#50 Marshall 2018 Football Preview

Marshall Thundering Herd
Overall Rank: #50
#2 Conference USA
 Marshall Logo
Following their 3-9 season in 2016, Marshall got back on track in 2017 with an 8-5 record and a victory over Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl. That 2016 campaign was most likely just an anomaly for a program that has had consistent success in Conference USA. With 17 starters back, the Thundering Herd should be on track for a good 2018 season…if they can find a quarterback.
2017 Record: 8-5, 4-4
2017 Bowl: New Mexico Bowl vs. Colorado State (W 31-28)
Coach: Doc Holliday (61-42 at Marshall, 61-42 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Tim Cramsey
Defensive Coordinator: Adam Fuller
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tyler King, RB, 820 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Tyre Brady, WR, 942 yards
Tackles: Chase Hancock, LB, 128
Sacks: Ryan Bee, DT, 5.5
Interceptions: Chris Jackson, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Keion Davis, WR Marcel Williams, WR Willie Johnson, OL Levi Brown, SS Malik Gant, LB Frankie Hernandez
Key Losses: QB Chase Litton, TE Ryan Yurachek, S CJ Reavis, K/P Kaare Vedvik
The offense has plenty to be excited about heading into the 2018 season, but replacing quarterback Chase Litton, who threw for 3,115 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, will not be too easy. Wagner graduate transfer Alex Thomson will be up for the job though. The 6-5 senior with two years of eligibility remaining has the tools to be a great quarterback in Conference USA and is already garnering some buzz at the next level too. For now he will take over an offense that returns just about everybody else. Wide receivers Tyre Brady, Marcel Williams and Willie Johnson will certainly make life easier for Thomson. A strong run game, led by Tyler King and Keion Davis, will make the offense explosive even if Thomson needs some time to adjust to life in Conference USA. And behind a very experienced and talented offensive line, the run game should be much more prolific than it was a year ago.
The defense was very impressive last year and should be even better with the front seven returning intact. Defensive tackle Ryan Bee highlights a deep group that should consistently get to the quarterback. Former linebacker Juwon Young moves to an end spot to help fill in the gaps. That frees up space for the vast amount of experience at linebacker. Chase Hancock led the team with 128 tackles in 2017, while Frankie Hernandez added 63 and Artis Johnson 55. If there is a weakness on defense, it will be in the secondary. However, Chris Jackson and Jaylon McClain-Sapp have plenty of experience and safety Malik Gant recorded 100 tackles last season. And then there is free safety Brandon Drayton. As a freshman last year he was tough to keep off the field and he should only be better with some quality playing time under his belt.
The Bottom Line:
This is a team that should compete for a conference title. If the turnover margin improves and Thomson lives up to the hype, this team could win ten games in the regular season. The potential problem is that Florida Atlantic boasts a very good team too. The October 20th contest in Huntington could decide the winner of the East Division.
Projected Bowl: New Mexico Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 140.2 (94th in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 239.6 (56, 5)
Total Offense: 379.8 (92, 9)
Scoring Offense: 26.7 (79, 6)
Rushing Defense: 121.1 (19, 1)
Pass Defense: 220.5 (59, 7)
Total Defense: 341.7 (28, 3)
Scoring Defense: 19.9 (17, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.62 (110, 9)
Sacks: 2.46 (31, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 0.85 (4, 1)