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Marshall Football: 2022 Thundering Herd Season Preview and Prediction

Rasheen Ali, Marshall Thundering Herd Football

Rasheen Ali and the Thundering Herd are ranked No. 75 in Athlon Sports' Top 131 for the 2022 college football season

Marshall is on the move from Conference USA to the Sun Belt in 2022. The new conference represents an upgrade in competition, but second-year coach Charles Huff's squad is poised to push for the Sun Belt East Division title. Running back Rasheen Ali returns as one of the top playmakers in the conference, and the Thundering Herd are slated to host their top three contenders in the division - Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State - in Huntington this fall. Texas Tech transfer Henry Colombi should start at quarterback, and there are plenty of playmakers on the outside, including Corey Gammage and Talik Keaton. A defense that held teams to 23.8 points a game last fall should rank among the best in the Sun Belt. 

Related: Athlon Sports' College Football Top 25 for 2022

Previewing Marshall's Offense for 2022

Much of the focus leading into the 2022 season has been centered around the quarterback position after two-year starter Grant Wells left Marshall for Virginia Tech. While everyone is eager to see what Texas Tech transfer Henry Colombi can do with the Marshall aerial attack, the bigger focus should be on the offensive line, where the Herd must replace three five-year starters (yes, that's right). A fourth 2021 contributor — Logan Osburn — will transition to center. ECU transfer Trent Holler should help on the interior, while right tackle Kendrick Sartor is the constant.

Marshall possesses one of the nation's top returning running backs in Rasheen Ali, who rushed for 1,401 yards and tied for the national lead in rushing touchdowns (23) last year. Ali will also be a reliable weapon in the passing game, a role that may intensify with Clint Trickett taking over as offensive coordinator. The Herd have some nice weapons in the receiving game with Corey Gammage and Talik Keaton, and one player who emerged in spring was Jayden Harrison. Despite the questions on the offensive line, Colombi has plenty of weapons to take advantage of this fall.

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Previewing Marshall's Defense for 2022

Last season, Marshall head coach Charles Huff liked the tenacity of his defense but noted near the end of the season that the interior of the defensive front struggled to close out games. In the offseason, Huff made fixing that a priority with three Power 5 transfers on the interior: Kentucky's Isaiah Gibson, Miami's Quentin Williams and Purdue's Anthony Watts. Those players join a talented group of returning edge rushers (Koby Cumberlander, Owen Porter, Elijah Alston) to make the defensive front the Herd's strongest position.

Marshall also returns Eli Neal and Abraham Beauplan at linebacker, providing continuity and leadership — along with more than 200 tackles from last season's defense.

The biggest questions are on the back end, where the Herd have to replace three safeties, but Huff went out and got grad transfers in Andre Sam (McNeese) and Isaiah Norman (Austin Peay) to help. Steven Gilmore also gives Marshall a lockdown cornerback, which plays into defensive coordinator Lance Guidry's hands as he looks to bring pressure.

Related: Sun Belt Football 2022 Predictions

Previewing Marshall's Specialists for 2022

Zach Appio returns as an all-league long-snapper for the Herd, and Harrison and Keaton bring experience to the return game, but the kicking spots will feature new faces. John McConnell is expected to take over as the team's punter, while Kenyon Bowyer should handle placekicking duties.

Final Analysis

Marshall has the pieces to compete in the Sun Belt, but the Herd will have to do a better job of finishing than they did in 2021, when they squandered late leads in three games — two of them against Appalachian State and Louisiana. There's a significant jump in competition level in moving from Conference USA to the Sun Belt, so the Herd's consistency must match their talent level.

National Ranking: 75

Podcast: Previewing and a Deep Dive + Predictions on the Group of 5 Conferences for 2022