HUNTINGTON — On Saturday, Marshall’s first run through a spring under head coach Charles Huff comes to a close.
While Huff said he wants it to be a fun time for players, that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of observations taken from the Green-White Game, which gets underway at 3 p.m. on Saturday from Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Consider Saturday’s game an audition for several positions as the Herd gets one step closer to the 2021 season-opener on Sept. 4.
Huff expects a competitive event as players try to make a name for themselves in the live game simulation.
While the players are looking to make their mark, Huff maintained that it is all part of a bigger process that moves into the summer and on into fall camp.
“You can tell there’s a little bit more energy, a little bit more excitement,” Huff said. “I think the players see themselves making progress. The biggest thing to me is that they still understand that we have a long ways to go.”
Huff said that the players may be eager to leave a mark on the field Saturday, but the spring game is only the next step in the building process into summer and forward into the start of fall preseason.
“What happens on Saturday is going to be a complete picture of what to evaluate when they come back in June or the end of May,” Huff said.
Two positions that will have the most eyes on them are places where the Herd lost valuable pieces in the 2020 season — both to declaration for the 2021 NFL Draft.
While the running back position is the most high-profile, the linebacker position is one that features a healthy competition with returning starters Eli Neal and Abraham Beauplan in the fold.
Some others who are looking to make their name include Charlie Gray, a former JUCO product and Brian Cavicante, a former standout at Delaware State that got limited repetitions last year due to the success of Tavante Beckett, who is now working toward a professional career.
“Really, what’s helping out that group is the competition because you’re really looking at two-and-a-half spots if you count the STAR, depending on if you are playing your nickel or base package,” Huff said. “You’re talking about four or five guys that want to play. Those four or five guys all have the talent.”
The running back position lost an every-down back in Brenden Knox, who averaged nearly 250 carries per season in his two years as the Herd’s mainstay in the backfield.
With Knox gone, there are plenty of carries to go around, and players such as Sheldon Evans, Lawrence Papillon, Knowledge McDaniel and Rasheen Ali to step into more carries.
All have shown flashes during their Marshall time, but consistency is what Huff is looking for in his backs, whether as a ball-carrier, pass-catcher or blocker in pass protection.
Those players whom take part on Saturday (availability still unknown) are going to have a chance to make their mark on the coaching staff.
Huff made sure to point out that, considering Marshall made the Conference USA title game last year, there is a standard already set and that standard has elevated this spring, meaning players are going to be held accountable in all phases.
Huff said the players’ response to that standard being raised has been promising during their spring work, and he’s excited to see the fruits of their labor on Saturday afternoon.
“Expectations are high and when expectations are high, you have to have the right mindset moving forward, so I’m excited,” Huff said. “We’re in a really good spot football-wise. We’ve been able to get through most of our installs. Players have a pretty good knowledge and grasp of the systems that we’re trying to run.”