Adkins likes Herd’s O-line versatility

April 8, 2019

HUNTINGTON — Consider Marshall University football offensive line coach Greg Adkins a puzzle master in 2019.

That is Adkins’ charge as he gets the Thundering Herd’s offensive front going in spring drills this month.

The questions for Marshall’s offensive line don’t center around if guys have the ability to play. Instead, the questions are more geared toward where their best fit is.

Throughout the rest of spring practice there will be several moving pieces around that offensive line as Adkins tweaks things to find the best combinations.

“I didn’t want any guy trying to pigeonhole themselves into one position,” Adkins said. “Certainly, there are guys who play one spot, but (Saturday), we had four different guys play right guard, four different guys at center and three different left tackles, so having that ability to

move, mix and match always allows you to get your best five guys on the field. With the competition we have, it is going to be vitally important for all of them to understand that.”

There is no better example of Adkins’ philosophy than 2018 starting left tackle Will Ulmer.

Ulmer is a player who has gained experience in the last two years at left tackle, yet it is uncertain — perhaps even unlikely — he will be at that position next season. With the addition of former Florida State and junior college standout Josh Ball and the emergence of young lineman Dalton Tucker, the likelihood is Ulmer’s versatility will serve the Herd elsewhere. Ulmer has been at four different positions in six practices this spring.

“That shows you right there,” Adkins said. “It goes back to the culture in the room. They know I’m always going to tell them the truth and we’re going to get the best five players on the field. I don’t know where everybody is going to play at this moment. It’s obviously just spring and we have multiple guys out with injuries. Until we get a couple weeks into August, no one knows where they will play. They just know the versatility will help them be in position to be among the first five.”

Admittedly, part of the personnel shuffle is out of necessity because of injuries.

Center Levi Brown had an offseason procedure and will not participate this spring and interior lineman Alex Mollette is working his way back from an ACL injury and also will not practice this spring. Right tackle Tarik Adams has dealt with nagging injuries that have kept him sidelined and Ball — a 6-foot-8, 350-pound Class of 2019 recruit —has done individual drills, but has yet to get his first contact in team drills because of an undisclosed injury.

“We’ve got to get Josh in there next week and start getting him going,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “I’m anxious to see what he does. To this point, he’s been impressive. I think when we get them all out there we’re going to like what we see. The good thing is that the (Alex) Salgueros and the Dalton Tuckers and those guys are getting an awful lot of reps, which is important.”

Marshall features five offensive linemen with a combined 103 career starts led by Brown’s 37 in three seasons.

While those numbers are likely to increase next season, the positions they are at won’t be decided until Adkins finishes putting together his puzzle.