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August 7, 2003     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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12 SPIRIT OF JEFFERSON Farmer's ADVOCATE - Thursday, August 7, 2003 iiii!iii!~ii~::::: ~il :ii .... ....... !i> Marshall coach Bob Pruett has won 80 games in seven seasons. Herd Expectations Rise With Hill By Bob Madison Chad Pennington is long gone. Off to the NFL and the New York Jets. Byron Leftwich hasn't been gone as long, but he is also in the NFL at Jacksonville after breaking most of Pennington's Marshall U. passing records. Now, it could be the turn of problem-filled Stan Hill, the apparent front runner for Leffwich's job. Hill turned the right heads when he threw four touchdown passes and ran for one in a late- season, 36-34, win over Miami of Ohio. Hill turned the wrong heads when he was twice arrested for moving violations and has one conviction for his driving record. To make Hill's emergence as the starter trying to fill the larger-than-life shoes of Leftwich will be tbur-year regu- lar Nate McPeek at linebacker, four-year starter Charles Tynes, also a linebacker, and wide reciver Darius Watts, an- other in a significant line of four-year starters. Running back Franklin Wallace is now a senior. Nate Manns is a junior wide re- ceiver. Senior Marian Hicks re- turns to the defense. Marshall has made a sched- uling habit of playing teams from a so-called power confer- ence on the road. Those games are to fill the athletic department coffers and for recruiting points. Games in the past have been at Clemson, North Caro- lina, Michigan State and Florida. This year, Marshall wilt travel to 108,000-seat Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee on September 6. Then comes a game at Top 10 member Kansas State in Manhattan, a city of some 32,000 on weekdays whose numbers swell to 65,000 on football Saturdays. Marshall is a member of the two-division Mid-American Conference and annually wins its division and plays in the league's championship game. And then a bowl game. And Marshall has won its last five bowl games. With Leftwich and a num- ber of offensive and defensive linemen gone from the bowl- winning 2002 team, Marshall is being left out of any national rankings . . . and has even fallen behind Miami of Ohio in the minds of those who closely watch the Mid-American mem- bers. The Thundering Herd has only five home games in Hun- tington and plays seven of its 12 games on the road. The Miami of Ohio game is on the road, but the Thunder- ing Herd has Toledo, Kent State, Ohio U. and Akron at home. Coach Bob Pruett was given a one-time $250,000 payment to augment his salary. Pruett has an overall record of 80-13 in his seven seasons as head coach. Hill is the one player who must perform well if Marshall is to reap more MAC rewards and trophies this season. Hill did well when Leftwich was injured and couldn't play the one time in 2002. After going to Knoxville to see the Big Orange, and then to Manhattan to see the Purple Passion of Kansas State, Hill should be ready for the MAC -- if he is still in one piece. Demar Atwood (56) and Robert Jarvis (10) chase down a WVIAC running back. Michael Walker (9) could become a wide receiver if Shepherd has a need at that position. Growing Confidence in By Bob Madison Beating Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh to close out the regular season put an exclama- tion point on West Virginia's 2002 football season. Even with a loss to Virginia in "vVVU's bowl game, the sea- son withstood an)" mild criti- cism because of the insulation provided by tt{e wins over the Hokies and Panthers. Now comes the third season with Rich Rodriguez. Almost all of coach Don Nehlen's play- ers have played their final day at Mountaineer Field. Rodriguez has his own re- cruits. These players have been in his system. And his alone. A 9-3 regular season record. Then a grind-'em-up loss to Vir- ginia. Now, it's 2003. The last year to see Virginia Tech since the Hokies are then leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference. The last year to see Miami. The Hurricanes are also taking their leave -- going to the ACC. The loss to Virginia was the final game for Avon Cobourne, Lance Nimmo, Phil Braxton, James Davis, Angel Estrada, A.J. Nastasi, Zack Dillow Da~qd Upchurch, Ben Collins, Kevin Freeman, Jason Davis, and Lewis Daniels. That's a significant number of seniors to lose. Experienced players still surround Rodriguez's third season. Quarterback Rasheed Mar- shall and newly-minted start- ing running back Quincy Wil- son have plenty of scoring help on their side of the football. Receivers Dee Alston, Miquelle Henderson, John Pennington, and Tory Johnson could take the defense's spot- light/attention off Marshall and Wilson. Rodriguez didn't place much trust in Marshall's throwing ability last year. Or was it that the coach had more trust in Cobourne? West Virginia didn't wow the world with its passing. Marshall never proved he could throw the long ball with much success. He never proved he could throw the medium range pass with nmch success. So, he was given a short list of roll out throws to make on the run. And it seemed all too often that the coaching staff hoped Marshall couldn't find his first choice of receivers . . . and then would choose to run. Throwing on-target on the run isn't easy even for passers with the strongest of arms or the wisest of decision-makers. And Marshall doesn't have the strongest of arms. There were significant losses in the offensive line. Jeff Berk, Tim Brown, and Tory Johnson (tight end) are the only returning starters. Names like "Ben Timmons", "Geoff Lewis", "Justin Will- iams", "Travis Garrett", and "Matt Ameri" won't be well- known even when the season is over. But they had better be ef- fective as blockers and hole- openers and pass protectors be- cause those offensive linemen might well be the make-or- break segment of the 200a team. There is no experience be- hind quarterback Marshall since Danny Einbick trans- ferred. The defense has linebacker Grant Wiley as its most famous face. The secondary has experi- enced faces who have never dis- tinguished themselves with ex- ceptional play. Mostly ordinary play -- even in two-year starters. Jahmile Addae is probably the best of the returning sec- ondary players. Brian King has been a focal point of opposition offenses for years and years. Lance Frazier is another ex- perienced -- if sometimes burned -- defender in the see- ondary. Linebacker Adam Lehnortt has to be much-improved to help take the focus of blockers away from Wiley,. It has been some time since West Virginia had adequate special teams. The coverage teams haven't been helpful and neither the punter nor placekicker have bailed the team out of trouble. Overall, this 12-game sched- ule is not one with opponents poised to blister the Mountain- eers and give tearful glimpses of the 2001 season's 3-8 record. There are seven home games. Wisconsin can be beaten in Morgantown in the Rodriguez is Maryland and Friedgen. Miami too far advanced for set in a Thursday in the humidity Bowl. Late-season ginia Tech and at home. But Bosto~ and Syracuse are on the road. Teams that don't pable of in any setting lina, Central nati, Rutgers, and Should those as "beatable" as West Virginia right there to make a~ eight-win season. Miami seems the Big East ner in its last league. Injuries shoulc ~AWU's chances. brought in a numberq whose abilities replace fallen starWX~ Several will be mid-season. The redshirt freshmen i~ show Rodriguez's abilit): The "depth" is more able than in years. The quality push this team to wins. And even in the Virginia shouldn't kind of domil bowl loss to Virginia. ? Mountaineer Field will host-Virginia Tech this season. Runners, Defense Make Shepherd By Bob r~dison Despite the loss of a four- year starter at quarterback and enough others from its sec- ond-place 2002 team, Shepherd has again been tabbed as the preseason favorite in the WVIAC. The Rams were given simi- lar first-place nods prior to both the 2001 and 2002 sea- sons. And they didn't win the conference title nor receive an NCAA Division II playoffbid in either year. The predicted order of finish "by the league's coaches had Shepherd first, followed in or- der by 2002 champion West Virginia Wesleyan, Fairmont, Glenville, West Liberty, Con- cord, West Virginia Tech, and West Virginia State. Shepherd will have to begin its practice schedule and pre- season maneuverings by find- ing someone who can give them some of the yardage, touch- downs, and completions that Joel Gordon was responsible for in his nearly four years as a starter. There will be enough experi- ence at running back with six- year veteran Travis Lynch (given a second redshirt season after breaking his leg in the 2002 season opener against Shippensburg), Alex Herbert and Michael Walker all back for another year from last season's 7-3-record team. Walker may be moved to an- other position. Complicating the inexperi- ence at quarterback will be more team-wide inexperience at wide receiver, and even at tight end should Tony Fenoglio make the switch back to quar- terback. Fenoglio was the starting tight end last year . . . after moving to that position from quarterback. Ron Dawkins was a senior in 2002 and then-sophomore Jamal Gardner, who had nine touchdown passes, will not re- turn. Faces new t~ the Shepherd program -- or Walker -- could be incorporated into an entirely new depth chart at both wide receiver and quarterback. Only Jesse Correll has seen much playing time at wide re- ceiver. Offensive linemen Chri~ Mstowski, Drake Shelton,~,nd apparently Fenoglio, will have to be replaced. Bryan Lutton and Eric Gar- rison are at least two experi- enced starters from last year. Junior Brian Courtien played extensively and should provide some solace for the losses of Mstowski and Shelton. Should the Rams suffer no further defections from the ranks of projected starters (re: Gardner), there will be familiar faces on their defense. Ron Frazier began last year as a linebacker and ended it as a cornerback. Only a junior, Frazier is a two-year starter. Junior Ryan Price started the season finale at strong safety against Concord. Senior Matt Meadows has been a starter in the secondary for all three years prior to this, his senior year. Meadows has been an All- WVIAC selection. And sophomore Dustin Dudinski also became a starter as the 2002 season wound through October and Novem- ber. Linebackers Chad McClintic and Demar Atwood were both starters at some time in 2002, with Atwood be- ing a regular for at least nine games. Robert Jarvis was a starter at linebacker in the last game of the year against Concord. The defensive line also re- turns some experienced start- ers and-sometimes-starters in Loren White, Jason Morris, Brian Baker, and Corey Lyons. Coach Monte Cater, begin- ning his 17th season at ~Shep-- herd with a 107-58-1record, must replace punter- placekicker Kevin Burkey, who did both jobs during his four years of eligibility. Shepherd begins its season with the first of three non-con- ference games when it hosts Shippensburg on September 6. The other non-league games are with Virginia Union and East Stroudsburg. The Rams defeated Shippensburg and Virginia U~ion, but lost to East Stroudsburg in 2002. Shepherd's WVIAC record was 5-2. West Virginia Wes- leyan surprised most of those coaches who voted them sixth in last year's preseason poll of voters by grabbing the confer- ence title with a 6-1 league record that included a late-sea- son, 24-14, win over Shepherd in Shepherdstown. While Gordon, Gardner, Herbert, Mstowski, and Garri- son all had productive seasons that brought them WVIAC honors and even some mention on the national scene, Shep- herd had season-long problems with penalties and the lack of a menacing pass rush from its down linemen. In several were ~tiilty of over penalties . . coupled with lost fumbles, season less than ~ ship year. Shepherd "haS over the last two .750 winning has no WVIAC show for that The team is tion for WVIAC coaches. Even though champion West leyan has 17 counting specialists The Rams have conference games to 10-game schedule. Finding a terback, kicking punter, and a wide receivers are the coachin~ in front of it. If the Rams a~1 ginia Wesleyan through their schedules the two meet in vember 1 with league ehampic line at least coaches believe it that way. Alex Herbert (24) crashes into the sive Hne.