Preview 2017: Marshall Should Be Back To Being Marshall
After a miserable season, Marshall should thunder back in a big hurry.
There were some massive clunkers last year – Michigan State heads the list – but Marshall’s might have been the most puzzling.
It should’ve been a fantastic year for a Thundering Herd team coming of its third straight double-digit win season. But just when it seemed like head coach Doc Holliday had a team ready to challenge for a second Conference USA title in four years …
Pfffffffttttttttt. The air went out of the balloon almost right after the tune-up against Morgan State.
The run defense was miserable, the ground game even worse, and there wasn’t a penalty that Marshall didn’t seem to like to take, but it was more than that.
The coaches might have pointed to a lack of chemistry, and certainly execution was a problem, but more than anything else, the team seemed to lose its confidence right away – giving up 65 points to a woeful Akron team – and Louisville, Pitt, and North Texas kept the pain rolling.
But Holliday has put too much talent in place for 2016 to be anything more than a hiccup. As stunning as it was to see the Herd turn into a total disaster, that’s about as quickly as the production can turn back around.
The first step is to beat the winnable teams on the slate. Marshall’s first problem was playing teams that were good at football.
What was the common theme among the 33 wins over the previous three seasons? Most of the victories were over the weak and the sad, but that’s okay. If the Herd had beaten Akron, North Texas, Charlotte and FIU – like they were supposed to – it would’ve been a disappointing 7-5 season, and not a 3-9 total whiff.
This year, the Herd have to beat Miami University. And Kent State, and Charlotte, and FIU, and Florida Atlantic, and UTSA. That might seem easier than it actually will be, but do that, do what Marshall teams were able to do from 2013 to 2015, and there’s six wins right there.
But it’s not just that Marshall lost to a slew of bad teams last season; it got obliterated by some of them.
QB Chase Litton might not have most of his top targets to throw to, but the passing game should still be more efficient if the running game starts to take the pressure off a bit more. With almost everyone back up front, expect a more physical, effective offense.
The defense that was stunningly awful gets back just about everyone up front, along with several key tacklers in the linebacking corps. Throw in all the experience in the secondary, and with a few key transfers and some nice recruits to help across the board, and Holliday and his staff have plenty to work with.
So which team will show up? Can Marshall really go from awful to champion with just a flip of a switch?