HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— If you can help Marshall win you’ll find you’re way onto the field. Doc Holliday has preached that during his tenure, not caring if you’re a freshman or a sixth-year senior. The best 11 players will be on the field at any given time. So, when Holliday mentioned during preseason camp there could be eight or nine freshmen who could have an impact right away, he wasn’t kidding.
When the depth chart was released Tuesday afternoon nine freshmen were listed on the two-deep.
“Most of the time when you talk about playing freshmen, you want them to prove themselves on special teams, earn our trust on special teams from the get go so we can actually get them in the game on offense and defense,” said Holliday.
Holliday pointed to sophomore defensive back Tiquan Lang as a guy who earned the coaching staff’s trust last season as a freshman and found his way into the starting line up halfway through the year. Holliday is hoping for the same kind of progression from some of his younger players again this season.
“Antavis Rowe kid is special. He is very talented and athletic. We are trying to work him in a little bit as a nickel back,” said Holliday. We think he is a talented guy who can help us there.”
If Rowe can work in as the nickel back, that gives Marshall the luxury of leaving Corey Tindal at cornerback and making an already talented secondary even deeper. Along the defensive line, The Herd is has upper classmen such as Ra’Shawde Meyers, Jarquez Samuel and James Rouse to anchor the defensive front, but Holliday sees opportunities for underclassmen to add another weapon to the defense.
“Jerome Dews is a guy who can possibly help us in our pass rush situations. He did that throughout fall camp and he can help us there,” stated Holliday. “Tomell One has played a lot inside and is a talented defensive lineman who can provide a lot of depth in there.”
On the offensive side of the ball youngsters are making an impact at the skill positions, particularly at wide receiver. Holliday knew the one weakness on offense coming into this season was at outside receiver. Senior Davonte Allen finally started to play like the player everyone thought he could be at the “X” receiver position during August camp. On the opposite side of the field freshman Angelo Jean-Louis emerged as a playmaker at the “Z” receiver.
“He makes plays,” Holliday said matter-of-factly about Jean-Louis. “At the receiver position, it’s not about how many snaps you make but it’s about how many plays you make. You have the opportunity to make 20 plays and if you make 18 out of the 20, then chances are you can kind of tell by the production sheet who has made plays throughout camp and who is the most productive guy because production is what matters in skill positions, not potential.
“So, he makes plays and has made plays all camp and has continued to do that. When the ball comes toward him, it is a good chance he will make a play and it’s going to be critical for him to continue to make plays for the game Saturday.”
Jean-Louis may not be the only young receiver Marshall fans get to know this year.
“Emanuel Beal is a big strong guy who has made plays throughout camp that we need to keep bringing along. We think all those guys can help provide depth and also help us in special teams.”
Holliday will also count on several true and redshirt freshmen along the offensive line if anyone is injured up front. True freshman A.J. Addison and redshirt-freshmen Cody Collins, Chris Huhn and Sandley Jean-Felix are all listed as backups on the initial two-deep of the season.
It is a testament to how far the program has come in five years. When Holliday arrived he was forced to insert true freshmen into starting roles, which the weren’t ready for. Now, he has the luxury of inserting young talented players into the lineup to supplement and already talented squad.