EDITOR’S NOTE: HD Media counts down the 10 most important players on Marshall’s 2020 football roster.
HUNTINGTON — When Tavante Beckett arrived in Huntington, many in Marshall football circles were hoping he would deliver on the talent level that took him to Virginia Tech out of high school.
Beckett did just that in 2019, leading Conference USA with 121 tackles en route to a first-team all-conference selection while teaming with teammate Omari Cobb to produce the top tandem of linebackers in C-USA.
However, now Cobb is gone, as is fellow starter Tyler Brown, which means Beckett went from the younger player at the spot in 2019 to the most experienced returnee in 2020.
While Marshall adds talented graduate transfer Brian Cavicante to the linebacker corps, it will be the performance of Beckett that will key the Marshall defense.
Beckett has proven he can fill it up statistically with a 2019 line that includes 121 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two sacks and an interception. Now, defensive coordinator Brad Lambert wants Beckett’s game to elevate to the next level where he is someone the entire defense looks to for leadership.
Lambert said if the offseason is any indication, Beckett is primed to excel in both roles this season.
“I’ve just been really proud of him and how his leadership has really taken off,” Lambert said. “He’s displayed that in how hard he’s working. He had a lot of success last year and now I think that’s propelled him forward.”
Beckett’s leadership becomes even more vital as Marshall moves to the second phase of summer access on Friday and into preseason practice two weeks from now. There is a large group of unknown quantities at that second level that he will have to help along on the fly.
“His production was really high and we need it to be high again, but the trick for us at linebacker is going to be finding those other two guys — whether it’s Eli Neal or Cavicante or [Abraham] Beauplan, Charlie Gray or others,” Lambert said. “Who is going to be that next guy? That’s what hurt us a bit not having spring.”
There is only one constant at the second level and that is Beckett, who will have lots of expectations as 2020 gets started.
Lambert said the good thing about the situation is that no one has higher expectations of Beckett for this season than Beckett himself, which speaks to the leadership growth to which Lambert alluded.
“He made a ton of plays for us last year and actually could’ve made a ton more,” Lambert said. “I think he realizes that and I’ve been proud of the way he’s been working with all the guys around him since January to lead this group.”