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MU notebook: Big plays cap first week of practice

HUNTINGTON — They didn’t have an all-out scrimmage and the whistles were quick, but Marshall players saw their most 11-on-11 action so far as the first week of preseason camp ended Saturday.

Fans attending the open practice saw a number of big plays, starting with a 30-yard run by Devon Johnson and ending with Emanuel Beal hauling in a long pass from Gunnar Holcombe.

In between, there was Donquell “Gator” Green adjusting perfectly on a Cole Garvin bomb, Darryl Roberts foiling several nice Rakeem Cato throws, two Kendall Gant interceptions and a Raheem Waiters interception that he might have returned for a touchdown in full action.

MU coach Doc Holliday seemed more or less pleased, both with veterans and youngsters.

“Their heads are spinning a little bit, being the first week,” Holliday said of the freshmen. “But I thought the athleticism still showed up today.”

Many third-teamers got some action, too, a few days before most of them head to the scout team. Holliday expects those units to be set by Wednesday or Thursday.

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Every freshman is going to make mistakes, but some are more embarrassing than others. Receiver Rodney Allen committed a biggie in punt drills.

Tommy Shuler was lined up to field a punt, with Allen assigned to be a lead blocker. Allen saw a “bullet” zipping downfield and was determined to cut him off before he reached Shuler.

As it turned out, Shuler passed on fielding the punt and Allen missed the “bullet.” But Allen didn’t miss Shuler, and the resulting collision may be the hardest one the slick senior receives all season.

Calm as can be after practice, Shuler confirmed that Allen won’t hear the end of that one in the film sessions.

“My own [wide receiver] room! He’s in our room! It’s crazy,” Shuler exclaimed. “It’s all love, though.”

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It was a good day for field-goal kickers, as Justin Haig tries to fend off the challenge of Nick Smith. Haig had the only miss in a combined 11 attempts, a boot from 40 yards that went just wide right. Both then hit from 44, 46 and 49 yards.

“Both kickers, I thought they were tremendous today,” Holliday said. “They’ve gotten better and there’s good competition right now.”

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Safety Tiquan Lang and cornerback Donaldven Manning returned to sideline exercises Saturday, but there were no further injuries from Friday. Defensive back Corie Wilson and right tackle Clint Van Horn remain on crutches, while freshman running back Brandon Byrd is out after the concussion he suffered Friday.

Conversely, defensive end Gary Thompson has returned to full contact. James Rouse did not participate in the full-team drills per Holliday’s decision: “I didn’t want him to.”

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Today is Fan Day at Edwards Stadium, from 4-6 p.m., with fans able to get autographs from players.

Fans are asked to remain in the chairback section of the stadium’s west side until the team heads to the east side for the official team photo. At that point, fans will be allowed on the field.

After the team photo is completed, players will be available for autographs. The team’s 2014 uniforms are expected to be unveiled.

Admission is free.

Practices remain open to the public this coming week, with 9:45 a.m. and 4 p.m. practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The single practices on Tuesday and Thursday take place at 2:30 p.m.

The team will scrimmage at 7 p.m. Saturday, with gates opening at 6:30. The scrimmage is open to Big Green Scholarship Foundation members, those wishing to join the Big Green and MU students with a valid ID.

Schedules are subject to change.

Reach Doug Smock at, 304-348-5130 or follow @DougSmock on Twitter.

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