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Chuck Landon: MU spring football is full of questions

Mar. 26, 2013 @ 12:33 AM

The weather is a frozen mix of snow, sleet and rain.

The wind chill temperature is in the low 20s.

And the press box at Edwards Stadium is closed for construction and, perhaps, the entire west grandstand will be off limits.

So, it's time for any sane sportswriter with bronchitis to stay indoors, right?

Wrong.

Instead, it's time for the opening day of Marshall's spring football practice, beginning at 3 p.m. Tuesday on the frozen tundra of Lambeau, er, Edwards Stadium.

Altogether now, group brrrrr.

But since it is spring -- at least, theoretically -- it means I am blooming like a daffodil with questions. Such as:

How is new defensive coordinator Chuck Heater going to manufacture a pass rush from the edge?

Talk about a daunting task. Marshall's recruiting class was ranked as the best among all non-BCS programs, but it still didn't address the Herd's biggest need. Namely, a defensive end who can supply an effective pass rush.

Marshall didn't have one last season and still doesn't. Sure, the Herd recruited junior college defensive end Arnold Blackmon. But he's undersized at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds and under-recruited. Blackmon also isn't something else: Here.

What Marshall needs is another Vinny Curry, Albert McClellan, Johnathan Goddard, B.J. Cohen or Paul Toviessi. Who knows, perhaps, one is lurking on the roster.

It could be James Rouse, who missed last season after tearing his Achilles tendon during 2012 spring drills. But we won't find out this spring because Rouse is limited to non-contact drills.

That puts the focus on such young guys as Marcus Gilchrist, Joe Massaquoi and Armonze Daniel. One of those guys needs to step up -- starting Tuesday.

How will the horrific special teams be fixed?

There's nothing ailing the mediocre kickoff team that a place-kicker who can boot the ball out of the end zone won't cure.

Who is going to replace Aaron Dobson at the X wide receiver spot?

Marshall didn't stretch the field with Dobson enough last season. The Herd got away with it because opposing defenses were surprised by MU's new, high-paced, throw-underneath offense.

But now?

Those defenses will be prepared. That's why it's vital to start developing a new, legitimate downfield threat during spring practice.

The No. 1 contender is Penn State transfer Shawney Kersey, who has both the size at 6-foot-1, 197 pounds and speed with a reported 4.45-seconds 40-yard time. Plus, Kersey has only one year of eligibility, so he should be highly motivated.

Other candidates include the oft-injured Davonte Allen, who is hurt again, and the inconsistent Demetrius Evans. Then, there's the intriguing Angelo Jean-Louis. As the No. 1 prospect in the Herd's 2013 recruiting class and a former Miami Hurricanes signee, he merits watching.

Now that the band-aids named Dom LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha are gone and the scab has been torn off the safeties positions, what will happen?

For starters, the no-brainer move of shifting D.J. Hunter back to strong safety already has been made. At free safety, it appears it will be juco transfer Taj Letman's job to lose.

Depth is a concern. In the mix are A.J. Leggett, who was moved to strong safety from cornerback; Shawn Samuels; Andre Scott (non-contact); and Corie Wilson.

When will ground be broken on a new indoor practice facility?

Not soon enough. ... cough, cough.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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