Snyder facing young, untested Herd

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2005

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - It's out with the old and in with the new.

Marshall enters Conference USA after ending a string of 20 winning seasons last year with a 6-6 record. Taking Marshall into its new era will be new head coach Mark Snyder, a former All-American defensive back for the Herd in 1987.

Not only was the Thundering Herd just 6-6, they lost all but three offensive starters and three defensive starters.

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But despite the lack of veteran players, Snyder remains positive and his enthusiasm has spilled over to his players.

"We've been in a whirlwind since I've been hired," Snyder said. "Our staff has done a tremendous job. We are where we need to be from an organization standpoint.

"The thing you keep hearing is youth and enthusiasm and that's the way we're coaching right now."

Snyder, the defensive coordinator at Ohio State last year, wasn't hired until two days before the end of spring practice. Former coach Bob Pruett did not resign until just before the start of spring workouts.

Larry Kueck, who served as the interim head coach during the spring, remains as the offensive coordinator and Jimmy Collins was held over as the defensive coordinator. Both have formidable tasks ahead since the Herd has very few returning starters.

Toby Bullock. a 6-foot-4, 340-pound senior who moves from guard to tackle, joins running back Ahmad Bradshaw and 6-4, 315-pound junior tackle Seth Cook as the only returning starters on offense.

"We have a very young offensive football team," said Kueck.

"But we've had a real good time coaching them. Sometimes the most fun in coaching is when you have a young team that doesn't know their right from their left."

Junior quarterback Jimmy Skinner said Snyder has brought not only a new enthusiasm to the team, but organized and concise practices.

"I like coach Snyder. His practices are very organized. Everybody is doing something. There's no standing around," Skinner said.

Skinner is competing with sophomore Bernard Morris and junior college transfer Derek Devine for the starting quarterback position.

Morris, the frontrunner, got limited playing time last season as a wide receiver, catching five passes for 21 yards.

The entire front seven on defense are gone, but the defensive secondary could be a strength for the team. Three starters return including all-MAC second team selection Curtis Keyes are back.

Keyes had 108 tackles to lead the team and senior Chris Royal picked off six passes, two against Ohio State.

A move made last season could help the defense this year. Running back Dante Newsome was switched to linebacker and the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder led the Herd in tackles against Cincinnati in a 32-14 loss a the Plains Capital Fort Worth Bowl.

"The kids have been tuned in to everything the coaches have been saying because they know one of our chances this year is we have to outsmart some of our opponents this year," Snyder said.

One area of emphasis is special teams, something that has been part of Snyder's responsibilities as an assistant at Youngstown State and Ohio State.

Ian O'Connor gives Marshall a strong nucleus in the kicking game as he returns as the punter and placekicker.

"(Special teams) is the glue that brings this team together. That's offensive players and defensive players creating an edge somehow to win those close ball games," Snyder said.

The Herd opens the season at home Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. against William & Mary. Marshall is scheduled to be on television four times this season, twice on ESPN2 and two more times on College Sports TV.