Writer's note: This is the second installment of a 10-part series breaking down Marshall's 2019 football team by position before the Thundering Herd reports to preseason camp on Aug. 1. This story will focus on Marshall's running back position.
HUNTINGTON - When Marshall won its lone Conference USA football championship in the 2014 season, many looked to the aerial attack, led by record-setting quarterback Rakeem Cato, as the main factor.
What isn't seen is that the passing attack actually netted fewer yards in 2014's championship run than what it did in the 2013 season when the team advanced to the C-USA title game where it fell to Rice.
Instead, the biggest offensive factor in the 2014 championship run was actually the rushing attack, which was bolstered by the addition of the late Devon Johnson, who added a power element to the returning talent of Steward Butler and Remi Watson in that season.
With Marshall now favored to win Conference USA's East Division for the first time since 2014, it is again the rushing attack that is in the spotlight (and the strength of the offensive line leading it ... but we'll save that for another day).
Also, the look that Marshall can bring to the table is not much different than the one that made them successful in 2014.
It starts with Brenden Knox, who emerged as a major force late in the season when both Tyler King and Keion Davis were sidelined due to injuries. Knox ended the year with 578 yards on the ground in only five games.
Knox's breakout game came against Virginia Tech, when he rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns against the Hokies. He also was on pace for a big game in the bowl contest against South Florida before a broken hand forced him out of action early in the second quarter with 93 yards on 12 carries.
The power with which Knox runs is reminiscent of Johnson's primary weapon during his two years in the backfield. The result was a punishing offensive effort, opening the way for big speed plays later in contests.
Marshall again has that setup in its arsenal for 2019.
Knox's thunder is matched by King's lightning and flash as he brings explosiveness to the offense with game-breaker speed best evidenced in 2017 when he ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
Despite playing in only seven games last season, King finished with 655 yards and was Marshall's leading rusher. Albeit in different ways, he and Knox each averaged 6.1 yards per carry last season while finishing with four touchdowns apiece.
Ironically, they never saw the field as running backs in the same game, which brings an interesting dynamic to the 2019 season.
King went on a strong surge in the middle of the season, rushing for 165 yards against Middle Tennessee, 195 at Old Dominion and 125 against Florida Atlantic before leaving the latter due to an injury that proved to be the end of his season.
Knox did not see action in the backfield until two games later when he debuted against Charlotte and rushed for 116 yards - nearly all in the second half - of a win over the 49ers, which started his strong stretch to end the season.
With both returning healthy for the fall, the possibilities are plentiful for a strong one-two punch in the backfield with Knox and King.
Depth at the running back position should not be an issue for the Herd, either, with Sheldon Evans also back in the mix after a spring session that saw increased repetitions and a 100-yard performance in the Green-White game.
Joseph Early also returns for the Herd, and others who will make their first appearance for the Herd in preseason camp include 2019 signees Knowledge McDaniel and Cedrick Wilcox and 2018 signees Jalynn Sykes and Lawrence Papillon.