Marshall Football: 2018 Thundering Herd Preview and Prediction

The Thundering Herd rank No. 75 in Athlon's Top 130 for 2018

Marshall has all the tools to challenge for a C-USA title. A difficult non-conference schedule that features a home date with NC State and a road contest at South Carolina will prepare the Herd for their conference slate, with the decisive game being an Oct. 20 Homecoming contest against defending C-USA champion Florida Atlantic.

 

Previewing Marshall Football's Offense for 2018

 

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Marshall coach Doc Holliday has plenty to be excited about with returning production numbers that don't come along very often. The Herd have 94.8 percent of their rushing yardage, 78.5 percent of their receiving yardage and the entire starting offensive line back.

 

However, Marshall features a new offensive coordinator in Tim Cramsey, who comes from Sam Houston State after leading the Bearkats to 7,500 yards and the FCS semifinals a year ago. The Herd also must find a new quarterback after three-year starter Chase Litton declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. The likely man to take over is graduate transfer Alex Thomson, a highly regarded prospect from Wagner. Thomson, who was limited to two games due to injury last year, threw for 2,436 yards and 16 touchdowns in 11 games in 2016.

 

The new quarterback enters an enviable situation with an offensive line that was fourth nationally in fewest sacks allowed last season. Wide receiver Tyre Brady offers Marshall one of the top returning receivers (942 yards, eight TDs) in Conference USA, and the running back tandem of Tyler King and Keion Davis accounted for 1,632 yards and 13 TDs last year.

 

Previewing Marshall Football's Defense for 2018

 

Marshall's front seven will be among the best in Conference USA, and overall the defense returns nine starters from a unit that allowed just 19.9 points per game en route to eight wins last season. Adam Fuller moves over from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator, taking over for Chuck Heater, who took a job at Maryland.

 

Fuller's old position -- the linebackers -- will be the deepest on either side of the football with Chase Hancock (128 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, seven PBUs) returning to lead a group that also features seniors Artis Johnson and Frankie Hernandez, along with junior Omari Cobb and sophomore Jaquan Yulee. Donyae Moody, who tore an ACL last season, also adds to the linebacker depth. Former starting linebacker Juwon Young moves to defensive end to fill one of two positions lost to graduation while giving the Herd an explosive edge presence to go with interior forces Ryan Bee, Ty Tyler and Channing Hames.

 

If there is an area of moderate concern, it is the secondary, but there's still plenty of experience there with Chris Jackson and Jaylon McClain-Sapp at cornerback, and Malik Gant and Brandon Drayton at safety.

 

Previewing Marshall Football's Specialists for 2018

 

This is the X-factor for the Herd. Kicking specialist Kaare Vedvik handled all three phases in 2017 and helped Marshall win the field-position battle. With Vedvik gone, junior college transfer Justin Rohrwasser will handle the placekicking, while Robert Lefevre and Shane McDonough will battle for the punting duties. Expect Lefevre to handle kickoffs. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Marshall's defense will keep the team in position to win plenty of games, so even at Cramsey's high-octane pace, the offense needs to take care of the ball and put the quarterback in position to be a game manager. If Marshall is able to limit turnovers and find suitable replacements for Vedvik in the kicking game, the Herd could have a special season in 2018.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 75
C-USA EAST PREDICTION: 2

Event Date: 
Friday, May 25, 2018 - 14:09

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