2018 1021 mu football

Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Marshall running back Tyler King (3) leaps forward as he attempt to avoid a Florida Atlantic defender during a C-USA football game on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va.

What is the most intriguing position to watch for Marshall on Saturday?

For me, it's the linebacker spot. Omari Cobb returns with experience, but the combinations used during the preseason have been a mesh of inexperience in game action, so it will be interesting to see who performs under the lights. While Jaquan Yulee and Tavante Beckett are likely to get the starting nod, another player to watch for at the linebacker spot includes local product Tyler Brown, whom head coach Doc Holliday praised in the preseason.

Where is one area that Marshall could struggle in against the Keydets?

VMI's lack of a rushing attack last season and the Herd being one of the nation's best against the run means that the Keydets are likely to incorporate a quick passing game in order to move the ball down the field. Marshall's biggest area of concern is focus and staying calm. In first games, everyone wants to make a big play, but taking chances against a team who is going quick-strike can lead to missed tackles and bigger gains. Also, Marshall has to guard against taking senseless penalties. Both of those aspects get down to mental focus and not overlooking opponents. VMI was one of FCS' best in penalty yards per game last season.

What do we need to know about VMI?

The Keydets have struggled over the last few seasons, but do possess a decently-talented quarterback who was able to move the ball well last season in Reece Udinski. Udinski throws to multiple targets and gets the ball out quickly, but the lack of a rushing attack really hinders the Keydets' offense, which allows the opposition to fire at Udinski on a regular basis. Due to that one-dimension offense, VMI quarterbacks - mainly Udinski - were sacked 50 times. The offense also had 26 turnovers. Expect Marshall to put heat on Udinski early and often to see if he can withstand the pressure. As rough as the offense was in 2018, so too was the defense, which gave up more than 500 yards per game.

Who is a player to watch on Saturday?

Running back Tyler King will see his first action since midway through the 2018 season, and King has looked even more explosive in the preseason than in the 2018 campaign. Given that the offensive line returns five players with starting experience, plus adds former Florida State starter Josh Ball to the mix, the rushing attack could be alive and well on Saturday - especially given that VMI allowed 265.1 yards rushing per game last season. King could announce his 2019 presence quickly and he and fellow running back Brenden Knox should have big days for the Herd offense.

The game will be considered a success if ...

... if Marshall comes out of it without losing anyone to injury while getting players some needed experience - especially on the defensive side - in the season-opener. To do so, Marshall needs to come out focused and set the tone early against a VMI team that allowed 48 points per game last season against primarily FCS competition. One player who could see action to get acclimated to college football is Charleston native and Herd true freshman Grant Wells. Especially given the NCAA's new redshirt policy, this would be one of few opportunities for Holliday to get down to the third - and maybe even fourth - quarterbacks to provide them with game experience. Even though Boise State looms just six days later, Marshall's focus needs to be on eliminating the Keydets early and working on areas of need before the battle with the Broncos.


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