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Some points to ponder at spring season's end

Apr. 17, 2011 @ 10:20 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Saturday will end a Marshall University spring football season highlighted by the practice-to-practice ups and downs of two quarterbacks, the emergence of a talented freshman defensive backfield and injuries. Plenty of injuries.

But depleted roster and all, the Thundering Herd will still hold its annual Green-White Game at 4 p.m., Saturday, in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

In the meantime, tune-up practices will be held Tuesday through Friday.

Here are some points to ponder as the Herd hits the home stretch in America's favorite April pastime:

n Will A.J. Graham create any form of major separation over Eddie Sullivan in the QB derby?

Media members and observers of spring ball to the point have all agreed, Graham has an edge. But how much?

The redshirt sophomore started spring with the first team and is still with that group. He hasn't done anything to lose that spot, but he hasn't done anything to really confirm it either. Some days, he absolutely looks the part -- a solid blend of size and speed that can confidently run a spread offense. But other days, he's been a tad erratic -- see the two picks he tossed last Friday.

That nagging injury to his right ankle is also a concern.

On the flip side, Graham's kept his edge because Sullivan has had more struggles. Those dreaded backward scrambles still occur and his timing hasn't been all there.

But it might be important to not look too much into the true sophomore's average performance. The receiver position has been hit by more injuries than any other unit on the team, really thinning out Sullivan's throwing options on the second-string offense.

n Can the progress of the Marshall offensive line continue?

Really, there has been improvement.

The unit with a question mark the size of former tackle Daniel Baldridge -- 6-foot-9, 311 pounds -- going into spring is inching closer to finding answers.

With the senior tandem of Ryan Tillman (left tackle) and C.J. Wood (right guard) leading the way, the young guys joining them on the line are starting to gain some confidence. The emphasis there is on "young." Corey Tenney, who is getting first-team reps at right tackle, is a sophomore. Garrett Scott, a regular at first team left guard, is a sophomore. And the most recent center to snap with Graham on the first team is sophomore Chris Jasperse.

Also, don't forget about injured Alex Schooler, another sophomore who should be a favorite for Scott's left guard spot in the fall.

But with the current group, holes have recently started to develop and open for running back Tron Martinez and company, and Graham and Sullivan have had just that much longer to throw.

"The one thing I think about this offensive line," MU head coach Doc Holliday said last Wednesday, "and I told them yesterday, it was the first day since I've been here that I really felt like they've taken a step. Where they're blocking people and knocking people off the ball and making progress. ... We have a long way to go there. We still aren't near where we need to be on that offensive line, but I like those guys and I like their attitude and their work ethic."

What will be the starting linebacker corps come next season's opener?

If you're getting a headache trying to keep up with where the linebackers have been mixed and matched this spring, just wait until fall camp.

The only consistent player in that area has been George Carpenter. Yes, the senior who has never started a game in his career -- if that gives you any indication of how wacky it's been.

Kellen Harris, 17 career starts, has been hurt, so has Tyson Gale, eight, and Devin Arrington, 11, has been in and out of the doghouse. Sophomore T.J. Ross has showed promise, as did newly converted LB Zach Dunston before he was sidelined with injury.

But trying to figure it all out now might be pointless considering ...

"We have five linebackers that are coming in here that, athletically ... wow," said a smiling Chris Rippon, MU's defensive coordinator.

Those five are some of the gems of the most recent recruiting class -- Cortez Carter, Armonze Daniel, Jermaine Holmes, Deon Meadows and Robert Way. All talented and all schedule to arrive in time for preseason camp.

Andrew Ramspacher is a sports reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or aramspacher@herald-dispatch.com.

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