HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The overriding question for Marshall fans Saturday night is if they will see an improved defense.A subplot: How will cornerbacks play receivers in man-to-man coverage?Nobody in the Thundering Herd camp is going to show his hand, understandably. The fact that it's a first game under a new defensive coordinator is presenting visiting Miami's offense a difficult preparation task.But if you ask any cornerback his preference, he will tell you he wants to play man-to-man on every down. Corners all think they're Darrelle Revis, you know.If you ask any Herd fan, he'd like the corners to play their man-to-man a little closer - in the same area code, preferably. Former defensive coordinator Chris Rippon was blasted to the moon and back for using soft cushions outside, which led to easy 8-yard passes.Not this year, Derrick Thomas says: "There's no more 9 yards off the ball anymore, playing soft coverage. It's not in our strategy anymore."nn
Wide receiver Tommy Shuler confirmed he has been cleared for full contact after suffering a fracture of his fifth metatarsal in a foot. It's a pesky injury that tends to heal on its own schedule, and Marshall trainers were very cautious this month.That, and Shuler's injury apparently healed quicker than most."I've just been blessed to get out there quickly," Shuler said.nn
Miami coach Don Treadwell calls his team a young team, but a young team with some experience. Interesting tidbit: With injuries last year, only three RedHawks have started 10 or more consecutive games - left tackle Zach Lewis, safety Brison Burris and defensive lineman Mwanza Wamulumba.The team leaders in career starts are defensive tackle Austin Brown (35) and cornerback Dayonne Nunley (34), but neither was around to finish the season.Marshall does not have a player with that many career starts. Center Chris Jasperse - still just a junior - leads the team with 25, followed by cornerback Monterius Lovett and defensive end Jeremiah Taylor (22) and Rakeem Cato and Garrett Scott (21).MU's starting offensive line has a slight edge in career starts, 58-50. That increases to 65 when Josh Lovell, considered a co-starter of sorts at left guard, enters the game.
Both teams have a lineman expected to start his first game - for Marshall, it's sophomore left guard Sebastian Johansson; for Miami, it's redshirt freshman right tackle Terry Davis.The Redhawks's two-deep roster lists three freshmen (all redshirt) and seven sophomores on the first string.nn
One of those Miami sophomores is Spencer Treadwell, the coach's son. The younger Treadwell hails from East Lansing, Mich., where his father worked in 2000-02 and 2007-10.Quarterback Austin Boucher has a twin brother, redshirt senior linebacker Collin Boucher. The latter, born 23 minutes before Austin, plays behind Chris Wade at strong-side linebacker.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.