clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The big 2014 Marshall football preview: The class of the conference

New, comments

The offense could be a legitimate top-25 unit, the defense should be aggressive and fun, and wow, is the schedule cake. Marshall's 2014 season could be one for the ages. In fact, it would almost be disappointing if it wasn't.

Rob Carr

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. Marshall vs. the field

So when does the surge begin, then? Now? Another year from now? Ever? Doc Holliday truly has done a startling job of amassing talent and raw athleticism in Huntington, but as I said at the top, that has to eventually translate into results. Marshall has won five, six, and five regular season games in Holliday's three seasons; after struggling on the offensive end, he fixed those problems just in time for his defense to fall apart. Both units have performed well at some point in his three years, and if the pieces come together in 2013, lord knows there won't be a lot of resistance within the conference.

Okay, so technically Marshall didn't win Conference USA in 2013, so there's a bit more breaking through to be done. But I capped my "Your future overlords" preview last year by asking for a bit more from Marshall, and to say the least, the Thundering Herd provided it last fall.

Doc Holliday has been accumulating talent in a way that dwarves most of the other teams, past and present, in Conference USA. There are 39 former three-star recruits listed below and three former four-stars. That is a level of recruiting (and/or transfer-wrangling) nobody else in the conference can touch.

And the scariest part is, in 2013 production began to match potential. With a team that was still relatively young, Marshall improved from 82nd to 52nd overall in the F/+ rankings. Marshall almost won at Virginia Tech (it took a relatively poor performance not to), pummeled East Carolina to win the Conference USA East, and looked like the bigger, stronger, faster team against Maryland in the Military Bowl. The Herd looked the part in 2013 and began to play like it.

And in 2014, they return an ace quarterback, his top target, a couple of explosive running backs, two all-conference offensive linemen, and nine starters from a defense that recorded 102 tackles for loss and improved from 117th io 78th in Def. F/+ last season.

So yeah, Marshall is indeed your Conference USA overlord in 2014. And I'm not sure it's close.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 10-4 | Adj. Record: 12-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 52
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug Miami (Ohio) 123 52-14 W 28.5 - 22.7 W
7-Sep Gardner-Webb N/A 55-0 W 26.4 - 19.3 W
14-Sep at Ohio 104 31-34 L 37.9 - 22.2 W
21-Sep at Virginia Tech 27 21-29 L 25.3 - 25.7 L
5-Oct UTSA 67 34-10 W 28.2 - 14.6 W 8.3
12-Oct at Florida Atlantic 73 24-23 W 31.9 - 31.7 W 7.2
24-Oct at Middle Tennessee 85 49-51 L 31.1 - 30.9 W 5.9
2-Nov Southern Miss 120 61-13 W 51.1 - 26.7 W 7.6
9-Nov UAB 115 56-14 W 53.5 - 30.6 W 12.3
14-Nov at Tulsa 94 45-34 W 33.9 - 26.0 W 11.1
23-Nov at Florida International 125 48-10 W 36.2 - 26.0 W 13.1
29-Nov East Carolina 40 59-28 W 44.5 - 23.6 W 17.3
7-Dec at Rice 69 24-41 L 29.8 - 42.5 L 9.9
27-Dec vs. Maryland 63 31-20 W 39.5 - 28.1 W 7.5
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +8.6% 30 -3.1% 78 -1.1% 89
Points Per Game 42.1 7 22.9 32
Adj. Points Per Game 35.5 20 26.5 57

2. They did lose to Ohio, MTSU, and Rice

Yes, Marshall mostly broke through in 2013. The Herd won 10 games for the first time since 2002, won their division, and whipped a local major-conference opponent in a bowl. All good things. But no matter how foregone the 2014 conclusion seems on paper, there is still some work to be done.

It took some poor turnovers luck (Ohio recovered all three of the game's fumbles, including one in the end zone), but Marshall still lost to what turned out to be a pretty iffy Ohio team. Despite having Virginia Tech on the ropes for most of the second half, the Herd never could put the Hokies away and still fell in overtime. The defense still fell apart late against Middle Tennessee, allowing scores on five of six drives after halftime (including the game-winner as time expired). And the Herd did still lay an egg in the Conference USA title game at Rice.

And beyond that, Marshall still ranked behind conference mates East Carolina (40th) and North Texas (51st) in the F/+ rankings. Granted, ECU's off to the AAC, but the Herd are neither the conference's defending champion nor the conference's defending best team.

But still ... this all looks set up perfectly on paper, doesn't it?

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.16 55 IsoPPP+ 103.1 45
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.7% 23 Succ. Rt. + 108.3 33
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.9 50 Def. FP+ 100.4 55
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.1 4 Redzone S&P+ 100.5 60
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.1 ACTUAL 23 -0.1
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 12 37 33 16
RUSHING 24 60 54 50
PASSING 20 27 22 13
Standard Downs 51 45 57
Passing Downs 27 18 55
Q1 Rk 43 1st Down Rk 47
Q2 Rk 62 2nd Down Rk 46
Q3 Rk 32 3rd Down Rk 11
Q4 Rk 12

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Rakeem Cato 6'0, 188 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 298 499 3916 39 9 59.7% 25 4.8% 7.1
Blake Frohnapfel


17 22 206 3 1 77.3% 1 4.3% 8.4
Gunnar Holcombe 6'3, 192 So. 3 stars (5.6)
Kevin Anderson 6'2, 199 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Cole Garvin 6'1, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

3. All hail Rakeem Cato

As a freshman, Rakeem Cato completed 60 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a 7-6 squad. As a sophomore, he was asked to throw nearly 50 passes per game and completed 70 percent of them with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; Marshall's defense fell apart, which cost the Herd a bowl, but Cato and the offense did their part. As a junior, Cato threw almost 200 fewer passes in a more balanced attack but still threw for almost 4,000 yards with 39 touchdowns and nine picks.

With each passing year, Cato has played the role he's been asked to play, and as a senior he'll have at his disposal a supporting cast as loaded with potential as any in the mid-major universe. He'll share the backfield with three three-star upperclassmen, two of whom showed major potential for explosiveness in 2013. He'll have to break in a couple of new pieces at receiver, but he gets slot receiver Tommy Shuler for another year, and those newcomers come highly touted. And his line features a mix of experienced, proven entities and three-star youngsters.

Marshall ranked 31st in Off. F/+ in 2012 and 30th in 2013; with Cato at the helm for one more year, a trip into the top 25 is conceivable.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Essray Taliaferro RB 221 1140 10 5.2 5.0 37.1%
Kevin Grooms RB 5'10, 168 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 91 503 6 5.5 6.8 36.3%
Steward Butler RB 5'9, 178 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 87 765 8 8.8 10.6 47.1%
Rakeem Cato QB 6'0, 188 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 74 475 6 6.4 4.4 54.1%
Remi Watson RB 5'11, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 30 120 0 4.0 3.5 33.3%
Blake Frohnapfel QB 6'6, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 10 98 1 9.8 12.2 50.0%
DeAndre Reaves WR 5'10, 176 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 5 3 0 0.6 2.2 20.0%
Devon Johnson TE 6'1, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 5 13 3 2.6 2.0 20.0%
Kevin Rodriguez RB 5'8, 195 Sr. NR 5 11 0 2.2 0.5 20.0%

4. If he keeps his nose clean ...

... Kevin Grooms could have a breakout season. The conference's freshman of the year in 2012 has shown rare explosiveness in his time in Huntington; he averaged 7.1 highlight yards per opportunity in 2012, and despite injuries, he averaged 6.8 in 2013. But injuries limited him to 91 carries for the season, and he had a pretty horrific year off the field. He was charged with underage consumption and obstruction in April, and in the hours after Marshall's big win over ECU, he was booked for misdemeanor domestic battery and obstruction. He was suspended indefinitely from team activities, but he's back with the team this spring, and if he improves as a person, he'll thrive as a player.

Even if Grooms is absent, Marshall could have a good enough duo of running backs in Steward Butler and Remi Watson. Buler was downright spectacular in six to seven carries per game; like Grooms, he is a smaller option, but his explosiveness is off the charts. If Watson -- by default the big back in the backfield at 5'11, 200 pounds -- can play a short-yardage role of sorts, this unit is loaded, with or without Grooms. With him, however, this is one of the best backfields in the country.

The running backs should have a pretty good line in front of them, too. Marshall's line was strong in most areas last year, and it's a glass-half-full situation this year -- three players who combined for 67 career starts (including all-conference tackle Garrett Scott) are gone, but four who have combined for 63 (including all-conference performers Chris Jasperse and Clint Van Horn) are back. A pair of three-star redshirt freshmen could join the fray this year as well. I figure the odds are good that this line's performance will resemble last year's, and that should be good enough.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Tommy Shuler SLOT 5'7, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 159 106 1165 66.7% 31.6% 60.1% 7.3 -96 7.1 138.4
Gator Hoskins TE 78 50 821 64.1% 15.5% 58.8% 10.5 214 10.3 97.5
Devon Smith WR-X 69 39 653 56.5% 13.7% 49.2% 9.5 148 9.3 77.6
Craig Wilkins WR-Z 6'0, 175 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 57 32 408 56.1% 11.3% 45.7% 7.2 -8 7.0 48.5
Demetrius Evans WR-Z 5'11, 197 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 30 19 134 63.3% 6.0% 74.1% 4.5 -98 3.8 15.9
Davonte Allen WR-X 6'2, 203 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 27 9 163 33.3% 5.4% 59.1% 6.0 3 4.1 19.4
Essray Taliaferro RB 14 12 128 85.7% 2.8% 38.5% 9.1 1 8.7 15.2
Devon Johnson TE 6'1, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 12 218 92.3% 2.6% 28.6% 16.8 95 13.1 25.9
Jazz King WR


13 5 109 38.5% 2.6% 58.3% 8.4 28 9.1 12.9
Eric Frohnapfel TE 6'6, 227 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 7 95 63.6% 2.2% 30.0% 8.6 10 8.3 11.3
Kevin Grooms RB 5'10, 168 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 11 9 80 81.8% 2.2% 54.5% 7.3 -17 7.2 9.5
DeAndre Reaves SLOT 5'10, 176 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 6 42 85.7% 1.4% 100.0% 6.0 -22 3.9 5.0
Justin Hunt WR 6'2, 190 So. 2 stars (5.4) 4 2 48 50.0% 0.8% N/A 12.0 20 0.0 5.7
Josh Knight WR 6'0, 184 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Angelo Jean-Louis WR 6'0, 175 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Deon-Tay McManus TE 6'2, 227 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Hyleck Foster WR 5'11, 186 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Emanuel Beal WR 6'1, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

5. Two openings and tons of candidates

Gator Hoskins was a red zone machine, and Devon Smith was the best big-play wideout in the group, and they're both gone. There are candidates galore, but there's nothing guaranteeing that the new contributors' production will match that of the old contributors.

Still, there is certainly room for optimism. Devon Johnson basically exceeded Hoskins' per-target production (with 65 fewer targets, yes), Craig Wilkins has shown potential for both efficiency (70 percent catch rate in 2012) and explosiveness (12.8 yards per catch in 2013), and two four-star redshirt freshmen enter the mix as well. Angelo Jean-Louis and Deon-Tay McManus were just about the most highly touted recruits any mid-major signed in the 2013 recruiting class, and after a redshirt year they get their chance this fall. Throw in experienced hands like Demetrius Evans (minimal explosiveness) and Davonte Allen (horrific catch rate), and you've got a potentially deep unit.

Hoskins and Smith will be missed, but there's a chance they won't be missed that much.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 101.3 3.11 3.18 40.6% 79.2% 17.6% 127.3 5.0% 4.8%
Rank 63 42 74 52 7 42 39 76 39
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Chris Jasperse C 6'4, 289 Sr. NR 39 1st All-CUSA
Garrett Scott LT 35 2nd All-CUSA
Clint Van Horn RT 6'4, 302 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 8 2nd All-CUSA
Alex Schooler RG 21
Sebastian Johansson LG 6'4, 284 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 14
Gage Niemeyer LT 11
Cameron Dees C 6'1, 285 So. 3 stars (5.5) 2
Michael Selby RG 6'2, 275 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0
Blake Brooks LG 6'1, 317 Sr. NR 0
Trevor Mendelson RG 6'7, 295 Sr. NR 0
Tom Collins LG 6'4, 272 Jr. NR 0
Chris Huhn LT 6'5, 284 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Sandley Jean-Felix RT 6'5, 321 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Cody Collins C 6'1, 281 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Nathaniel Devers OL 6'3, 261 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
A.J. Addison OL 6'6, 274 Fr. 2 stars (5.2)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.07 29 IsoPPP+ 103.3 44
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.7% 29 Succ. Rt. + 91.7 94
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.6 36 Off. FP+ 99.5 68
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.0 45 Redzone S&P+ 90.8 86
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.2 ACTUAL 26.0 +1.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 35 88 94 99
RUSHING 59 92 105 109
PASSING 24 83 56 79
Standard Downs 89 102 28
Passing Downs 86 67 98
Q1 Rk 48 1st Down Rk 72
Q2 Rk 91 2nd Down Rk 105
Q3 Rk 105 3rd Down Rk 85
Q4 Rk 82

6. An attacking bend-don't-break?

It's fun finding contradictions. This is my fourth year previewing every FBS team in big profiles, and after a while, it's easy to start profiling offenses or defenses based on specific characteristics.

For instance, when I see a team that ranked 94th in Success Rate+ and 44th in IsoPPP+, that tells me that they were willing to sacrifice some efficiency to prevent big plays. Bend-don't-break! However ... Marshall was also one of the most successfully aggressive defenses in the country, logging 102 tackles for loss (seventh in the country) and 32 sacks (31st) while intercepting 18 passes (13th) and breaking up another 58 (13th). Granted, those raw numbers are boosted by the fact that the Herd played 14 games, but even on a per-game basis, these totals are well above average.

In the end, the numbers are a little bit confused by Marshall's schedule. The Herd played a lot of big-play, low-efficiency teams (Maryland and Virginia Tech, to name two obvious ones), and while they didn't willfully sacrifice efficiency, the numbers suggest that they allowed a few seven-yard gains for every tackle for loss. And with a couple of key absences up front and almost complete continuity in the back, these strengths and weaknesses could both become more pronounced in 2014.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 95.4 2.81 2.86 33.9% 76.0% 19.0% 88.3 4.8% 6.0%
Rank 80 45 23 17 104 65 83 53 83
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Alex Bazzie DE 14 47.0 5.6% 13.0 2.0 0 2 2 0
Ra'Shawde Myers DE 6'4, 246 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 14 38.5 4.6% 5.5 4.5 1 0 0 0
Brandon Sparrow NT 12 30.5 3.6% 5.0 1.5 0 1 1 0
James Rouse DT 6'5, 270 Sr. 2 stars (4.9) 14 30.5 3.6% 14.0 6.0 0 3 0 0
Gary Thompson DE 6'2, 241 So. 2 stars (5.2) 14 21.0 2.5% 5.0 3.0 2 4 1 0
Steve Dillon DT 6'3, 280 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 14 16.5 2.0% 1.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Jarquez Samuel NT 6'4, 273 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 14 15.0 1.8% 3.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Arnold Blackmon DE 6'1, 242 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 14.5 1.7% 6.0 1.0 0 1 1 0
Josh Brown NT 6'7, 307 So. 3 stars (5.6) 8 10.5 1.3% 1.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Jeremiah Taylor DL 4 7.0 0.8% 1.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Armonze Daniel DE 6'4, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 5 3.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Matt Pickett DL 14 2.5 0.3% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Ricardo Williams (Miami) DE 6'5, 251 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Marcus Gilchrist DE 6'4, 249 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Jason Smith DE 6'3, 235 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Malik Thompson DE 6'6, 275 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)

7. Stiffen up that run D

Though he only had two sacks for a pass rush that wasn't very good outside of tackle James Rouse's contributions, Alex Bazzie was probably the best playmaker Marshall had against the run. He had 11 non-sack tackles for loss, one of the largest totals you'll see. He and nose Brandon Sparrow are both gone from a line that was particularly shaky in short-yardage situations, so we'll see how they cope.

Sophomore end Gary Thompson showed serious potential in an undersized frame and could team with Ra'Shawde Myers and Miami transfer Ricardo Williams to better harass opposing quarterbacks, but we'll see if this relatively undersized trio holds up to run blocking any better than last year's ends did. With Rouse's return, there is all sorts of potential at tackle, but this line might be treading water instead of improving.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Evan McKelvey WILL 6'1, 211 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 14 76.0 9.1% 5.0 0.5 1 3 1 0
Jermaine Holmes MIKE 5'11, 246 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 14 65.0 7.8% 8.5 2.0 1 1 0 0
Neville Hewitt MIKE 6'2, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 14 57.5 6.9% 3.5 2.5 1 1 1 0
D.J. Hunter SAM 6'0, 212 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 14 36.5 4.4% 1.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Stefan Houston WILL 6'3, 209 So. 3 stars (5.6) 11 32.0 3.8% 5.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Raheem Waiters SAM 6'0, 220 Sr. 2 stars (5.1) 14 15.0 1.8% 1.0 1.0 1 2 0 0
Derek Mitchell SAM 14 15.0 1.8% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Cortez Carter MIKE 5'11, 240 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 8.5 1.0% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Kent Turene MIKE 6'3, 236 So. 3 stars (5.5) 3 3.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Maurice Hall LB 6'3, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Frankie Henrndez LB 6'2, 203 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Kaleb Harris LB 6'3, 207 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Corey Tindal CB 5'9, 179 So. 2 stars (5.4) 14 50.5 6.0% 5 1.5 0 6 0 1
Darryl Roberts CB 5'11, 177 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 13 49.5 5.9% 5 0 2 7 0 0
A.J. Leggett FS 5'11, 190 So. 4 stars (5.9) 11 38.5 4.6% 0.5 0 4 3 0 0
Taj Letman S 6'2, 192 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 14 37.0 4.4% 0.5 0 1 4 1 0
Tiquan Lang SS 5'9, 178 So. 2 stars (5.2) 13 34.0 4.1% 0.5 0 1 2 1 0
Monterius Lovett CB 14 26.5 3.2% 2.5 0 2 11 0 0
Keith Baxter (2012) CB 5'11, 196 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 25.0 3.2% 1 0 1 6 0 0
Derrick Thomas CB 14 14.0 1.7% 0.5 0 0 3 0 0
Michael Johnson CB 5'10, 163 So. 3 stars (5.7) 11 3.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Corie Wilson FS 5'9, 168 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 7 2.0 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Andre Scott FS 6'0, 182 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Quintavious Knight DB 6'0, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.6)
Donaldven Manning
(Virginia Tech)
CB 5'10, 181 So. 4 stars (5.8)
Demetrius Johnson S 6'2, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)
Kendall Gant S 6'3, 184 Fr. 3 stars (5.7)






8. Loaded in the back

Opponents ran on Marshall far more frequently than the national average in 2013, in part because Marshall's run defense was shaky and in part because the pass defense was pretty exciting. There were some big-play glitches here and there, but last year's top six defensive backs combined for 14 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, and 33 break-ups.

Five of the six return, and the one departure, Monterius Lovett, might be replaced with either junior Keith Baxter (who missed 2013) or four-star sophomore Donaldven Manning (a Virginia Tech transfer) without much of a dropoff. This secondary is going to be dynamite -- maybe not as good as FAU's within the conference, but as good as anybody else's.

And if the pass rush improves, Marshall's overall pass defense ratings could soar. There is certainly a lot more potential in pass defense than run defense this year.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Tyler Williams 6'0, 195 Jr. 56 42.3 5 13 13 46.4%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Amoreto Curraj 6'2, 202 So. 97 63.5 52 3 53.6%
Justin Haig 5'8, 174 Sr. 4 44.3 0 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Justin Haig 5'8, 174 Sr. 77-80 9-13 69.2% 2-3 66.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
DeAndre Reaves KR 5'10, 176 Jr. 37 25.0 0
Steward Butler KR 5'9, 178 Jr. 6 22.0 0
Devon Smith PR 26 14.7 1
DeAndre Reaves PR 5'10, 176 Jr. 6 8.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 89
Field Goal Efficiency 100
Punt Return Efficiency 24
Kick Return Efficiency 65
Punt Efficiency 115
Kickoff Efficiency 31
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 45

9. Replacing Devon Smith

MU returns almost everybody from its special teams unit, from a kicker who boomed touchbacks more than half the time as a freshman, to a solid kick returner in DeAndre Reaves. Punter Tyler Williams returns as well, though he outkicked his coverage a few too many times for comfort. But the loss of Devon Smith at punt returner could be costly. Smith was one of the best in the country.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug at Miami (Ohio) 121
6-Sep Rhode Island NR
13-Sep Ohio 108
20-Sep at Akron 118
4-Oct at Old Dominion NR
11-Oct Middle Tennessee 99
18-Oct at Florida International 119
25-Oct Florida Atlantic 103
8-Nov at Southern Miss 110
15-Nov Rice 88
22-Nov at UAB 115
28-Nov Western Kentucky 91
Five-Year F/+ Rk -7.3% (81)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 63
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 3 / 1.1
TO Luck/Game +0.7
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 15 (6, 9)

10. This team will almost certainly be favored in all 12 games

This schedule! Wow, this schedule. According to preseason projections, Marshall's toughest home game is against a Rice squad that is rebuilding at least a bit. The Herd's toughest home game is either against Southern Miss or ODU.

Marshall does a nice job of not only scheduling local major-conference foes like WVU, Virginia Tech, and Louisville, but also scheduling interesting mid-major matchups against teams like Ohio, Bowling Green, and other former MAC mates. This year, however, year there are no major-conference foes and three of those former MAC mates, all of which are projected 108th or worse (though I expect Akron and maybe Ohio to be better than that). Combined with the fact that the Herd reside in what is by far the weaker C-USA division this year -- FAU is going to be strong, but UTSA, Rice, and North Texas are on the other side -- and there really are no excuses for Marshall to miss the C-USA title game.

Actually, let's raise the stakes. If Marshall improves to a nearly top-40 level as I anticipate, the Herd could not only go 12-0 but go 12-0 while winning every game by double digits. That's probably unfair to FAU and Rice, but if this team improves upon last year's performance, there will be only minor speed bumps standing in the way. If the Herd bring something resembling an A-game every week, this could be an incredibly memorable season. Granted, injuries and other issues could derail the train, but as currently constituted, this roster should just be too much for pretty much every opponent on the schedule.

No pressure, guys.