Thursday, 12 September 2013 13:44

Younger Thundering Herd players making themselves noticed with fast start to 2013 season

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Joe Massaquoi is one of newcomers to make impact so far in 2013 season. Joe Massaquoi is one of newcomers to make impact so far in 2013 season. Brad Helton/Herd Insider

HUNTINGTON — The Young Thundering Herd of Marshall was the 1971 team after the plane crash killed 75 persons, including many players and coaches on Nov. 14, 1970. The NCAA allowed Marshall to play true freshmen, and the freshmen who had set under those freshman ineligible rules played as young, inexperienced players made up the bulk of that team.

While that team got off to an amazing 1-1 start, by winning the first home game after the crash on a last-second play on Sept. 25, 1971, over Xavier, the squad would go onto finish 2-8 and was overmatched in many of the contests it played that year. In 2013, many young members of the Thundering Herd are making contributions to the team in a 2-0 start (fix after Ohio Game), including some true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores.

One thing nice for this group of young players, however, is the 40 or more juniors and seniors on the team to help them be better players.

"Our big thing was to develop the young guys," senior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said. “So when the older guys would come out, there would be no drop-off. I feel like up until now, we've done a great job with that and hopefully, we can go in and keep that rolling."

Depth was something the first three Marshall teams coached by Doc Holliday were lacking in. "The problem you get into as a football team as the season goes along, when you have guys playing 70 or 80 plays a game, you get nicked up and by the end of the year, you're looking for people," Holliday said.

"If you can continue rotating those guys in, number one, it helps them stay healthy and it helps them stay fresh. If you go into the game knowing you're going to play 30 or 40 snaps, you'd better be able to play extremely hard for those 30 or 40 snaps."


So far in 2013, sophomores having a start include receiver Davonte Allen, guard Sebastian Johansson, defensive tackle Steve Dillon, linebacker Evan McKelvey and Taj Letman have all started at least one game (and all but Dillon and McKelvey two), while redshirt freshmen Corey Tindal has been at nickel and A.J. Leggett at safety in all games.

Allen has two catches for 31 yards, Johansson has graded out in two games at 80 percent, with 1.5 knockdowns.

Leggett has an interceptions, has five total tackles and two passes broken up while Tindal is third on the team with nine solo tackles, and a team best seven solo, has recovered a fumble, hurried a quarterback and broken up a pass. In fact, Tindal has played so well in the early part of the season, he was selected by Holliday as a team captain for the Ohio game.

"I was surprised, and it felt good, man," Tindal said. "You know all the hard work's just paying off. It's a wonderful feeling, so many emotions go through me when (Coach) said that.”

Holliday has no qualms about making a redshirt freshman a game captain. "I've said all along, you don't have to be a senior to lead," Holliday said. "Maybe one of the best leaders I've ever been associated with was Phillip Rivers at N.C. State, as a freshman.
“Corey Tindal's been no different from the time he stepped out there, he's been a tremendous leader. It helps when you're a tremendous player; those things go hand in hand.”

Also on defense, Dillon has six tackles, Letman four (plus a pass broken up) and McKelvey has four tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.

But many, many more young players are also providing impact for this Marshall team.
True freshman Amoreto Curraj posted 12 touchbacks in just two games, doubling the Herd’s total in all of 2012.

Against Gardner-Webb, the leading tacklers were redshirt defensive linemen Gary Thompson and Josh Brown with six tackles each. They combined for 1.5 tackles for loss and sacks, and Thompson also had a fumble recovery and a hurry.

Tindal was third in that game with five tackles, and tied for a game best four solos, while Dillon had three tackles as did redshirt freshman linebacker Kent Turene. Redshirt freshman Andre Scott had 2 tackles against the Bulldogs, as did Letman and redshirt freshman Joe Massaquoi, and he had the longest loss with a 16-yard tackle for loss.

Long snapper Matt Cincotta is a sophomore, as is Blake Frohnapfel, and the quarterback has hit 8-of-10 so far in relief of Rakeem Cato, with one touchdown and one interception on 89 yards of passing, and is third in C-USA in passing efficiency.

Other young players who have already played include sophomores back Steward Butler (26/258, 9.9 YPR, 3 TD), back Remi Watson (7/24, 3.4) back Kevin Grooms (4/51, 12.8), back Kevin Rodriguez (2/4), back/returner DeAndre Reaves (5/3 rush, 3/33 receiving and 1/13 punt return), end Armonze Daniel (1 tackle), safety Corie Wilson (2 tackles), punter Tyler Williams (7/320, 45.7 YPP, 1 inside 20, 2 50+, 1 touchback), tight end Devon Johnson (1/10), tackle Clint Van Horn (played 2 games), tight end Joe Woodrum(1/26) and defensive tackle Jarquez Samuel (1 tackle, 0.5 tackle for loss and a hurry), and Cam Dees was to return this week at back-up center.

“I was happy to see them get in, knowing that they work just as hard as us starters,” junior receiver Tommy Shuler said of the young players who got in, some against Miami-Ohio and of the 40 or so who got to play against Gardner-Webb. “I was glad to see them catch balls and run around and get a feel for the game.”

Freshmen (true and redshirt) to contribute include receiver Justin Hunt (1/8), defensive back Andre Scott (2 tackles), safety Tiquan Lang (2 tackles), corner Michael Johnson (1 tackle), receiver Chris Alston and center Michael Shelby (played both games), while linebacker Stefan Houston hoped to return at Ohio.

Last modified on Thursday, 12 September 2013 14:01
Woody Woodrum

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