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Chuck Landon: The lows and highs of spring practice

Apr. 25, 2011 @ 11:35 PM

Has everybody dried out from the Green-White game?

OK, then, let's review Marshall's just completed spring football practice.

Here were the highs and lows.

High: The return of John Bruhin.

The jury is still out whether the senior offensive lineman's chronic lower back injuries will allow him to play full blast. But so far, so good.

The true test will come during preseason camp in August. Until then, let's indulge in some optimism.

What if Bruhin's back gets healthy enough that he's available for full-time duty? It would be huge for Marshall's struggling offensive line to have Bruhin at right guard and move C.J. Wood out to right tackle.

"I'd love to move back out to tackle," said Wood with a big smile.

Low: Injuries to linebackers Devin Arrington and Zach Dunston.

Just when the linebacker corps of Arrington at weak-side, Dunston at strong-side and Tyson Gale in the middle was starting to show some real promise, the bookends got hurt.

Arrington was starting to prove he could play on either side when he suffered a hand injury. Dunston was showing why he was moved from strong safety, actually starting at strong-side during a scrimmage and making plays.

But, then, Dunston went down with an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

High: The inspired play of walk-ons Essray Taliaferro and Alex Bazzie.

Of course, we won't be able to call them walk-ons for long. The pair of sophomores played so well during spring drills, MU head coach Doc Holliday is putting them on scholarship for the fall semester.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean Taliaferro and Bazzie will make an impact at running back and defensive end, respectively, next season.

That's a tall order.

Running back just might be the most competitive position on the entire team in pre-season camp and defensive end is very deep.

Low: Injuries, in general.

By the middle of spring drills, there were as many as 19 players not practicing at all or in a limited capacity. That's not a good sign for a team that will have to be tough merely to survive next season's rugged schedule.

High: Martin Ward's Green-White performance.

The former Little Caesars Pizza Bowl MVP hasn't forgotten how to run. And he proved it by rushing for a game-high 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Although the coaching staff lost confidence in Ward last season, he showed he's still a playmaker.

Low: Brandon "The Incredible Bulk" Bullock.

After losing enough weight to be a legit player at defensive tackle last season, the senior ballooned to 378 pounds after knee surgery. Where is Jamie Oliver -- not to mention a barber -- when we need him?

High: The Juggs pass-throwing machine returned.

When I suggested the slippery-fingered receiving corps was in bad need of reps with that machine last season, the idea was ignored. But when new wide receiver coach Gerald Parker arrived, guess what came out of moth balls?

The Juggs machine.

And not a moment too soon. Wideout Jazz King set an Edwards Stadium record for most punishment pushups for dropping passes. Apparently, it worked because King caught five passes in the Green-White game.

Low: Spring practice, in general.

The injuries, the quarterbacks not stepping up and the overall lack of excitement leads me to call it the most insignificant spring practice I've ever witnessed.

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



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