— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s football program has high expectations ahead of the 2019 season. 

That’s just fine with Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday, who is entering his 10th season in Huntington.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be at Marshall,” Holliday said. “Our kids understand that along with those expectations, there is a responsibility to go to work every day.

“I wouldn’t want to coach at a school where the fans didn’t expect you to win every year.”

The Herd reports to Joan C. Edwards for the start of fall practices today and actual workouts begin on Friday, leading up to the season opener on August 31 against VMI.

Coming off a 9-4 season in which it had a 6-2 mark in Conference USA, Marshall is seen by the league’s media members as the favorite to win C-USA’s East Division crown, finishing ahead of Florida International and Florida Atlantic. North Texas is the West Division favorite.

Marshall won previous divisional titles in 2013 and 2014 and won the conference crown in 2014.

The number of returnees on both sides of the ball have heightened expectations in Huntington. Marshall returns eight starters on offense and five starters on defense along with two players who are a regular part of the rotation in defensive tackle Channing Hames and safety Brandon Drayton.

Marshall is also a beneficiary of the NCAA Transfer Portal system, as newcomers such as receivers Tevin Richardson, who played at Kentucky, and Joey Fields, who comes from Central Connecticut State, could help add depth. Other transfers expected to see playing time are former  Florida State offensive lineman Josh Ball and defensive end/linebacker Fermin Silva, who left FIU for Marshall.

Although Marshall has no contests against foes from a Power Five Conference, the Herd will surely be challenged by the non-conference slate. It includes a road game against Boise State and home games with Mid-American Conference East Division favorite Ohio and American Athletic Conference co-favorite Cincinnati.

Along with games against its usual C-USA East Division rivals, Marshall has league crossover games at Rice and at home against Louisiana Tech, normally one of the top teams in C-USA West.

Holliday says the challenging schedule won’t catch the Herd by surprise as they always expect the opponent’s best shot.

“You have to take that potential and turn it into production,” Holliday said. “There’s just such a fine line between winning and losing and our conference is so competitive from top to bottom.

“You look at FIU and Butch (Davis) has done a great job there, FAU with Lane (Kiffin) and Southern Miss has done a great job. So right on down the line, if you don’t show up and play every week, you’ll get beat.”

Note: Fans are invited to Joan C. Edwards Stadium from 4-6 p.m. Sunday for the annual Herd Fan and Photo Day. Official team photos will be taken and fans will be allowed on the stadium turf to take their own pictures and obtain autographs … MU practices will be open to all Big Green members, season ticket-holders and Marshall University students (with a valid ID). Representatives will be on hand for those inquiring about purchasing Big Green memberships and/or Thundering Herd football season tickets. Entry to the workouts may be gained through Gate B, next to the HerdZone Stadium Store at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

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