HUNTINGTON — Ricardo Williams and Donaldven Manning weren’t names that Marshall football fans saw on the field last season. Yet that didn’t mean they spent 2013 as casual observers.
Williams, a former University of Miami defensive end, and Manning, a former Virginia Tech defensive back, sat last season as transfers. At least they sat in a figurative sense. The two enjoyed valuable practice time, which both say had them raring to go when the spring season came around.
Most of that time was spent on the scout team, helping the Thundering Herd’s active players prepare for the next opponent. It wasn’t exactly the same as being a part of the active roster, but Williams said the opportunity to line up against Marshall’s starters was a big boost for this spring.
“It was a big opportunity for me just to attack every day and get better,” Williams said, “because I knew, come this spring, I was going to be in there and ready to roll.
“It was kind of a disappointing point for me,” he said of sitting last year. “But I just took it and got better with it, so when spring came around, I already knew defenses and all that.”
Manning also mentioned the disappointment of not being able to play, exacerbated by the fact they already had tasted game time at their former schools. Williams appeared in one game for the Hurricanes in 2012, recording no stats. Manning recorded four tackles and an interception in eight 2012 games with the Hokies.
Manning — who, like Williams, is a Miami native — compared his 2013 experience to going to work and not receiving a paycheck. Yet working through that only sharpened his focus for the spring.
“It only made me hungrier and more determined to get better,” Manning said, “so I can be a game-changer when I do have my chance to get on the field.”
Both players are in for a fight to climb the depth chart. Williams, a 6-foot-5, 248-pound redshirt junior, is competing with, among others, all-Conference USA honorable mention Ra’Shawde Myers and C-USA all-freshman team member Gary Thompson for playing time. Manning, a 5-10, 173-pound redshirt sophomore, is in the mix with players like C-USA co-freshman of the year Corey Tindal and all-C-USA honorable mention Darryl Roberts.
Manning said he’s just happy for the chance to again battle for a spot.
“I’m a competitor,” Manning said. “Every time I step on the field, I’m competing for a starting position. At the same time, right now, I just want to prove to my coaches and prove to my teammates that I can be the guy they can count on and I can be accountable when the time is needed.”
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LAST SEASON, Stefan Houston was an C-USA all-freshman selection at “Sam” linebacker. Yet now that D.J. Hunter has moved from strong safety to “Sam,” Houston has moved to the other side of the field, battling Evan McKelvey for playing time at “Will” linebacker.
Houston recorded 41 tackles, 5.5 for a loss, in 2013. He said the move has taken some time to get comfortable with, but it’s one he’s enjoying.
“The transition, going from ‘Sam’ backer to ‘Will’ backer, it’s a totally different scheme to get used to again,” he said. “It’s just more physical. It’s so fun. You get to see everything, make more plays and help the team succeed in what we need to do.”
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HERD FANS get an early Easter present with today’s scrimmage. Since the start time is getting pushed from 3:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., it will be open to all. Gate A will open at 1 p.m., with the players to take the field at 1:30 p.m. and the scrimmage to begin around 2 p.m.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.