#73 Marshall Football 2013 Preview

Marshall Thundering Herd

Overall Rank: #73
#3 Conference USA

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Marshall struggled through the 2012 campaign, never finding a way to win back-to-back games. Just when the Thundering Herd got things going, the defense would let them down. The result was a disappointing season filled with ups and downs. The good news is that there were hardly any seniors on the roster and this is a very experienced group. The bad news is the defense was awful in 2012 and the players are mostly the same.

2012 Record: (5-7, 4-4)
2012 Bowl: None
Coach: Doc Holliday (17-20 at Marshall, 17-20 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bill Legg
Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Heater

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kevin Grooms, RB, 737 yards
Passing: Rakeem Cato, QB, 4,201 yards
Receiving: Tommy Shuler, WR, 1,138 yards
Tackles: D.J. Hunter, S, 102
Sacks: Jeremiah Taylor, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Monterius Lovett, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: CB Keith Baxter, DE Alex Bazzie, RB Steward Butler, LB Jermaine Holmes, TE Gator Hoskins, C Chris Jasperse, OT Jordan Jeffries, G Josh Lovell, OT Garrett Scott, DT Brandon Sparrow, CB Derrick Thomas

Key Losses: WR Aaron Dobson, S Dominick LeGrande, S Okechukwu Okoroha, WR Antavious Wilson

Quarterback Rakeem Cato threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns as a sophomore and he quietly joined the elite among Marshall’s all-time greats at the position. Cato does lose receivers Antavious Wilson and Aaron Dobson, but there are plenty of other options returning. Tommy Shuler caught an amazing 110 passes for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns. Shuler will once again be Cato’s favorite target…at least until the Thundering Herd get closer to the end zone. That is when Gator Hoskins takes over. Of his 35 receptions, the 6-2 tight end ended up in the end zone ten times. Cato should again have plenty of time to throw the ball. Six offensive linemen who have starting experience are back and that will help Marshall have one of the most potent offenses in the nation yet again this time around. Running back Kevin Grooms will add more yards to the offense. As a freshman last year Grooms rushed for 737 yards and eight touchdowns. He averaged over six yards per carry and only started three games, so his potential is through the roof if he can handle a bigger work load. Grooms may not need to handle the larger work load with the return of Steward Butler and Remi Watson, who combined for 880 yards and ten touchdowns.

The Thundering Herd allowed over 50 points in five of their 12 contests in 2012. They did win one of those games, but putting that much pressure on the offense to get the job done is not going to get Marshall into a bowl game. New defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has a tough job ahead of him and it is not going to get much better any time soon. But it cannot get much worse. D.J. Hunter, who totaled 102 tackles last season, is making the move from linebacker to free safety to help replace departed safeties Dominick LeGrande and Okechukw Okoroha, who were the top two tacklers on the team. Hunter will have to take over that leadership role. The secondary was torched consistently and corners like Keith Baxter, Derrick Thomas and Monterius Lovett have to keep things under control. The rest of the defense does return more experience, but the front seven is generally undersized and can get pushed off the line of scrimmage too easily. End Jeremiah Taylor and tackle Brandon Sparrow have done a decent job of getting into the backfield during their collegiate careers, yet they do need help.

The Bottom Line:
Once again Marshall will be an exciting team to watch. The defense will allow plenty of points and force the offense to try and keep up. And for the most part the Thundering Herd will do just that, but they are not going to win every shootout, especially against teams with defenses that can keep the offense under control. At some point Cato and company will need some help from the defense and they may not be able to get it. However, the defense has a bit of potential to improve under their new leadership and their overall depth does not hurt. That may be enough for Marshall to squeeze their way to six wins and get back to a bowl game.

Projected Bowl:  Beef O' Brady's Bowl

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 169.17 (54th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 365.08 (1, 1)
Total Offense: 534.25 (6, 1)
Scoring Offense: 40.92 (7, 1)
Rushing Defense: 203.08 (104, 10)
Pass Defense: 253.50 (91, 8)
Total Defense: 456.58 (101, 10)
Scoring Defense: 43.08 (119, 12)
Turnover Margin: -0.17 (73, 7)
Sacks: 1.58 (87, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 2.42 (87, 6)


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