Marshall football welcomes spring practice
HUNTINGTON — There was plenty of green making its way around Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Sunday, and it had very little to do with St. Patrick’s Day.
Marshall’s football team returned to the field for its first spring practice on Sunday afternoon, marking the first time the team had seen the field since winning the 2018 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in late December.
With many faces from that 2018 team gone, the 15 spring sessions will be important for Marshall head coach Doc Holliday and staff to see who is ready to take the next step in their collegiate careers.
“My message to them in the meeting prior to coming out here was that we have to transition all the gains we’ve made in the offseason out to here,” Holliday said. “Now, it’s time to go play football.”
Many positions will see young talent start to rise to the surface this spring, especially on the defensive side where the Herd lost key contributors on each side of the football.
The linebacker position was the hardest hit by graduation with Chase Hancock, Frankie Hernandez and Artis Johnson all having exited the program.
Along the defensive line Marshall has to replace Ryan Bee and Malik Thompson, as well as defensive end Juwon Young.
The Herd also has to replace starting safety Malik Gant, which was an unexpected surprise in January. Gant declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, leaving the Herd without another veteran leader on its defensive under a new defensive coordinator, which is assumed to be Brad Lambert once contract issues regarding his buyout with Charlotte are resolved. Lambert is currently on Marshall’s staff as a volunteer assistant.
Whomever has control of the defense has the next month-plus to lay the groundwork for their scheme while also finding replacements for many productive players during the Herd’s recent run of success.
“We’ve got to find a few players here and there, but that’s what spring ball is all about,” Holliday said.
As is the case in most springs, there have been several new players added to the roster who will take part in the practice sessions in an effort to get a jump on their first fall with the Herd.
Players such as wide receiver Broc Thompson and defensive lineman T.J. Johnson are guys who will be looked at heavily over the next month-plus as Holliday and the staff looks to fill holes from last year.
“It’s just so valuable to get those guys here in January,” Holliday said. “Just the gains they make from a strength standpoint, they change their bodies. The one D-lineman has gained almost 25 pounds since he’s been here, so I think us practicing the way we do - we go a little later than some people - but it gives us a chance to develop those kids and get them ready to go so we can get a true evaluation when we get to spring ball.”
Holliday added that some players - such as offensive lineman Levi Brown - had offseason procedures and would not see the field as they rehabilitate.
New offensive lineman Josh Ball also was not on the field for Sunday’s first practice, but Holliday said he would return after the break.
“Levi, he’s been playing for four years, so we’re not real concerned (with missed time),” Holliday said. “Josh, he’ll start working a little toward the end of the week and he’ll be back full by the time spring break is over and we get back. He’ll get the last 12 practices, full speed ahead.”
Marshall takes part in its second practice session on Tuesday before its final session prior to spring break on Thursday. Both practices start at 2:45 p.m.