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Thundering Herd gears up

MU football
Apr. 27, 2013 @ 12:46 AM

HUNTINGTON -- On Saturday, the month-long spring practice session for Marshall University football will culminate with the 2 p.m. Green-White Game, an annual fixture for Thundering Herd fans in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

It will be offense vs. defense with a unique scoring format.

The offense will get points for first downs, plays of more than 20 yards and touchdowns. The defense will score on forced punts, quarterback sacks, tackles for loss, forced turnovers and defensive scores.

Quarters one and two will be starting players against starting players with a with a normal running-clock format. After that first half of action is finished, there will be an untimed series of plays that gets into situational play.

Following are five things to watch for on Saturday:

STEFAN HOUSTON: The December signee out of Fork Union Military Academy has made an instant impact for the defense from his linebacker spot. Houston possesses the speed and skill to be an immediate impact player for Marshall. His speed and football awareness has wreaked havoc with the offense this spring.

Defensive energy: After hovering near the bottom of the NCAA in total defense last season, the Herd defense has certainly looked much improved this spring under new coordinator Chuck Heater. The biggest visible change -- other than playmaking -- has been in the energy from the unit. After a first week in which the players were trying to get accustomed to Heater and his scheme, the entire unit is flying around to the football and making life hard on an offense that was among the nation's best last year.

Shawney Kersey: Marshall's new X receiver has been somewhat of an enigma this spring. During the Tuesday and Thursday practices, he has shown lots of promise, running quick, crisp routes and gaining separation on defenders. During the two Saturday scrimmages, he has had trouble hanging on to the football in open-catch situations, though, and that is a bit of a concern. Kersey had possibly his best overall practice on Tuesday and will be looking to go out with a solid Saturday performance to prove that he can get the job done "with the lights on."

Defensive line: One of the biggest issues last year and a continued question mark this year has been this -- Can the defensive line get to the quarterback? Jeremiah Taylor, Brandon Sparrow and Alex Bazzie are returnees with last year's experience, but the Herd needs depth to bolster the unit. In the last two weeks, players such as Ken Smith, Joe Massaquoi and Ra'Shawde Myers have elevated their play.

Devon Smith: Everyone knows what Tommy Shuler can do out of the slot receiver position, but Smith's inclusion has added a new dimension to the Herd passing game that is impressive. With the addition of Smith, Marshall likely possesses one of the top slot receiving combos in the nation -- the sure-handed Shuler, who is the ultimate possession receiver to keep the chains moving, and the speedster Smith, who can catch a pass, make a cut and be gone in a flash. If the diminutive receiver gets out of the grasp of a defender, no one is going to catch him.

Memorial Fountain Ceremony

HUNTINGTON -- The annual spring "turning on" of Memorial Fountain ceremony is 11 a.m., Saturday, outside at Memorial Student Center. The featured speaker will be Bill Forbes, a Marshall football team letterwinner from 1974 to 1976.

-- The Herald-Dispatch

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