Herd wants more offense
HUNTINGTON -- Following Tuesday's initial Marshall University spring football practice, many of the questions surrounding the Thundering Herd offense centered on one general theme.
How does a team that put up so many points and yards in 2012 improve on one of the more successful offensive seasons in recent Thundering Herd history?
The question appeared to almost surprise quarterback Rakeem Cato, who started rattling off several different items the Herd is focused on for 2013.
"We've just got to keep going hard and bring our A-game every day," Cato said. "Don't get big-headed. It was one season and that season is out of the way. This is a new year and we've got to keep going on."
While the up-tempo scheme will remain intact under offensive coordinator Bill Legg, every offensive spot will be learning their discipline under a new coach in 2013.
In addition to his duties as offensive coordinator, Legg will take over coaching quarterbacks for Tony Petersen, who left for Louisiana Tech.
Cato will not only have a new coach, but several new targets after the graduation of impact seniors Aaron Dobson, Antavious Wilson and Andre Snipes-Booker.
Now, names like Shawney Kersey, Davonte Allen and Devon Smith will become more prevalent, along with Cato's former high school teammate and favorite target from 2012, Tommy Shuler.
Shuler returns after an All-Conference USA season at wide receiver when he broke the Marshall season reception mark with 110 for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.
The receivers will have a new coach in former NFL wide receiver Mike Furrey, who comes to Marshall after being the head coach at Kentucky Christian.
Shuler said he's eager to learn under Furrey.
"I feel like he's going to push me harder just because he knows what I've got to do to get to the next level," Shuler said.
The three-headed freshman monster at running back -- Conference USA Freshman of the Year Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson -- all will learn under new running backs coach Thomas Brown, who owned his own chunk of success as a running back at Georgia.
The trio accounted for more than 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2012.
Marshall tight ends will have a new coach in Todd Hartley, who moves over to the offensive side from safeties and Alex Mirabal takes over the offensive line with Legg's switch to quarterbacks.
Junior center Chris Jasperse said the entire unit is focused on refining its skills -- whether it be blocking for the run a bit better to be a more balanced offense or simply taking care of things a bit better to translate close losses into victories. That was a problem in 2012 with four of the losses by a score or less.
"Last year's offense, we did well, but not as good as we could," Jasperse said. "There were a lot of times late in the game when the ball was in our hands and even though we put a lot of points up, we couldn't finish. In order for us to win, it has to be offense and defense together.
"It doesn't matter if we put up 80, the other team could still score 81 without the other side. At the same time, if our defense holds them to seven, we won't win if we don't finish. We have to finish. We do that, and we'll have a successful year."
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