HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s fifth edition of preseason camp under coach Doc Holliday ended Saturday, though that practice was more game prep than anything.
But today the attention shifts fully toward the Thundering Herd’s first game next Saturday at Miami (Ohio). Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. at Yager Stadium in Oxford, with the game streaming live on ESPN3.com.
That means the scout teams battle the starters — not for keeps, mind you, but to give the “ones” a good look at what plays and formations coaches think the other team will run. Generally, the starters dominate the proceedings, giving them a dose of confidence.
That’s not always working that way these days, especially for the Herd’s starting defense. Those defenders had to face rifle-armed quarterback Michael Birdsong, running back Tony Pittman and receivers Hyleck Foster and Gator Green, among others.
It’s more than a respectable match.
“The new scout-team back, he’s something else,” joked linebacker Evan McKelvey. “The fact that we’ve got a better scout team is going to make us a good defense. They all give us good looks.”
Now, many of the scout-teamers won’t be kept home this coming weekend. In fact, many will play for real, and Holliday doesn’t mind that at all. A few of the offensive linemen received quality reps during the last three weeks, filling in for injured players.
“No doubt our scout teams [are better],” he said. “When we first got out here [in 2010], we had [a sportswriter] and all those other guys out here running around. They’re a lot better because our depth’s better, they give a little better look.”
“What we try to do is get our best players who weren’t with the ‘ones’ out there, to give them the best look we can give them. We’ve got some young players who do a nice job.”
▪ ▪ ▪
Friday’s weather was frightful in the Tri-State area, with a deluge causing postponements in high school season openers in nearby Kentucky. The area around campus got several inches of rain, causing greater-than-usual street flooding.
As water hopped curbs, there was flooding on the MU campus in places that usually aren’t reached by high water. For example, water sneaked into Cam Henderson Center, though the basketball floor was untouched.
The football team’s 5 p.m. practice did not begin as scheduled. Eventually, the water drained and players took the field at 7:45, getting in a full session under the lights.
Holliday called it an exercise in sudden change.
“There’s not a whole lot that bothers these guys,” he said. “They went out and got after it; they didn’t flinch. You sit around a locker room for about three hours, some teams — or bad teams — they don’t feel like coming out and practicing. That’s not the case with this team.”
▪ ▪ ▪
With Amareto Curraj still on the comeback trail, Norwegian freshman Kaare Vedvik likely will kick off. Vedvik has been reaching the end zone with frequency, dropping a hint that he could make a decent run at Curraj’s touchback percentage.
That won’t be easy, though. In a whopping 97 kickoffs, Curraj had 52 touchbacks and averaged 63.5 yards per kick. Curraj’s touchbacks also were the team total, second in Conference USA only to Rice.
Deandre Reaves has been pushed in the kickoff return department, but Holliday said the incumbent will retain those chores full-time, at least for now. Reaves, a junior, averaged 25.0 yards per return last year, fourth in C-USA.
Perhaps Foster, Green or Angelo Jean-Louis can take a kickoff later in the season. “I’m going to make sure I can trust the young guys before I put them in that situation,” Holliday said.
Reach Doug Smock at email@example.com, 304-348-5130 or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.