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Rhode Island presents another mystery

HUNTINGTON — For the second week in a row, Marshall coaches had to watch clips from lots and lots of games, a product of watching many teams.

For the second week in a row, the Thundering Herd faces a new team with a new coaching staff. After adjusting from educated semi-guesses in preparation for Miami (Ohio) and new coach Chuck Martin, the Herd faces Rhode Island under new coach Jim Fleming.

Like Miami, there isn’t a frame of video on Rhode Island. The Rams don’t begin their schedule until 7 p.m. Saturday, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“When you look at this Rhode Island team, it’s very similar as far as preparation goes, as the game we just played,” said MU coach Doc Holliday at his weekly press conference. “We don’t have any idea, basically, what they’re doing.”

For starters, Fleming came to Rhode Island from Central Florida, where he was defensive coordinator for the Fiesta Bowl-winning Knights. Before that, he served at Kent State and Akron.

Offensive coordinator Bill Bleil came from Iowa State, defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis came from the ill-fated staff of Carl Pelini at Florida Atlantic, and much of the staff crossed paths with Fleming at Akron or Kent State.

Also relevant was video at Connecticut, where graduate transfer Lyle McCombs rushed for 2,681 yards in three seasons. You might throw in Boston College, though transfer Mark Lowrie redshirted there in 2013.

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Marshall’s captains for this week are serving for the first time — running back Devon Johnson, tight end Eric Frohnapfel, safety A.J. Leggett and defensive end Arnold Blackmon, who had two sacks among his five tackles.

“Both them played extremely well in the game,” Holliday said of the defenders. “They had the most production points, and played their best games since they’ve been here.”

Johnson led the offense with 151 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns,; Frohnapfel was the leading receiver with five for 54 yards and two nice-looking touchdowns, and Leggett had a team-leading 10 tackles, eight solo, with a forced fumble and an interception.

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Holliday lauded the two true freshmen who played pretty much a full load of snaps, left tackle A.J. Addison and nickel back Antavis Rowe. Both played 43 snaps, give or take.

Addison participated in spring practice and did get some first-team reps in preseason camp but still, almost all true freshmen redshirt. Holliday reports that Addison didn’t even blink when his number was called.

“Normally, an offensive lineman can’t go in as a young kid like that,” Holliday said. “But he loves to play, works extremely hard. It’s a tribute to him, and [position] coach [Alex] Mirabal got him ready to play.”

Holliday expressed a desire to get a few other true freshmen on the field, including defensive lineman Tomell One and receivers/kick returners Gator Green and Hyleck Foster.


n Right now, One is a bit buried in a D-line unit that rotated nine players last Saturday. Nobody had more than 45-50 snaps out of 85 plays. “The linebackers, defensive line, there were no issues with depth,” Holliday said.

n Holliday expects running back Steward Butler to return this week, and repeated his designs on working redshirt freshman Brandon Byrd into the rotation.

n And finally, Holliday took note of all the upsets in the first week. The one that stuck out was North Dakota State’s 34-14 raking of Iowa State, the Football Championship Subdivision power’s fifth straight win over FBS foes.

“I’m not very damn smart [but] I wouldn’t want to schedule North Dakota State,” Holliday joked. “I’ll fight [athletic director Mike] Hamrick on that one.”

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

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