Notebook: Marshall football set for involvement in first Sun Belt Media Days

— By Bill Cornwell

Marshall football coach Charles Huff will be talking Herd football this week with media from throughout the Sun Belt Conference region as the league holds its annual Football Media Days event Tuesday and Wednesday in New Orleans.

Huff is being accompanied by sophomore running back Rasheen Ali and junior linebacker Eli Neal at the event.

Ali earned All-Conference USA and Freshman All-American honors in 2021 when he finished with 1,401 rushing yards along with 342 receiving yards. He led the nation in total touchdowns with 25, rushing touchdowns, points scored and points per game. Ali was picked as Marshall’s Most Valuable Player at the Herd’s postseason banquet.

Neal was an All-Conference USA Honorable Mention pick last year as he made 97 tackles and recorded 5.5 sacks, along with an interception and two fumble recoveries. Neal was honored with MU’s Tom Stark Defensive Achievement Award at the end of the season.

Huff, Ali and Neal will speak Tuesday afternoon and their comments can be seen on ESPN+.

Due to the additions of Marshall, James Madison, Southern Miss and Old Dominion to the league, Sun Belt Conference Media Days is now a two-day affair, with eastern teams featured on Tuesday and western teams in the spotlight on Wednesday.

The media will also hear comments from Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill on Tuesday and league coordinator of officials John McDaid on Wednesday.

Watching for Ali

Rasheen Ali was recently named to the Maxwell Award watch list. The Maxwell Award is given annually to the national college football player of the year. Last year’s winner was Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

One last Conference USA honor

Although Marshall is no longer a Conference USA member, the league recently announced that it’s honoring one of the Herd’s top athletes of the early 21st century — Kelly-Anne Billingy, who was C-USA’s Volleyball Player of the Year for three straight seasons (2005-2007).

Billingy is part of this year’s C-USA Hall of Fame class. She ended her career as the school leader in kills and kills per set and second in service aces and hitting percentage. She was a four-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American and was a four-time winner of the AVCA All-Midwest Region honors, too. She also garnered AVCA All-Midwest Region Freshman of the Year in 2004 and National Player of the Week in 2005. She was also Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year in 2004.

She helped lead the Herd to the C-USA regular season and tournament titles in 2005 and another regular season championship in 2007.

Billingy entered the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018.

Also entering the Conference USA Hall of Fame this year are current Kentucky and former Memphis men’s basketball coach John Calipari, Florida Atlantic softball coach Joan Joyce, UTEP track and field/cross country standout Anthony Rotich and Tamika Whitmore of Memphis women’s basketball.

Leitch catches on

Marshall had a baseball player signed by a major league club last week as catcher Ryan Leitch inked a free agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Whitby, Ontario native concluded the 2022 season with a team-high 17 doubles. His .307 batting average, 66 hits and 43 RBIs were second on the squad. Leitch also he blasted 12 home runs in 53 games, all starts.

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