The top 10 Marshall football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
OT Clint Van Horn, Sr.
In February, Van Horn was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing most of 2015 to a torn pectoral muscle. Good for him, but even better for Marshall. The one-time walk-on is a two-time All-Conference USA performer, a fortress on the right side of the line. Since getting into shape earlier in his career, Van Horn has morphed into an agile, 6-5, 321-pound pocket protector, with the strength to overwhelm opponents. He’ll spend this bonus season auditioning for NFL scouts.
DE Gary Thompson, Sr.
Thompson is an end in an outside linebacker’s body. And being 6-2 and 257 pounds allows the veteran to be a step quicker than the lineman in front of him. In just his first season as a starter, Thompson ignited the Marshall pass rush with team-highs in sacks (9), tackles for loss (12.5) and forced fumbles (5). He’s sudden off the snap, with the closing speed and the intensity to hunt down opposing quarterbacks from behind.
S Tiquan Lang, Sr.
Looks small. Plays big. Lang is only 5-9 and 179 pounds, but he’s an impact safety for Marshall. He’s a third-year starter who’ll fly all over the field to make sure his presence is felt. Lang is a major asset to the run defense, pressing up fearlessly to prevent plays from getting to the second level. Testament to his toughness, the undersized Lang was second on the team with 91, adding six pass breakups in an honorable mention All-Conference USA junior campaign. Lang was arrested in late April, a situation that bears watching this summer.
TE Ryan Yurachek, Jr.
Wide receiver is a concern in Huntington. Tight end is not. Yurachek emerged into a high-value target last season, catching 44 passes for 417 yards and a Herd-high nine touchdowns to earn honorable mention All-Conference USA. Like having an additional wideout on the field, the 6-3, 235-pound Yurachek will create matchup problems with linebackers, and his one dropped pass in 2015 is testament to his soft hands.
QB Chase Litton, Soph.
Litton was an afterthought when last season began, his first removed from a Tampa high school. But then James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong was injured, opening the door for a 6-6, 210-pound rookie to stake his claim to the future of the position. Litton’s struggles were hardly unexpected. Still, he started the final 11 games, finishing 230-of-383 for 2,605 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Now, Litton must improve his accuracy and mechanics, especially when facing heat.
G Michael Selby, Sr.
For one more season, Selby will be Marshall’s steady, self-made rock on the interior of the O-line. He’s a blue-collar grinder with starting experience at guard and center. The 6-2, 289-pound Selby not only supplanted four-year starter Chris Jasperse at center in 2015, he blocked his way to a spot on the All-Conference USA Second Team. And his leadership up front cannot be overstated in Huntington, as he shifts back to guard.
DE Ryan Bee, Soph.
Bee is one of the future stars for the Thundering Herd, delivering a strong debut as a redshirt freshman in 2015. He took over a starting role midway through the season and finished with 59 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss, four sacks and three fumble recoveries. At 6-7 and 262 pounds, Bee has the every-down size to excel against the run and use his wingspan to obstruct the vision of opposing quarterbacks.
WR Deon-Tay McManus, Jr.
Just because McManus failed to fulfill expectations in 2015 doesn’t mean the program has bailed on his potential. In fact, the Herd is banking on a big year now that top receivers Davonte Allen and Deandre Reaves have graduated. McManus is a 6-1, 229-pound converted tight end who caught six touchdown passes as a rookie. But he wasn’t as much of a factor a year ago, finishing fourth on the team with 35 receptions for 334 yards and a single score.
OT Sandley Jean-Felix, Jr.
The staff is excited by the potential of Jean-Felix who did a nice job as the starting left tackle last season. Despite a lack of relevant experience, he held his own in pass protection, using his athleticism and footwork to seal off the edge. Jean-Felix also has good length and wingspan at 6-5 and 319 pounds, the basis for a potential run for NFL consideration two years from now.
RB Hyleck Foster, Jr.
One way or another, Foster is going to make plays for Marshall this fall. He began 2015 as a slot receiver, but was forced into the backfield when injuries struck. And the 5-11, 189-pound playmaker didn’t disappoint, rushing for 450 yards and three touchdowns on 99 carries. In back-to-back league games, he went over the century mark. Now that the receiving corps has been depleted, the staff is banking on Foster filling a void once again.