Spring Practice Review: Stock Up & Stock Down
Marshall spring football practice is more than halfway in the books as the Thundering Herd completed its of ninth out of 14 practices Saturday. As the Herd approaches its Sept. 1 season opener at Miami (OH), multiple players have had a good showing. However, questions linger about its current 80-man roster.
The departure of key players such as QB Chase Litton, TE Ryan Yuracheck, and K/P Karee Vedvik turned the spring into a tryout at multiple positions—something the Herd wasn’t expecting at the end of last season. With the impending arrival of grad-transfer QB Alex Thomson—who still has to graduate from Wagner before taking the field at Marshall—QB’s Isaiah Green, Garet Morrel, and Jackson White received a healthy number of reps.
One thing is abundantly clear: Marshall has a plethora of talent and depth. The questions remain, however, as in-practice talent doesn’t always translate to in-game performance. This piece highlights seven key Herd players and analyzes their stock value as the Herd inches closer to kickoff. Who looks good, who needs work? Who will shine come game day?
Stock Up: Tyre Brady
It’s only appropriate to highlight Marshall’s star wide-out: redshirt senior Tyre Brady. The Miami (FL) transfer provides Marshall with some star power and experience. In his 11 games played in 2017, Brady led the team with 942 receiving yards off of 62 receptions and eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 201-pounder is down seven pounds lighter than his listed weight of 208 pounds in 2017. With the weight change, brings more speed. He seems to have gained a step or two over the offseason.
Additionally, Brady has spent spring catching passes from young, less experienced quarterbacks, making for less accurate passes. For Brady, though, the lack of accuracy opens the door for more acrobatic, athletic receptions. And he makes it look easy. In practice, he’s caught passes thrown behind him and in traffic. Brady uses every inch of his size to jump over defensive backs, which is a valuable asset—especially in red zone situations in which a jump-ball in the back of the end zone is necessary.
Brady is more than just a star athlete, though. He’s also a mentor to younger players. Because Marshall’s coaching staff knows what Brady can do—and for the purpose of preservation—he’s received limited live reps this spring. In the meantime, he’s acted informally in a player-coach-type role. On several occasions—especially during live team drills, Brady took the field without a helmet and shadowed younger receivers. In one instance, he coached up redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Maddox—who recently converted from linebacker to wide receiver—giving him advice in-between each live play.
Brady will be likely be a favorite to win C-USA Offensive Player of the Year—an honor that a Herd player hasn’t received since Rakeem Cato in 2014.
Stock Down: Garet Morrell
I’m mainly down on him because of how well Green has been this spring. Morrell still has a clear stranglehold over Jackson White on the depth chart, but Green has looked like the best QB of the bunch. With Alex Thomson coming into the fold in the summer, I can’t see Morrell sticking around if he’s going to be the No. 3 quarterback behind a pair of guys with multiple years of eligibility left (Thomson has two years as a grad transfer, while Green redshirted in 2017 and has all four years of eligibility). This i just our opinion, but look for Morrell to potentially explore a transfer, with a likely destination being an FCS school closer to his hometown of Leesburg, Georgia so he’ll be eligible to play in 2018.
Stock Up: Isaiah Green
As the Herd awaits the arrival of projected starting quarterback, graduate-transfer Alex Thomson, current quarterbacks Garet Morrell, Isaiah Green, and Jackson White are amidst a competition for what will probably be a backup role behind Thomson. After nine practices, one thing is abundantly clear: Isaiah Green is talented. The competition is bringing the best out of the three, but Green is far-and-away the most talented.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound redshirt freshman out of Fairburn, Georgia doesn’t look like a freshman in the least. During live teams drills, he exhibits composure and maturity under-center and makes good decisions with the football. He’s able to disguise his intentions (especially when pump fakes and fake handoffs), think quickly under pressure, recognize defensive formations and use mobility to his advantage.
“(Green is) athletic,” head coach Doc Holliday said. “He’s a confident kid and, at that position, that’s critical.”
At Langston Hughes high school (Fairburn, Georgia), he combined for 6,894 passing yards with 57 passing touchdowns and 30 interceptions over four varsity seasons. During that same timeframe, he racked up impressive stats on the ground, as he rushed for 667 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“We talk about having the ability to beat you with their feet,” Holliday said. “(Green) has that ability. He’s not a burner, but he can pull the ball down and make plays when you need him to.”
With his history of speed and mobility, Green will be Marshall’s first dual-threat quarterback since the departure of Rakeem Cato on 2014. Though he will likely be second-string, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him used in situational aspects this season. Additionally, expect to see quite a bit of him under-center in a couple of years. After the future departure of Thomson, he’s going to be the go-to man.
Stock Down: Chad Clay
When Clay committed and signed with the Herd last year, he was considered by some as a prospect who could start almost immediately. Instead, the former Georgia Bulldog has been a major disappointment. Clay has been almost nonexistent in practices and has performed at a backup level at best. For a guy with high expectations coming in, Clay has done nothing to live up to the hype and will likely not play much of a factor this season in Adam Fuller’s defense, seeing that Brandon Drayton and Malik Gant will play at the safety positions while Chris Jackson will be lined up alongside some combination of Jaylon McClain-Sapp, Kereon Merrell, Jestin Morrow and Nazeeh Johnson at corner. It’s a tough group to separate yourself from, but with all the hype that Clay had coming in after a season at Butler Community College, one of the premier JUCO programs, most would’ve expected that he would at least be able to find his way onto the field as a situational guy right now.
Stock Up: Alex Mollette
Marshall returns all five starters along the offensive line, so it’s no surprise to see one make this list, but Mollette has had a rock-solid spring. Playing at guard, Mollette carries a mean streak that makes him a solid run blocker, and he’s shown that in the offseason, opening up holes during practice for all three feature backs (Keion Davis, Tyler King and Anthony Anderson). Mollette has also proven to be a solid pass blocker as well, as showcased by the low sack rate a year ago, and that has transitioned into practices as well, giving whoever is behind center a chance to get off an open throw. Mollette, listed at 6-3, 284 pounds, may want to bulk up to around 300-305 if he’s going to consistently play inside at guard, but he’s also versatile enough to where he can be kicked either inside to center or outside to tackle, which is definitely a plus for new offensive line coach Greg Adkins.
Stock TBD: Ryan Bee & Chris Jackson
This is not due to anything on the field at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Jackson has been in a red no-contact jersey for every practice this spring, usually going through warm-ups and individual drills before taking his pads off during the team drills. Bee, on the other hand, is still recovering from offseason surgery and is unlikely to take part in any spring drills. While both are expected to start in 2018 and play key roles in Adam Fuller’s defense, you can’t say their stock is up or even when they’re not on the field for team drills.