coach: Doc Holliday (50-28 at Marshall, 50-28 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bill Legg
Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Heater
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Hyleck Foster, RB, 450 yards
Passing: Chase Litton, QB, 2,605 yards
Receiving: Ryan Yurachek, TE, 417 yards
Tackles: Tiquan Lang, S, 91
Sacks: Gary Thompson, DE, 9.0
Interceptions: Rodney Allen, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Keion Davis, QB Michael Birdsong, OL Michael Selby, DL Ryan Bee
Key Losses: RB Devon Johnson, RB Remi Watson, WR Davonte Allen, WR Deandre Reaves, LB Evan McKelvey, S Taj Letman, LB D.J. Hunter, DB Corey Tindal, DL Jarquez Samuel, P Tyler Williams
Quarterback Chase Litton had very productive freshman campaign, throwing for 2,605 yards and 23 touchdowns. Perhaps more impressive, especially for a freshman, is that Litton completed 60.1 percent of his passes and threw just eight interceptions. There are a few concerns at receiver with Davonte Allen and Deandre Reaves gone. Those two combined to catch 114 passes for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns. Yet, there is still talent at the position. Tight end Ryan Yurachek is a great option in the red zone and Deon-Tay McManus is a solid possession receiver. Justin Hunt, who averaged nearly 15 yards per catch, is a deep threat and so is 6-7 sophomore Michael Clark. With Litton’s experience and a very talented offensive line, led by center Michael Selby, the passing game should be able to quickly get past losing their top two receivers. Marshall also lost their top running back, Devon Johnson, and third leading rusher Remi Watson. Hyleck Foster is the most explosive option, but Keion Davis and Tony Pittman got quite a few carries last year too and are the tough backs who can pick up the short yardage.
Marshall’s defense was brilliant last season. They led the conference in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. Besides the season finale at Western Kentucky, Marshall only allowed more than 17 points once, and that was in a triple overtime game against Middle Tennessee State. But now there are some big holes to fill. Defensive ends Gary Thompson and Ryan Bee will anchor the front four while some younger faces will be forced to plug the middle. Thompson tallied 9.0 sacks as a junior and Bee added 4.0 during his freshman campaign. This is a team that wants to get to the quarterback and the more the front four can get the job done, the better. At linebacker, Evan McKelvey and D.J. Hunter need to be replaced after very productive collegiate careers. McKelvey led the team with 121 tackles last year. Devontre’a Tyler figures to step into a leadership position in the middle of the defense, but there is not much experience at the outside linebacker spots. Safeties Tiquan Lang and C.J. Reavis are proven playmakers, but Marshall lost both their starting cornerbacks. In Marshall’s preferred defensive scheme, the cornerbacks are often left alone. Rodney Allen and Antavis Rowe are the only returning corners with any experience and they will have to step up quickly.
The Bottom Line:
Marshall’s conference slate is not too difficult. They do have to go to Hattiesburg to play Southern Miss on October 29th and that will be a very, very tough game. However, they do get Western Kentucky at home to wrap up the season and that contest could decide the East division. Avoiding Louisiana Tech and Rice from the West and getting other potential East contender Middle Tennessee at home could lead this team to the conference championship game. If the defense can fill their gaps, especially at cornerback, the Thundering Herd will be the team to beat in the East.
Projected Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 168.9 (67th in nation, 3th in conference)
Passing Offense: 231.5 (57, 6)
Total Offense: 400.4 (64, 6)
Scoring Offense: 31.3 (51, 5)
Rushing Defense: 168.1 (64, 6)
Pass Defense: 191.9 (22, 1)
Total Defense: 360.0 (35, 1)
Scoring Defense: 17.8 (10, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (39, 2)
Sacks: 2.31 (45, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.62 (42, 5)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#160 Jaquan Yulee