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Depth has Herd optimistic

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Well, let’s not get too optimistic.

Preseason is a time of optimism, but first-year Marshall Thundering Herd defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap gave a tongue-in-check prediction for the team at Friday’s media day.

Directing his comments at offensive coordinator Larry Kueck, Dunlap said, “(Kueck) guaranteed me 35 points a game, so who cares what we do on defense, right?”

Even though it was a joke, Marshall’s improvement in terms of depth and talent is nothing to laugh about unless you’re a Herd fan.

Third-year head coach Mark Snyder said there is a guarded optimism among the team and coaching staff.

“I told the (coaches) after our morning run it’s visible,” said Snyder. “You can see it. We can all see it. And it will only get better as I’ve been saying since I’ve been here.”

Although it is Snyder’s third season, it is only his second recruiting class since he was hired after spring ball prior to the 2005 season.

Kueck, who returned to Marshall in 2002 after a previous stint, is impressed with the type of talent the Herd is beginning to bring to the cupboard.

“Two things stood out to me, the older kids who have been around a while were very businesslike. They did a good job trying to do what we said as coaches. It was a smooth way to practice,” said Kueck.

“Another thing I noticed, this has got to be the best recruiting class since I’ve been here. We’ve got plenty of offensive linemen. Our five (new) offensive linemen right now are, by far, the best group we’ve recruited since I’ve been here.”

The strength of the team still lies with senior center Doug Legursky, a preseason Rimington nominee, All-Conference USA, and All-American candidate as well as junior defensive end Albert McClellan who has garnered similar honors after being named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year last season.

The addition of some newer, younger players will bolster the offense and defense, especially at linebacker with Antawn Booker, Mario Harvey, Kellen Harris, and Cory Hart joining the likes of Will Albin.

“We truly have some competition and that will continue to grow and grow. And competition makes us all better,” said Snyder.

While Marshall may have upgraded its talent, so is its schedule. The Herd open at Miami, Fla., hosts preseason power West Virginia, New Hampshire, and has a road game at Cincinnati on its fourth date before facing the conference schedule.