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C-USA Media Day goes to videoconference

MU football
Jul. 31, 2009 @ 12:10 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Conference USA football Media Day highlights juggled the upcoming season and a significant format shift.

Instead of head coaches, players and media members huddling in a Memphis, or a Dallas-based hotel conference room, all involved remained in respective hometowns, conducting interviews via videoconference. Marshall University head coach Mark Snyder and preseason All-C-USA tight end Cody Slate represented the Thundering Herd from a John Deaver Drinko Library conference room.

Topics obviously varied throughout the three-hour plus press event. Yes, East Carolina in the East Division and Houston in the West are considered favorites. Southern Miss expects to improve in its second season under head coach Larry Fedora. Memphis is long (literally and otherwise) at skill positions, but offensive line is a real concern. Leadership is an issue at UTEP, which has faded in recent regular seasons.

As for Marshall, Snyder more than was content to conduct Media Day from campus. By mid-afternoon, the fifth-year coach was back in his office and on the job, in lieu of glad-handing through conventional Media Day festivities.

"Cody was mad. I was happy," Snyder said. "He wanted to get on a plane. I've been doing a bunch of traveling. It's good for us and I think a lot more media participated in this."

Media Day somewhat is awkward because head coaches aren't permitted to conduct summer workouts. Snyder couldn't talk specifics, but based on spring practice leading to next week's kickoff of August preseason camp, he's optimistic.

"We look like a different-looking football team," Snyder said. "We have good-looking players -- Cody being one of them, putting on all weight he's put on. There's a lot of good-looking football players, and I'm excited to see the freshmen."

Slate, a senior from Chipley, Fla., enters 2009 with 2,012 career receiving yards and 19 career touchdown receptions. He needs only 88 yards to become the all-time leading receiver among tight ends in Marshall history. He is a 2009 Preseason First-Team All-Conference USA selection by the both the league's head coaches and media.

He's bulked his 6-foot-4 frame to 229 pounds to become a more complete player, rather than a speedy tight end/wide receiver hybrid.

"I'm in the best shape I've ever been in," said Slate adding that he's far from satisfied. "I never feel I'm where I need to be. I always feel like I need to get better. I can go out and have the game of my life and the next week I want to do better. I'm always going to push myself."

Such an approach from an accomplished veteran spurs Snyder, who now has a majority of seniors and juniors dotting his two-deep roster as opposed to previous seasons. Fifteen starters return, and each coaching coordinator is back for a second season.

"From a leadership role, to a comfort level, to know what to expect when they come into camp," Snyder said when asked about continuity. "They know exactly what it's going to be. We haven't changed.

"That's the advantage of being around for a while. You see the coaching staffs who have had consistency without things changing, that's why they continue to win."



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