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Laborn looking to ensure Marshall not lacking depth in backfield

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As Marshall continues with its second week of spring football practices, an attempt to develop depth at key positions is keeping the team and coaching staff busy.

One position where numbers shouldn’t be a problem is at running back, particularly factoring in the return of star running back Rasheen Ali.

For all his success as a true freshman in 2021, there is talent waiting behind Ali and much of it is possessed by Florida State transfer Khalan Laborn, a former five-star recruit.

Laborn is already catching the eye of head coach Charles Huff in large part due to a combination of willingness to learn and veteran leadership.

“He’s making sure he’s doing what he needs to do,” Huff said. “He’s learning our system, but when he gets the ball in his hands, you see the experience and veteran feel.”

Laborn, who ran for 297 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 at FSU, is one of six running backs seeking to support Ali, who racked up impressive stats last fall on the way to a first-team All-Conference USA selection. Ali ran for 1,405 yards and 23 touchdowns while catching 46 passes for 342 yards and a touchdown.

Ali was the national leader by scoring 11.5 points per game.

Laborn, a heralded high school recruit from Virginia Beach, is excited to be wearing Marshall’s green and white after suffering a dislocated kneecap as a Seminole in 2018, making an impact a season later and then being dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules.

“I finally get to do something I love doing and I’ve been working trying to get back to this. Now that I’m here, I’m just trying to work to get better and get to the next level,” Laborn said.

Other tailbacks competing for playing time behind Ali include Lawrence Papillon and Ethan Payne, freshmen Isaiah Gordon and A.J. Turner and redshirt junior Kevin Henderson.

After five spring practices, Huff is pleased with the progress from the Herd.

“We had our first limited scrimmage last Saturday and it was a chance to see guys make plays on both sides of the ball,” Huff said. “This week, we’re correcting mistakes from the scrimmage and I’m seeing improvement.”

Play from Marshall’s defensive line has caught Huff’s attention.

“Our D-line is really disciplined,” Huff said. “They’re strong and violent and have a chance to be really good.”

The Herd’s group of inexperienced quarterbacks continues to get plenty of scrutiny from offensive coordinator Clint Trickett and Huff says the group — which includes Cam Fancher, Cade Cunningham, Chase Harrison, Peter Zamora, Ty Tarpley and Seth Smith — are slowly finding their way.

“The quarterbacks have been taking steps forward,” Huff said. “They’re starting to understand that they have to control the offensive unit while they’re out there while making the proper checks and getting us into the right plays.”

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