(Part 11 of a 14-part Conference USA preview series)
Coming off of a stunning collapse, Marshall is trying to reassert itself.
After posting a cumulative 33-8 record with three consecutive bowl victories over the previous three years, Marshall tanked to 3-9, 2-6 last season.
Injuries played a role in the demise, especially offensively, where only five regulars played in all 12 games.
Typically one of Conference USA's most feared offenses, the Thundering Herd ranked seventh among the league's 13 teams with a pedestrian 26.4 points per game, 13th in rushing (108.2 yards per game), fifth in passing (241.8 ypg) and 12th in total offense (352 ypg). It didn't help matters that Marshall was the league's most-heavily penalized team with 76.8 ypg.
Junior quarterback Chase Litton threw for 2,612 yards, with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 10 games. Appearing in five games, sophomore Garrett Morrell was 33-of-67 for 290 yards, with four scores and three picks.
Injuries took a severe toll on the backfield as the Herd averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Juniors Kenton Davis (113 carries, 469 yards, 6 TDs) and Anthony Anderson (86-339-2) ranked 1-2 on the team in rushing.
Five of the top six receivers are missing.
Tight end Ryan Yurachek (28 receptions, 298 yards, 5 TDs) enters his fourth season as a starter with a streak of 29 games with at least one catch.
The wide receivers are virtually void of experience. Junior Tyre Brady, a Miami transfer, junior Donquell Green, redshirt freshmen Darian Owens and Willie Johnson, and junior college transfer Marcel Williams are among the top candidates going into preseason camp.
Junior left guard Jordan Dowry and sophomore center Levi Brown head up the offensive line.
Defensively, the Herd ranked 10th in C-USA in points allowed (35.3), ninth against the run (202.3 ypg), eighth vs. the pass (253.7 ypg) and 11th in total offense (456 ypg).
Ryan Bee (54 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) moves inside from defensive end, with fellow junior Nyquan Harris (33 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) starting at the other tackle. Senior Blake Keller (33 tackles, 4 TFL) and a pair of converted linebackers, senior Davon Durant (33 tackles, 1.5 TFL in 8 games) and sophomore Damien Dozier (16 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack) are competing at the ends.
Sophomore Omari Cobb (36 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 sacks) and junior Chase Hancock (69 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) return at linebacker. Among the others vying for playing time are junior Olajuwon Young and juco transfers Donny Moody and Artis Johnson.
Strong safety Kendall Gant (79 tackles, 2 INTs) and cornerback Rodney Allen (76 tackles, 2 INTs, 4 forced fumbles), a pair of juniors, ranked 2-3 on the team in tackles. Sophomore Chris Jackson (41 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 INTs, 9 pass breakups) is also a holdover at the corner. Senior C.J. Reavis moves into the starting lineup at free safety.
Senior Kaare Vedvik averaged 40 yards on 70 punts. Freshman Cole Phillips has the inside track on the place kicking role after Marshall made just 4-of-10 field goal tries.
Kickoff coverage was a bright spot as the Herd compiled a conference-best 41.8-yard net average.
2017 MARSHALL SCHEDULE
(All times Central and subject to change)
DATE OPPONENT TIME
Sept. 2 Miami (Ohio) 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 at N.C. State 5 p.m.
Sept. 16 Kent State 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 at Cincinnati TBA
Oct. 7 at Charlotte* 5 p.m.
Oct. 14 Old Dominion* 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 (Fri.) at Middle Tennessee* 6 p.m.
Oct. 28 FIU* 1:30
Nov. 3 (Fri.) at Florida Atlantic* 5 p.m.
Nov. 11 WKU* 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 at UTSA* TBA
Nov. 25 Southern Miss* 1:30 p.m.