HUNTINGTON — When Marshall football coach Doc Holliday blew his whistle at 3:25 p.m. to signify the start of 2019 preseason practice, there were several new faces who emerged in the various position groups for the Thundering Herd.
For Holliday, it’s an exciting time when the team makes the transition from workouts to getting prepared for games.
“Now it’s actually starting to play the game a little bit,” Holliday said at the close of practice. “It’s fun to watch all those new guys come out and run around, and it’ll be even more fun when we get the pads on Monday. I like what I see to this point. All those new additions look like they can help us in some way and hopefully they look the same when they put the pads on.”
In the spring there were a few reported transfers, such as Kentucky wide receiver Tavin Richardson, Central Connecticut State wide receiver Joey Fields and FIU defensive end Fermin Silva, and those guys took the field as expected.
Richardson had one grab that caught attention in the team periods when he went over the middle and snagged a pass in traffic.
There was also a pair of former starting safeties who joined the program over the summer and donned a Marshall jersey for the first time on Friday in South Charleston native and former West Virginia safety Derrek Pitts and Charlotte graduate transfer Quinton Jordan.
Both Pitts and Jordan are in the process of filing waivers for 2019 eligibility. In the case of Pitts, if that waiver is not approved, he will still have two years to play two seasons, starting in 2020. For Jordan, an unsuccessful waiver claim would end his collegiate eligibility.
With Marshall already returning a pair of safeties with starting experience in Nazeeh Johnson and Brandon Drayton, the addition of the two for the 2019 season would bolster a secondary that already returns lots of production from 2018.
It is not immediately known when a ruling on the eligibility of the two will come down from the NCAA, according to sports information director Jason Corriher.
Regardless, Holliday was excited about the addition of a few of those players and how they can impact the team immediately.
“The great thing about those guys is you saw them play at a high level,” Holliday said. “You saw them on tape against good players and you saw them make plays there, so you think they can make plays for us. I like what I’ve seen out of a couple of those guys.”
Another graduate transfer who joined the program was New Hampshire linebacker Quinlen Dean.
Dean was one of five charged in February for their role in a frat-house riot at Sigma Alpha Epsilon at New Hampshire on Jan. 26. Dean and two others pleaded guilty to misdemeanor riot charges stemming from the incident. They were suspended from the team at the time of the incident, but were later reinstated prior to taking part in spring practice.
Dean, who tied for New Hampshire’s team lead with 79 tackles, then made the decision to come to Huntington.
Perhaps the biggest news to come from Friday’s initial practice is that there really wasn’t much news in terms of Class of 2019 signees being absent from practice.
All members of the Class of 2019 reported to campus and all were on the field Friday with the exception of one player: highly touted Georgia native Dante Walker.
Walker, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end, reported to Huntington in May in time for the summer sessions and was enrolled at the university, but was shot in the shoulder in a drive-by shooting in Huntington on June 29. The former Arkansas commit has since decided to leave the program.
Marshall’s Friday practice was its first of the season, meaning it came in helmets only.
Under NCAA rules, the team has an acclimatization period before it can get into full pads.
Saturday’s practice will also be helmets only before Sunday’s Fan Day from 4 to 6 p.m. provides a day off. On Monday and Tuesday, Marshall will practice in shells — also known as ‘Herd gear’ — before Wednesday’s practice will be the first in full pads.
NUMBER CHANGES: There were a slew of number changes to sift through during the first day of camp on Friday.
They include defensive linemen Kyron Taylor (No. 65 to No. 95), Jamare Edwards (No. 95 to No. 99), Jermane Cross (No. 99 to No. 42), Koby Cumberlander (No. 98 to No. 56) and T.J. Johnson (No. 90 to No. 15), wide receivers Stone Scarcelle (No. 45 to No. 19) and Talik Keaton (No. 86 to No. 9) and linebacker Jeremy Smith (No. 42 to No. 12).
A LITTLE HODGE-PODGE: According to the roster released before practice, it appears that Darius Hodge is headed back to the defensive line.
Hodge, a multi-faceted talent from Wake Forest, North Carolina, saw time as a defensive end last season before moving to linebacker in spring practice.
Odds are that he could see time at both as Holliday looks to get his best 11 defensive players on the field.
SECONDARY LOSSES: When the 2019 roster was released, there were three players who were expected to be on the field that have since decided to leave the program.
Those players were defensive back Markeis Colvin and safeties Taymon Cooke and Chad Clay.
THE ‘FUTURES’ LIST: Several players who are deemed “futures,” meaning they are academic non-qualifiers, were defined. These players signed Institutional Letters of Agreement earlier this year, but they do not count toward the Class of 2019.
Players who will be academic non-qualifiers in 2019 include defensive linemen Malik Darisaw, Jayshaun Coffman and Tworn Seals, running backs Rahsul Faison and Rasheed Ali, linebacker JoJo Doleman and defensive back JoJo Evans.
BEARDALL HONORED: Marshall long snapper Matthew Beardall was given one final preseason accolade just hours before the 2019 season officially got underway with the team’s first on-field practice on Friday.
The Merritt Island, Florida native was named to the Patrick Mannelly Award Watch List, which is presented annually to the best long snapper in FBS.
Beardall was a 2019 Preseason All-Conference USA selection after earning first-team All-Conference USA honors in 2018.
One of the team’s most veteran players, Beardall enters 2019 having started 34 games as the team’s long snapper.
Semifinalists for the award will be chosen on Nov. 16 and finalists will be announced on Nov. 23. The winner will be announced on Dec. 14.