HUNTINGTON — The theme of the 2021 season for Marshall’s football program is change.
One area where change would not necessarily be expected is on the offensive line, though, with five returnees with starting experience back in the mix.
There are 158 starts among the five seniors currently with the program in spring ball, and there are another few players behind them who have experience, making it one of the top veteran groups that new coach Charles Huff inherits.
“Up front, those guys are a veteran group, so they’ve been molding pretty good,” Huff said.
Huff said the group is led by Will Ulmer, who comes into his sixth season with the program and has appeared in 48 games with 44 starts to his credit.
“Will Ulmer has done a really good job anchoring down that O-line spot and helping guys,” Huff said.
While Huff knows he has a wealth of experience at the position, that isn’t keeping him from having new offensive line coach Eddy Morrissey shake things up a bit this spring.
Many of Marshall’s players are seeing time at other positions during the spring sessions in order to make sure the Thundering Herd is solid at every position while also building depth toward the future.
“What we’re trying to do is create some consistency in depth because we don’t know what five guys are going to be able to play,” Huff said. “We can’t just say, ‘You’re a left tackle’ or ‘You’re a right guard’ or ‘You’re a center.’ We’ve got to be able to say, ‘You’re one of the best five.’”
That means that All-American right guard Cain Madden — known as “Dumptruck,” as Huff learned upon arrival — has shifted some.
So too have Ulmer and fellow tackle stalwart Tarik Adams, both of whom come into 2021 with 40-plus starts under their belt for the Herd.
“[Ulmer] and Adams are moving around a bunch,” Huff said. “Dumptruck has been a guy we’ve moved around a lot.”
It’s all part of Huff’s journey in making sure that the personnel are in positions that fit his scheme the best.
What fit Marshall for the last two seasons under Tim Cramsey’s attack might not fit the same under the attack being shown by Cramsey under Huff, so everything is on the table in terms of making the Herd as solid as possible heading into the Sept. 4 opener against Navy.
Huff said it is a process for those guys up front, but the veteran nature of the group means they can adapt quickly on the fly — which will be necessary under the new coach.
“Now, with that comes some uncomfortableness from them because they are moving around, but I think it’s going to help us in the long run,” Huff said.
With a few linemen limited in spring due to offseason procedures, that allows several players the opportunity to step up and get extended looks.
A couple of players who are using that to their advantage are in-state talents trying to impress the new coaching staff.
Former Cabell Midland offensive lineman Logan Osburn has seen extended time at guard and some time at center while former Wheeling Park lineman Tristen Bittner has also been in the mix.