Tavante Beckett

Marshall linebacker Tavante Beckett leads the Herd in tackles through five games.

HUNTINGTON — Marshall linebacker Tavante Beckett comes off as an energetic guy who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.

That takes on another meaning this week when Beckett leads the Thundering Herd defense Saturday against Old Dominion.

Beckett is a native of Chesapeake, Virginia, and is plenty familiar with the Monarchs as he and injured teammate Jaquan Yulee grew up right down the road from ODU’s facilities.

There’s one aspect that the Indian River graduate can’t shake when thinking about his former hometown team.

“They never offered me, so it’s going to be a little personal for me,” Beckett said. “With me going to their team camps and 7-on-7s, them never offering me was like a smack in the face. Even if I had other offers, I feel like I should’ve had that one. I’m going to carry that with me and that will be motivation.”

Beckett was not discussing it in a disrespectful way toward the Monarchs. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The junior linebacker has the utmost respect for ODU head coach Bobby Wilder and where the program has come under his guidance.

“Me and Yulee, when we first got together our senior year, I remember going to ODU camp,” Beckett said. “There’s actually a picture of us getting coached by their coach, so it’s genuine love. I’ve always got respect for that program and how far it’s come.”

Add to that two of Beckett’s former teammates at Virginia Tech — wide receiver Eric Kumah and tight end Chris Cunningham — are now with Old Dominion, and it creates a myriad of emotions for the Herd’s leading tackler.

“I trained every day with them,” Beckett said. “Just like I’m building the bond with these guys, that bond was already built with them and it will be there forever. I always went against them because they are on offense, and me and Chris — it’s tight end-linebacker — so we always literally went at each other.”

Beckett even joked that he’s tried to call Cunningham already this week, but hasn’t received an answer.

“It’s always been fun, and the last time we went at it, I hit him pretty hard and we joked about him getting his get-back,” Beckett said. “Now, we’re in the same conference and we get to play against each other. This date has been circled for us to go at it. It will be fun to see how we’ve gotten better.”

Beckett said that emotion plus each team’s situation creates an atmosphere that will be intense from the time each steps on the field before Saturday’s game.

“I’m going to try to get under some skin and try to get a couple calls on them — get them out of their game a bit,” Beckett said.

Regardless of the talk, Beckett knows that each team is coming in with a big chip on its shoulder with the Herd having lost two straight and ODU on a four-game skid.

The Herd isn’t happy with a 2-3 record and the Monarchs feel they are better than the 1-4 mark they carry into Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Saturday offers a chance for one to right the ship.

“It’s definitely going to be thick,” Beckett said. “I already know the trash-talking is going to be there, but it’s all about staying composed. It’s all fun — trash-talking, playing — but you’ve still got to get your job done. You can’t let that get you off. I’ve still got to play my game and do my assignment. I want to try to lead our defense to get back where we were against Boise State.”

Beckett said that the game will be fun regardless as a team from his hometown takes on his new team from his new home.

“It’s pretty fun to see that team from back home and having some guys that I know come up and play against us in my home state,” Beckett said. “This is about defending my home now.”