Herd has newcomers to watch

August 4, 2018

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University opened its football preseason camp Friday afternoon and there were plenty of familiar faces on the turf of Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said in his pre-camp press conference that the Thundering Herd would not need as many newcomers to contribute immediately as in recent years because of 18 returning starters, but that isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of new players worth keeping tabs on as practice gets started.

Following is a look at some Thundering Herd newcomers.

Alex Thomson, quarterback: Thomson already has buzz leading as a potential starter. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound graduate transfer from Wagner College has been touted as an NFL prospect by many, including former NFL quarterback Phil Simms, whom he trained with over the past two offseason in New York. While there is plenty of buzz, Thomson will have his work cut out for him to earn the starting spot away from returning quarterbacks Isaiah Green and Garet Morrell - both of whom have the upper hand after working with new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey in the spring.

Thomson will not only have to show that he is back to 100 percent healthy following a shoulder injury, but he will have to out-perform both returnees to earn the starting nod, which Holliday said he hopes to shore up sooner than later in the preseason.

Darius Hodge, defensive line: Hodge was originally slated to sign with N.C. State in the Class of 2017, but signed with Marshall as a surprising 2017 addition. Hodge was rated as the No. 19 linebacker in the nation in the Class of 2017, but he will likely shift down to a defensive end/linebacker hybrid spot for the Herd. Hodge put up eye-opening numbers while at Wake Forest High School in Raleigh, N.C., compiling 136 tackles, nine sacks, eight interceptions, seven blocked punts and two forced fumbles in leading his school to a 4AA State Championship.

After a year in the weight room, Hodge is now at 6-foot-2, 251 pounds, and could be a disruptive force along the edge. There aren’t many spots where the Herd is looking for production early, but defensive end is one spot where it might be warranted.

Koby Cumberlander, defensive line: Cumberlander is a former Michigan State commit that joined the Herd in 2017 and sat out as an academic non-qualifier. Out of Roswell, Georgia, he is a 6-2, 245-pound athlete that brings both power and athleticism to the defensive line and will get looks at the defensive end spot. Much like Hodge, Cumberlander will move into a defensive end mix that looks to replace starters Blake Keller and Davon Durant from last season. They will join returning part-time starter Marquis Couch and versatile defensive lineman Ty Tyler at defensive end.

Should both Cumberlander and Hodge perform well, it opens up the door for Tyler to move to an interior position more often, which adds depth to an already-solid defensive front.

Steven Gilmore, defensive back: Holliday said Monday he is looking for a cornerback that can provide some immediate depth to the defensive backfield. Look for Gilmore, a highly-touted high school prospect out of South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, to gain meaningful repetitions early to gauge his ability to become an immediate impact guy in both the special teams department and as part of the cornerback rotation. Coming out of high school, the 5-foot-9, 152-pound cornerback had offers from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisville Duke and Maryland, among others.

Dalton Tucker, offensive line: This one might seem like a bit of a stretch, considering all five starters return on the offensive line and you could even add a sixth with Nate Devers returning to practice in spring and back on the field this fall. Holliday doesn’t like utilizing freshmen offensive linemen, maintaining that, generally, they need a year or two in the weight room to get stronger and be physically prepared for NCAA Division I. However, the buzz has been that, if there is one offensive lineman who could provide immediate two-deep support, it would be the 6-foot-6, 310-pound product of Bourbon County, Kentucky.

NOT THE NEW BLACK: Around Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Friday, there were a select few players in black helmets.

It wasn’t a signal of things to come or indicative of newcomers to the program. It was simply that the company who provided Marshall’s helmets couldn’t get all the white helmets to the Herd in time, so they sent matte black helmets with the appropriate sizes for those whose size was not currently available in the white scheme.

Honestly, the matte black did not look bad, but don’t look for a change any time soon from the traditional white look.

SIGNEES NOT COMING: There were three players among Marshall’s Class of 2018 recruits who did not take the field Friday and will not report to camp.

The most notable of those was wide receiver Jaquan Webb, who was expected to potentially be in the mix to compete for time as a backup player where Holliday wanted some depth. The others were linebacker Sharrod Frazier and defensive lineman Patrick Keenan. Both were considered three-star prospects in the signing class.

ACADEMIC NON-QUALIFIERS: Six players will sit out the 2018 season as academic non-qualifiers.

They are wide receivers Corey Brammage and Caleb McMillan, running backs Jalynn Sykes and Lawrence Papillon, defensive lineman Aaron Morgan and linebacker Bakari Jackson.

Brammage, McMilian, Sykes and Jackson were scholarship signees while Papillon and Morgan signed letters of commitment as walk-ons.

BECKETT JOINS HERD: Tavante Beckett, a former linebacker at Virginia Tech, was listed on Marshall’s roster as having joined the program.

Beckett will have to sit out the 2018 season under NCAA transfer rules, according to Marshall officials.

According to Andy Bitter, who now writes for The Athletic, a sports website, Beckett was suspended indefinitely by Virginia Tech on Sept. 11, 2017 and two days later he was charged with felony conspiracy to sell or distribute marijuana and a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana.

On Dec. 7, 2017, the felony charge was reduced to possession of marijuana, giving him two misdemeanor possession charges. The charges are under advisement of the court for 12 months, and if Beckett complies with the court’s orders and serves 100 hours of community service, he could see the charges dropped altogether.

The 5-foot-10, 222-pound linebacker from Chesapeake, Virginia, is a former teammate of Marshall linebacker Jaquan Yulee at Indian River (Virginia) High School.

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