HUNTINGTON — This week, Marshall had a huge addition along its offensive line for position coach Greg Adkins.
Just how big? Oh, about 6-foot-8, 350 pounds worth of addition at its tackle spots.
That addition is Josh Ball, a Class of 2019 signee out of Butler Community College in Kansas.
Ball’s talent level has Adkins and Marshall head coach Doc Holliday both excited to see him get to work on the field.
“It’s good to see him,” Holliday said. “We had the opportunity to watch him through winter workouts and all those things, and he’s a guy that’s light on his feet for a guy that’s 330, 340 pounds — whatever he is. He’s athletic for as big as he is.”
For much of the early portion of spring, an undisclosed injury limited what Ball was able to do on the field.
Ball would go through individual drills and work with both Adkins and Marshall’s strength staff, but he was not on the field when the Herd went into team periods and live action.
That changed this week when Ball made his debut during live action and showcased his skill set, which includes strong footwork and quick hands.
Ball was a key cog in an offensive line that performed well against the defense in Saturday’s live scrimmage — his first fully-live action in which the staff members weren’t in his ear coaching him up after each repetition.
Adkins said that his ability to get on the field for the last two weeks of spring ball is invaluable because he can knock some rust off while putting Marshall’s terminology and scheme philosophy to action.
“Mentally, he’s not there yet because he doesn’t have the experience,” Adkins said. “He can answer a lot of questions, but getting out in the fray, sometimes his technique will lack because he’s thinking about the play right now. What I do like is that, when he’s going, he’s being very aggressive and not passive. As long as he’s aggressive, we can teach him what to do.”
While Ball came from Butler Community College, it is not his first experience at the Division I level, having started nine games at left tackle for Florida State as a freshman in the 2017 season.
However, an off-field accusation of dating violence left him suspended at Florida State in May 2018, which prompted his move to Butler Community College.
Charges were never filed as a result of investigation of the accusation, and it was expected that Ball would return to Florida State in the Class of 2019 once the fall semester was done at Butler Community College, but the Fredericksburg, Virginia, native, decided that the best option for his future was to move closer to home and family, which landed him as a part of Marshall’s 2019 signing class.
With the past issues behind him, Ball is now focused forward on his future at Marshall, which is likely to be as a starting tackle for the 2019 season.
For that to come to fruition, however, Ball has to continue to progress each day while working at each tackle position on Marshall’s offensive line.
As Marshall gets set for its last week of spring drills, there is no player that those last three practices will mean more to than Ball, according to Adkins.
“He hasn’t played ball since November, he’s in a new environment and he is playing with different teammates and against different players every day — a great defensive line as we know that we have here at Marshall,” Adkins said. “That makes it a very competitive situation on this field. If he can match himself up against our defensive line, he’ll do fine in this league.”
One thing that is helping Ball’s learning curve is that he is working on both sides of the offensive line at the left and right tackle spots, which allows for more repetitions and experience at each spot, so that Adkins can find the best fit for Ball and his entire offensive front.
“[Saturday], I was proud of him because I played him on both sides — played him on the left and played him on the right,” Adkins said. “I didn’t even tell him prior to it — just said, ‘Go over and play right side.’ He didn’t miss a bit and, in fact, looked very good at the right side.”
With Marshall returning both starting tackles in left tackle Will Ulmer and right tackle Tarik Adams, Ball’s inclusion will shake up the look of the front.
However, the versatility allows Adkins to juggle different pieces to see who is better off.
Ulmer has also played both tackle spots and both guard spots this spring, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that all three are starting on the field this fall.
However, Adkins couldn’t make those determinations without seeing Ball in action first.
Now, that he’s back to full practice, the ball — or Ball, in this case — is officially rolling in the right direction for the makeup of Adkins’ 2019 offensive line for the Herd.