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Mitch Vingle: MU might hit Greenbrier in ’15; storylines

Mitch Vingle

For those of us in the media, it’s been a bit of a chore to cover the New Orleans Saints’ visit to West Virginia. It’s great that an NFL team is here, but access has been strict. Also, it’s difficult to connect our readers to the team with no Mountain State tie-ins.

Late next August, however, there might be oodles of connections to The Greenbrier training facility.

That’s because Marshall’s football team might hit the resort for at least part of fall football camp.

“We’ve talked to the people at the Greenbrier about it,” Mike Hamrick, MU’s athletic director, said on Thursday.

More talks are also planned. Hamrick said he would personally be visiting The Greenbrier and owner Jim Justice in the next week or 10 days to try to reach an agreement.

Justice can certainly use a visit from Marshall, his alma mater. In order to qualify for the $25 million tax credit given by the state, the facility must be used for at least 100 days a year. The Saints’ visit is only stretching from July 24 to Aug. 27.

Hamrick said he’s hoping for “at least” an MU football weekend in White Sulphur Springs next year. His current plans are for the football team to visit and hold a scrimmage wrapped by a golf/cookout shindig.

Those plans, however, could expand.

“We’ve talked about the possibility of doing more,” Hamrick said. “I’m hoping to talk to Jim about being there for seven to 10 days after the Saints leave.”

When Hamrick was at UNLV, the Rebels would spend two weeks away from Las Vegas in the cooler Ely, Nev., area.

He said there is also another added benefit.

“It’s not going to hurt,” he said, “to tell a recruit he can train in the Saints’ facility.”

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The other day I wrote about the many storylines to watch as WVU unfolds its 2014 team. As I sort of wrote, the Mountaineers have more question marks than the Riddler after posting a 6-14 record since Oct. 6, 2012.

Today, let’s shift to Marshall, which will open camp on Monday. As you know, expectations are sky-high in Huntington. The Thundering Herd is universally picked to win Conference USA.

Yet there are storylines for MU fans to watch, as well. There aren’t as many questions existing in Huntington as in Morgantown. Yet they do exist.

First, can the outside receivers make big plays? (I’ve written about this before.) Inside man Tommy Shuler is golden. But Doc Holliday and offensive coordinator Bill Legg need a handful of outside guys to step up. When I last checked out the Herd, Legg had true sophomore Justin Hunt and Davonte Allen, a redshirt junior, outside. Redshirt freshman Angelo Jean-Louis, who sat out last season as a non-qualifier, worked with the second team, as did senior Craig Wilkins.

Holliday also signed receivers Emanuel Beal, Alex Cason, Donquell “Gator” Green, Reese Wooten and Hyleck Foster. (The latter might be moved to running back.)

The goal is to produce explosiveness outside. MU averaged 13.1 yards per catch last season, which wasn’t much better than the opposition’s average of 12.7, but it still ranked No. 33 nationally.

Second, does the Herd have sufficient depth along the offense line?

Check it out. Center Chris Jasperse is a first-team All-C-USA talent. Second string there is iffy. Beckley product Clint Van Horn is nice at right tackle. But behind him is probably Sandley Jean-Felix, a redshirt freshman. Of course, left tackle Sebastian Johansson is also backed by a freshman. A.J. Addison, however, is a 6-foot-7 product of Fork Union Military Academy. (We haven’t touched on 310-pound junior college transfer Brandon Mitchell or Nathaniel Devers, who signed after committing to Cincinnati.)

Third, there’s the intriguing storyline of defensive lineman Ricardo Williams.

In case you’re unaware, Williams was a highly regarded recruit who signed with and played for Miami, Fla., before transferring to Huntington. A 2011 Homestead [Fla.] Senior High product, Williams was touted to be the nation’s No. 12 weakside defensive end by

Offers? He had more than a few. Florida State offered. Ditto North Carolina. And WVU. And Kansas State. And Stanford. And Texas Tech. And Washington.

At Miami, though, Williams was first redshirted. Then, in 2012, he played in but one game with no stats to show. Now, Holliday is waiting for the junior to make an impact, probably at tackle.

Of course, there’s the new storyline that popped up when running back Kevin Grooms was given the boot. (What a shame, by the way. Kid has real talent.) Gone now is last year’s leading rusher, Essray Taliaferro, and Grooms, leaving Steward Butler as next in line. Is Butler, who averaged 63.8 yards per game, the answer? What about Remi Watson, who averaged less last season than QB Rakeem Cato? Can Holliday effectively move Foster there? What about big man Devon Johnson, now at tight end?

Finally, there’s the spring-long question that wasn’t resolved: Who will be the backup QB? Gunnar Holcombe or Cole Garvin? Cole Garvin or Gunnar Holcombe?

Storylines, to be sure. Stay tuned.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow @MitchVingle on Twitter.

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