— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Although the season opener is only three weeks away, Marshall’s football team is still picking up players who will be part of the 2019 roster.

Just this week, cornerback E.J. Jackson joined the Thundering Herd. The 6-foot 170-pound defender is from Glades Central High in Florida, a school which has produced several Marshall players in the past. He chose Marshall after receiving offers from UCF, Louisville, South Carolina, Indiana, Nebraska, FAU, USF and more.

Jackson is a cousin of former MU defensive back Rashad Jackson.

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The start of fall practice produced somewhat of a pleasant surprise for 10th year Herd head coach Doc Holliday — nearly everyone showed up.

In the past, that hasn’t always been the case, as there have been seldom-used players transferring at the last moment or ending their careers.

There was, however, one exception to that as highly-regarded 2019 signee Dante Walker, who had previously committed to Arkansas before signing with Marshall, decided to leave the program. Walker, a defensive end, came to Huntington in May for preseason workouts and enrolled in classes. He was shot in the back in a drive-by shooting in Huntington on June 29 and released from the hospital a few days later.

Three players had already informed coaches that they were ending their MU careers — defensive back Markeis Colvin and safeties Taymon Cooke and Chad Clay.

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Plenty of Marshall football players are on watch lists for various national awards and one of the Herd’s best is being watched for an honor at a specialized position.

Long snapper Matt Beardall, a senior from Merritt Island, Florida, was named to the Patrick Mannelly Award Watch List, which is presented annually to the best long snapper in FBS.

Beardall was a 2019 Preseason All-Conference USA selection after earning first-team All-Conference USA honors in 2018.

Beardall has started 34 games as the Herd’s long snapper. He follows in the footsteps of past great Herd long snappers who turned their talent into long NFL careers — Mike Bartrum (Philadelphia Eagles) and Chris Massey (St. Louis Rams).

Semifinalists for the Mannelly Award are chosen November 16 and finalists are announced the following week. The winner will be announced December 14.

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Marshall has been known to develop freshman who are academic non-qualifiers, meaning they’ve either not met requirements for test scores or core classes in high school.

The 2019 season brings another crop of those so-called ‘Props’, but there aren’t as many as in the past. The seven players who will be academic non-qualifiers in 2019 include: Defensive linemen Malik Darisaw, Jayshaun Coffman and Tworn Seals, running backs Rahsul Faison and Rasheed Ali, linebacker JoJo Doleman and defensive back JoJo Evans.

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Marshall fans will want to look over a roster for the first few games as several players have changed numbers for 2019.

They include: Defensive linemen Kyron Taylor (No. 65 to No. 95), Jamare Edwards (No. 95 to No. 99), Jermane Cross (No. 99 to No. 42), Koby Cumberlander (No. 98 to No. 56) and T.J. Johnson (No. 90 to No. 15); wide receivers Stone Scarcelle (No. 45 to No. 19) and Talik Keaton (No. 86 to No. 9); and linebacker Jeremy Smith (No. 42 to No. 12).