Small group of seniors big for Herd
HUNTINGTON -- When Marshall University's football team walks out of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium tunnel Saturday, there will be eight seniors making their final entrance for a home crowd.
Marshall has one of the smallest senior classes in the nation, but even though the number is small, their collective impact on the school has been large.
Six seniors -- Aaron Dobson, Antavious Wilson, Andre Snipes-Booker, Martin Ward, Devin Arrington and John Bruhin -- have been around since the beginning of head coach Doc Holliday's tenure after a tough final year under former coach Mark Snyder.
Two other seniors -- Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha -- came to the Thundering Herd this season as graduate transfers from Boston College and have definitely made the most of their one year.
No matter the situation, it has been a senior class that has brought a bit of everything to Marshall.
Bruhin, a sixth-year offensive lineman, has overcome just about all a man can overcome during a college football career. He's endured extensive surgeries from injuries that forced him to redshirt two years while also overcoming the pain of dealing with the death of his brother -- former Marshall lineman Zane Bruhin.
He has missed the last two games because of injuries, but considering what he's been through, it will take an entire football team to keep him off the field in his final home game.
Houston and Marshall, both 4-6 for the season and 3-3 in Conference USA, meet Saturday at noon in a game televised by CSS, which is Ch. 68 on Huntington cable.
When Bruhin runs out, it will be an emotional moment for he and his family.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday got a little bit hushed and choked up when asked about what a player like Bruhin means to the team.
"I'm not sure there's anyone out there who has been through any more adversity than what that kid has," Holliday said. "That kid deserves for something really good to happen for him. He's such a great kid and he loves this place. Good things will happen for John Bruhin because of the kind of kid he is."
Much like with Bruhin, injuries have plagued the already-thin senior class in recent weeks, and there's a good chance that three seniors will not get to take the field for their Senior Day.
Linebacker Devin Arrington is likely out with a knee injury and Andre Snipes-Booker will likely miss after taking a shot to the head on a fourth-quarter kickoff return against UAB.
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson is the wild-card of the bunch. Dobson injured his knee on the first play of the UCF contest and has not returned to the field since. Holliday called his status "very questionable" during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
If those three players have played their last snaps at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, they've all given Marshall fans many things to cheer about.
Seniors who are certain to grace the field of play include wide receiver Antavious Wilson, who has had a great bounce-back year after struggling during his junior season.
Wilson has 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns this year.
The other senior that will be out there is Martin Ward, who has remained steady and done what the team has asked despite his roll decreasing since he was the starting running back during his freshman campaign.
In addition to those seniors who have been around for the duration, LeGrande and Okoroha came to the Herd this season in search of an opportunity to start for a team with high expectations.
LeGrande leads the team with 108 tackles while Okoroha is second with 95 tackles despite seeing action in the last few games with a broken hand, which he suffered at Southern Miss.
"I can't say enough about those two kids and what they've done," Holliday said. "Are they perfect? No, but I guarantee they are giving you everything they've got and they are playing as hard as they can play. I'm glad they're here."
The interesting thing about the crop of seniors is that if it hadn't been for Snyder's move to burn the redshirts of three of them -- Dobson, Snipes-Booker and Wilson -- during his final year, they would still be juniors.
Holliday talked about that as well earlier in the week.
"If you take those three out, you only have three (full-term) seniors out there," Holliday said. "That's what you've got if those kids are redshirted like they should have been."
No matter the situation of Marshall's seniors, all have made important contributions to the program whether it is on-field production, off-field leadership or guidance for the future of Marshall football.