HUNTINGTON - Yes, A.J. Leggett is alive, well and eligible in the Marshall backfield. And Doc Holliday expects it to stay that way.In fact, any academically oriented speculation irritates the third-year Thundering Herd head coach - including the theory that Leggett is in Huntington because of doubts he would make the needed test scores."That shouldn't the assumption," Holliday said. "That's the word people put out there - because he comes to Marshall he must be an academic issue, and that's not the case. He's a great player and he loves Marshall. Kind of [makes me upset], to be honest. He's coming to a good program, a great tradition, a great school."Leggett, a Miami native listed at 5-foot-11, 186 pounds, was rated four stars by Rivals and ESPN.com, ranked as the ninth and 12th cornerback, respectively. His reported offers included Alabama, Florida, Nebraska and Ohio State.Sporting No. 1, Leggett showed a little bit of why he was so in demand. In one seven-on-seven drill, he broke up a pass and intercepted pass on consecutive plays.nn
In the split practices, Leggett will be trying to break up the passes of Blake Frohnapfel and Gunnar Holcombe through Thursday. Starting quarterback Rakeem Cato is working out in the afternoon, along with walk-on Tanner Owens.Frohnapfel redshirted last year, staying on stand-by until finally checking out with a shoulder injury. Holcombe, a 6-foot-3 native of Fort Lauderdale, had his first collegiate practice Monday morning.And he had his first formal experience Monday with quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen, who was pointing out footwork and/or throwing flaws on just about every play.It wasn't a culture shock for Holcombe, though. He heard a few earfuls at his prep alma mater, the University School."I'm kind of used to that," he said. "If I didn't have the coach I had in high school, Coach Schneider [who] I had in high school, I'd be more frustrated and antsy. My junior year, I had a lot to work on and he was yelling and screaming. I learned to accept it . . . That just showed me he cared."That coach is Ryan Schneider, a name that should ring a bell with Herd fans. Schneider was Central Florida's starting quarterback in the 2002 game against Marshall, when coach Mike Kruczek's smack-running Golden Knights lost 26-21 to the Herd.
Schneider can still yap a bit, and had mild parting shots for Holcombe."He messed with me a little bit [about going to MU], but he told me it was the best place for me," Holcombe said. "The coaches really cared for their players, and I'd like it up here."nn
While Holcombe and a number of freshmen arrived, several players departed.Tight end Rakim Reed, who was in for spring, has left the program, as did linebacker T.J. Ross and offensive lineman Josue Joseph. Ross was once in the thick of the linebacking picture.February signees not on the roster were offensive lineman Tyler Combs, tight end Chris Hall, linebackers Deyonte Henderson, Gary Thompson and Kent Turene and defensive back Corey Tindal. Holliday said Tindal and Turene will report when the fall semester begins.There are a few position changes - Stefone Grace has shifted from linebacker to tight end, while Evan McKelvey has moved from safety to linebacker.
There are a few pre-practice injury issues, as well. Defensive tackle Ken Smith is out for an indefinite period, while cornerback Darryl Roberts is in an orthopedic boot.Walk-ons added to the roster are Owens, safety Isaiah Haskins, defensive lineman Tom Collins and wide receivers Jack Gammon and Kameron Thomas.
Demetrius Doss, Mandell Smith, Malcolm Ames, Patrick Kouns, Darius Passmore, Cory McCutchen, James Rouse, Michael Lamb, Demetrius Evans and Matt Cincotta.That's the answer to the one of the more devilish trivia questions on the Marshall football program: Who has worn No. 88 since the departure of Randy Moss?The number, worn mostly by wide receivers, has been almost cursed since Moss left after the 1997 season. Doss enjoyed a full five-year career from 1998-2002, but was hardly a superstar. Ames, Kouns and tight end Lamb were obscure walk-ons. Passmore changed to No. 1 and nearly had a 1,000-yard year in 2008.Defensive end Rouse and Evans all changed numbers - Rouse currently is No. 92, while Evans is No. 4.Beginning Monday, Cincotta officially became the 10th Herd player to sport the double-8s. His position? Long snapper.Cincotta, a freshman from Charlotte, N.C., didn't believe it himself. He knows the history."It was chosen for me," he said Monday after the morning practice. "And I was, like, 'Oh, my god, 88?' That was kind of a surprise, but I'm not complaining. I like it."Cincotta, a 6-foot-1, 202-pounder, was brought in by Holliday's staff after the departure of Tyson Gale. Third-year sophomore James Power remains in the Herd program, but never overtook Gale, who was plenty busy with linebacker chores. Cincotta is expected to come in and start, and serve as an extra "missile" downfield.He wanted to pursue linebacking in college, but offers were lean. He said he realized his future was in hiking the ball between his legs.He not only knows the history of No. 88, he knows the Herd's history of long snapping. Chris Massey and Mike Bartrum made a fair amount of money in that specialty. "Those guys had looong careers in the NFL, which is very impressive for a long snapper," Cincotta said.nn
Split-squad practices continue today at 9:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. The latter practice is more veteran-heavy, but avoiding class conflicts is as much a factor as anything.The team comes together at 2:30 p.m. Friday for the first day in pads, followed by a scrimmage at 10:45 a.m. Saturday.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.