ONE WEEK OF so-called two-a-days are left at Marshall before the semester starts, but it will be more like part one of a long game week.When the Thundering Herd football squad convenes for its first closed practice today, one can reasonably expect the scout teams to be formed - and therefore, the first decisions on who will prepare to play, to ride the bus to Morgantown.Coaches will say all positions are still up for grabs, but many first-string spots are settled. I mean, Rakeem Cato is the starting quarterback, Aaron Dobson is the top "X" receiver, Jermaine Holmes is the "Mike" linebacker and so forth, right?Experience tells me to expect a little of the unexpected.Most years, a top player is more injured than we knew, perhaps out for the season. Every few years, a player on the three-deep jumps ship and transfers to another school, just in time for classes there. Certainly, we'll see position shifts and departures from the practice depth charts, whether subtle or jarring. One observation from Saturday: Late in the scrimmage, Gage Niemeyer moved over to right tackle and Jordan Jeffries played at left tackle. The two were competing on the left side, but what if both win?That's one of my questions that may well be answered this week, maybe even today. Others include:
Cornerbacks: Derrick Thomas or Monterius Lovett opposite Keith Baxter? Most of us would plunk a few chips on Thomas, but I expect the season to start with a near-equal rotation. Strong-side linebacker: Can Raheem Waiters keep the top spot, where he has been just about the whole month? His second scrimmage was better than his first, I thought. Running back order: In one guess, Travon Van, Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler, Remi Watson. I'm not listing Tron Martinez, as I've seen more of his hair than his helmet this month. Watson's absence Saturday was most conspicuous, but I think he's staying put. Defensive end: Alex Bazzie has held an edge over Ra'Shawde Myers, and has had two pretty good scrimmages. But both will play, especially with Armonze Daniel going sideways. And who backs up Jeremiah Taylor? Placekicker: Justin Haig or Trent Martin? I'm still thinking Haig on field goals and Martin on kickoffs, but stay tuned. nnIf you are a Marshall fan or alumnus here in the Kanawha Valley, you should be cheering over your team's slide up the radio dial. If so, you likely are pleased over the Herd's departure from the West Virginia Radio Corp. umbrella.For the last few years, Herd football and basketball has aired on WKAZ, 107.3-FM (K-Rock). Good signal, good coverage for those in Kanawha, Putnam and Boone counties.
But the Herd sat under the long shadow of West Virginia University, and I found promotion of games lacking. The statewide Morning News program, one of West Virginia Radio's very best offerings, interviewed Herd network play-by-play man Steve Cotton at 8:14 a.m. or thereabouts on Friday, but that was about it.After the 2011-12 basketball season concluded, Bristol Broadcasting landed the Herd rights from IMG College, the multimedia rights holder for Marshall and more than 70 other schools and conferences nationwide.That moves MU football and basketball games, plus football coach Doc Holliday's and basketball coach Tom Herrion's call-in shows, to WVTS, 94.5-FM and 950-AM.(As a bonus, the call-in shows will pre-empt the Fox network's Greek dude who screams at the microphone and never discusses sports.)The signal is not as good for Montgomery and Madison, but works fine in Putnam and most of the populated areas of Kanawha County. And here's the big thing: Bristol is promoting its coverage pretty hard, both on the air and with a well-placed billboard or two."We bleed green around here," said Mike Robinson, Bristol's general manager of the Charleston market.That's what Herd fans in this area need to hear. Every year. nnOnce again, I have nothing but the highest admiration for WVU jumping the Big East ship and going to the Big 12. But I have to snicker at the program going through the same culture shocks Marshall faced in C-USA.The latest is the men's basketball conference scheduling. WVU has two lousy stretches in which it has a road game on a Saturday, and then one the following Wednesday - an economical two-game roadie if the dates were closer.Coach Bob Huggins and WVU officials would prefer to have a Thursday-Saturday or Saturday-Monday spread. Sensible, right?Too sensible. Marshall people feel your pain.With very few exceptions, C-USA runs a Wednesday-Saturday schedule in men's hoops. This winter, the Herd is off to Southern Mississippi one Wednesday, then Memphis on Saturday. Another week, it's Tulane on Wednesday and Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday.Those would be great Thursday-Saturday combined trips, but that won't happen. There is little prospect of that changing in C-USA.Or the Big 12, it appears.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.