Quarterbacks — Herd
Marshall starting quarterback Isaiah Green is coming off a solid freshman year in which he threw for 2,459 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Green especially looked good down the stretch of the season when he limited turnovers and led Marshall to wins in four of its last five games. VMI quarterback Reece Udinski is also a solid signal-caller for the Keydets. Last season, Udinski threw for 3,082 yards and 20 touchdowns, but 16 interceptions were an issue. If Udinski can limit those down, he has the chance to be really good.
Running backs — Herd
Marshall's tandem of Tyler King and Brenden Knox could prove to be one of the best Group of Five rushing attacks in the nation. Knox came on strong to end the 2018 season, rushing for 578 yards and four scores in only five games. King was also strong, rushing for 655 yards per game in seven contests. Oddly enough, they never appeared in the backfield together, meaning the 2019 season could be special for the Herd backfield. The rushing attack was non-existent for VMI last season as the unit rushed for only 687 yards on the year. Alex Ramsey does return after posting 317 yards, but look for the Keydets to open it up to find a spark.
Wide receivers — Herd
Even though Marshall lost Tyre Brady and Marcel Williams, there is still plenty of talent to be had. Obi Obialo has been strong in camp and grad transfer Tavin Richardson is also a playmaker who will catch many passes. The Herd also features a tight end trio of Armani Levias, Xavier Gaines and Devin Miller that could open eyes. VMI's receivers return a pair of seniors in Javeon Lara and Rohan Martin who provide more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns from last year's production, but losing star Kris Thornton - a 1,000-yard receiver - to James Madison i a tough blow.
Offensive line — Herd
Marshall returned four of five pieces from its offensive front and added JUCO lineman Josh Ball, who started 12 games as a freshman at Florida State. It is expected that the offensive line will be a strength of the team, which is big considering that the unit finished 26th in sacks allowed last year in FBS and was 4th the season before that. VMI's offensive front has to improve after allowing 50 (!?!) sacks in 2018. Those numbers contributed to the turnover totals.
Defensive line — Herd
Marshall replaces three pieces along the defensive front, but head coach Doc Holliday thinks this is the most talent from top to bottom that the team has seen in his tenure with the Herd. Channing Hames and Marquis Couch provide veteran leadership while players such as Darius Hodge, Kobe Cumberlander and Milan Lanier are players who will step into bigger roles in 2019. Chuck Weatherman and Jarrod Richmond lead the Keydets' defensive front.
Linebackers — Herd
VMI has way more experience returning, but the Herd still has plenty of talent with Omari Cobb returning and the Virginia-based tandem of Jaquan Yulee and Tavante Beckett looking to team up for success. The Keydets' Elliott Brewster tied for the team lead in tackles last season and was a leader while Ethan Caselberry is also back as well.
Secondary — Herd
Marshall has lots of experience in its defensive backfield with four-year starter Chris Jackson returning, along with cornerback Kereon Merrell and safety Nazeeh Johnson. Jaylon McClain-Sapp and Steven Gilmore provide depth at cornerback. VMI is led by A.J. Smith, who tied for the team-lead with 90 tackles, and Kaleb Tucker, who led the Keydets in passes defensed.
Special teams - Herd
Marshall's return game will look different, but the function of kicking is the same with Conference USA leader Matt Beardall back as longsnapper, Jackson White back as holder and Justin Rohrwasser returning as kicker and kickoff specialist. Robert LeFevre also is back to take care of punting duties. VMI punter Reed King returns after averaging 40 yards per punt and could also handled kicks, but the VMI coverage units have to improve after teams returned three punts for touchdowns in 2018.
Getting it done — Herd
This game could and should get ugly pretty quickly. Marshall has a lot of promise returning and while VMI's offense is decent, it is one-dimensional, which doesn't bode well for the Keydets. Also, VMI's defense allowed 48 points per game last year. Teams rushed for 265 yards per game on VMI last year, which could make for a huge day for the Herd on the ground.
VMI's A.J. Smith and Kaleb Tucker