Herd hoping for better things in 2017

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Looking to avoid a repeat performance.

The 2016 Marshall football season did not turn out as expected as the Thundering Herd limped to a 3-9 overall record and a 2-6 finish in Conference USA — far cries from the three consecutive double-digit-win seasons and the 2014 CUSA crown that the program had put together leading into last fall.

The Herd — who return only 63 players from last year — enter the 2017 campaign hoping to avoid a similar gridiron outcome, despite having two-fifths of newcomers on their current 105-man roster.

The Green and White, however, do have experience on both sides of the ball — and those fresh faces also provide some much-needed firepower and energy to a squad looking to avoid a similar fate as last season.

As MU coach Doc Holliday enters his eighth season at the helm, he is optimistic that the program won’t have another letdown like it did last fall.

“We did a lot of re-evaluating after last year and we feel we’ve made the adjustments that needed to be made. We started in January in trying to become better as a football team and I think we’ve done that,” Holliday said. “We’ve had a tremendous winter and a good spring practice to carry into the summer, so now it’s up to us to carry it out of fall camp and into the season.

“I like the way that these guys have gone about their work and we are really excited for the season.”

The good news in regards to the returning players is that almost every position on the field has experience coming back to the lineup, with the exception of the wideout position.

In fact, Marshall’s receiving corps returns only 73 of its 264 completions from last fall, so establishing some new outside threats will be one of the biggest areas of needed growth if the Herd hopes to improve on last season’s overall mark.

Still, MU has the luxury of a two-year starting quarterback returning in junior Chase Litton, as well as the team’s top rusher last year in redshirt junior Keion Davis and the team’s top red zone threat in senior Ryan Yurachek.

The Green and White also return three starters up front offensively and have several players back that saw action in the trenches last fall.

After averaging 26.4 points, 242 receiving yards and 108 rushing yards per game last year offensively, Holliday noted that he is optimistic about not only who is returning — but the newcomers to the roster and what they can add.

“I’m confident in the players that we have coming back, but there were some areas that I felt like we needed to get more explosive at,” Holliday said. “We have added some running back depth and we have some versatile players at the wide receiver spots that we feel make us better athletically, plus the offensive line is back and healthy with a whole offseason to get better.

“There is no question that I feel good about where we are with out personnel, now we just have to develop that talent and make sure that we are prepared to play.”

Defensively, there are fewer question marks headed into the 2017 campaign as Marshall returns eight starters and several experienced players to a unit that allowed 35.3 points, 202 rushing yards and 253 receiving yards per contest last fall.

The Herd lost their top tackler and team leader in interceptions in Corey Neely, as well as their top sack leader in Gary Thompson, to graduation.

Nonetheless, the defense returns five of its top six tacklers from a year ago and also has numerous players with quality in-game experience — both up front and in back.

Both place kicker Amoreto Curraj and punter Kaare Vedvik return to their specialized positions, as do the leading punt returner (Hyleck Foster) and kick returner (Davis) from last year.

Marshall’s return to winning football won’t be an easy task in 2017 as the Green and White will face seven teams that qualified for bowl games last fall — the same number as last year’s schedule.

The Herd faces a pair of bowl qualifiers to start the year in Miami of Ohio and N.C. State before hosting Kent State and traveling to Cincinnati to wrap up its non-conference schedule.

MU is also playing the same CUSA schedule as last year, with the exception of traveling to Texas-San Antonio instead of facing North Texas this fall.

None of those dozen games will be easy, so getting off on the right foot will be key for a program looking to get back to its traditional winning ways.

And that starts at home on Sept. 2 against the RedHawks.

“This year will once again be a challenge, starting with Miami of Ohio. They have an excellent team that won six straight at the end of the year and they have 19 starters coming back. We’ll have our work cut out for us right out of the gate,” Holliday said. “We have some tough games this season, so the main thing for us is just staying focused on becoming a better football team a week at a time … starting with Miami.”

Holliday also wants to see the program get itself headed back in the right direction this year … mainly because Marshall has been one of the winningest programs in the country over the last two decades.

He also doesn’t want that to change under his watch.

“The expectations are extremely high here, and that’s okay because I’ve always said that I didn’t want to coach anywhere that didn’t have high expectations,” Holliday said. “We understand what is expected out of us from our fan base, so we really need to get back to playing the kind of football that we did those three years prior to last year.

“We also understand that with those expectations come responsibility. We need to get back to work and give our fans what they deserve. We’re looking forward to it.”

2017 Marshall Football Roster

# Name Gr Ht Wt POS
1 Willie Johnson RS Fr 6-0 171 WR
1 C.J. Reavis Sr 6-1 208 S
2 Hyleck Foster Sr 5-11 190 WR
2 Jaquan Yulee RS Fr 6-1 248 LB
3 Chris Jackson So 6-0 177 DB
3 Tyler King RS Fr 5-11 190 RB
4 Donquell Green RS Jr 5-8 165 WR
4 Juwon Young RS Jr 6-2 248 LB
5 Trey Rodriguez Jr 5-10 189 RB
6 Darian Owens RS Fr 5-11 195 WR
7 Obi Obialo So 6-3 210 WR
8 Tyre Brady RS Jr 6-3 208 WR
8 Brandon Drayton RS Fr 6-2 185 S
9 Cole Phillips Fr 6-1 215 K-P
9 Marcel Williams Jr 5-10 180 WR
10 Nick Mathews Jr 5-10 175 WR
10 Donyae Moody RS Jr 6-2 235 LB
11 Rodney Allen RS Sr 5-11 190 DB
11 Xavier Gaines RS Fr 6-2 215 QB
12 Garet Morrell So 6-3 220 QB
13 Nazeeh Johnson RS Fr 5-10 180 DB
13 Jackson White RS Fr 6-2 190 QB
14 Kendall Gant Sr 6-3 210 S
14 Chase Litton Jr 6-6 232 QB
15 Damien Dozier RS So 6-4 210 DL
15 Armani Levias Jr 6-4 245 TE
16 Kaare Vedvik RS Sr 6-4 207 K-P
17 Isaiah Green Fr 6-2 205 QB
17 Ty Tyler RS So 6-3 260 DL
18 Dontrell Johnson Sr 5-11 170 DB
19 Monterio Hunt Fr 6-1 185 WR
20 Jaylon McClain-Sapp So 5-11 175 DB
21 Anthony Anderson RS Jr 6-2 237 RB
21 Artis Johnson RS Jr 6-1 220 LB
22 Jestin Morrow RS Fr 5-10 165 DB
23 Chad Clay RS Fr 6-1 193 DB
23 Tony Pittman RS Sr 5-10 225 RB
24 Keion Davis RS Jr 6-1 210 RB
25 Austin Cook Fr 6-3 210 LB
26 Jeremiah Maddox So 6-0 200 LB
27 Brenden Knox Fr 6-0 215 RB
27 Kereon Merrell RS Jr 5-11 173 DB
28 D’Andre Wilson RS Sr 5-10 181 DB
29 Malik Gant RS So 6-2 190 S
30 Simino Walden RS Fr 5-8 165 WR
31 Omari Cobb So 6-4 230 LB
33 Marquis Couch RS So 6-1 232 DL
34 Brennon Tibbs RS Fr 6-0 165 WR
35 Frankie Hernandez SR Jr 6-2 220 LB
36 Davon Durant RS Sr 6-2 242 DL
37 Chase Hancock RS Jr 6-2 218 LB
38 Eli Gates RS Jr 6-4 205 LB
39 Amoreto Curraj RS Sr 6-3 195 K-P
40 Domenick Murphy Fr 6-1 205 LB
41 Nirion Washington Fr 6-1 180 DB
42 George Davis RS So 6-3 185 S
43 Robert LeFevre RS Fr 6-2 195 K-P
44 Blake Keller RS Sr 6-2 245 DL
45 Stone Scarcelle Fr 6-1 195 WR
46 Terence Ricks RS Jr 6-2 203 RB
47 Joseph Early RS Fr 5-9 181 RB
48 Zach Appio Fr 5-11 200 LS
49 Noah Hixie RS So 6-3 230 TE
50 Will Ulmer RS Fr 6-5 290 OL
51 Malik Thompson RS Jr 6-6 295 DL
53 Tyler Grimmett Fr 6-3 195 LB
54 Nyquan Harris RS Jr 6-2 300 DL
55 Alex Mollette RS Fr 6-3 295 OL
56 Kendrick Sartor Fr 6-6 278 OL
57 Wale Layeni Fr 6-3 340 OL
58 Jordan Dowrey RS Jr 6-1 290 OL
59 Mikeal Lipscomb So 6-2 260 DL
60 Joey Maddox RS So 6-0 265 DL
61 Levi Brown RS So 6-4 290 OL
62 Cain Madden RS Fr 6-3 320 OL
63 James Magee Fr 6-4 310 OL
65 Kyron Taylor Fr 6-2 305 OL
66 Peyton Carey Fr 6-2 295 OL
67 Sandley Jean-Felix RS Sr 6-5 318 OL
69 Aaron Dopson RS So 6-4 280 OL
70 Sean Behrens RS Fr 6-3 293 OL
71 Tarik Adams RS Fr 6-3 288 OL
74 A.J. Addison Sr 6-6 299 OL
76 Nate Devers RS Jr 6-3 290 OL
77 Alex Locklear RS So 6-5 320 OL
78 Alex Salguero RS Fr 6-3 285 OL
79 Phillip Lucas Fr 6-3 270 OL
80 K.J. Buford Fr 6-1 169 WR
81 Austin Tolley RS Jr 5-10 175 WR
82 Cody Mitchell RS Fr 6-2 238 TE
83 Devin Miller Fr 6-3 215 TE
84 Elijah Smith RS Fr 5-9 187 WR
85 Ryan Yurachek Sr 6-3 239 TE
86 Jacob Kirkendoll Fr 6-5 230 TE
88 Tyler Brown Jr 6-2 223 TE
89 Matt Beardall So 6-1 207 LS
91 Ryan Bee RS Jr 6-7 280 DL
92 Rodney Croom Fr 6-3 242 DL
93 Larry Aaron RS Fr 6-5 272 DL
94 Channing Hames RS So 6-5 260 DL
95 Jamare Edwards Fr 6-3 240 DL
96 Milan Lanier RS So 6-5 248 DL
97 Shane McDonough Fr 6-1 200 K-P
98 Charkie Johnson RS So 6-5 258 DL
99 Jason Smith RS Jr 6-3 280 DL

Head Coach

Doc Holliday (8th season)

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The 2017 version of the Marshall University football program, as pictured at Media Day on Saturday, July 29, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. The Thundering Herd open the season on Saturday, Sept. 2, when they host the Miami of Ohio RedHawks at 6:30 p.m.
https://www.mydailysentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2017/08/web1_8.19-MU-Team.jpgThe 2017 version of the Marshall University football program, as pictured at Media Day on Saturday, July 29, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. The Thundering Herd open the season on Saturday, Sept. 2, when they host the Miami of Ohio RedHawks at 6:30 p.m. Bryan Walters|OVP Sports

By Bryan Walters


Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.