Team preview: Marshall

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 119 Division I-A teams. To order the complete 2007 edition of Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

(All information as of June 20, 2007)


There's no getting around it. Bob Pruett is something of a legend at Marshall after leading the Thundering Herd to some of its highest points as a program, including six seasons with 10 or more wins.

There's also no getting around the fact that Pruett didn't exactly leave the cupboard loaded with talent and depth when he retired in the spring of 2005. Between NCAA probation, scholarship reductions and a decline in recruiting, the program coach Mark Snyder inherited was not what it had been in Pruett's best years.

Just don't expect Snyder to point fingers at Pruett or blame somebody else. He's a Marshall alumnus, having played safety for the Herd in the 1980s, and no one wants Marshall to succeed more than Snyder.
After finishing 4-7 in 2005 and overcoming a 1-5 start to conclude 5-7 and 3-3 in C-USA last season, Snyder is confident the Herd will be more successful with the return of eight offensive starters and seven defensive starters and several up-and-coming players who gained valuable experience last year.
"I think we're definitely headed in the right direction," Snyder said. "It's a process, and it's about where I thought it would be after two years. We're on the right track. I don't think there's any question."

The evidence can't be seen in the wins, losses and stats.
Not yet anyway. Instead Snyder sees progress in the areas that build eventual success.
"It's nothing tangible," Snyder said. "We've had two really good recruiting classes. Our team GPA is up. Kids are going to classes. We're not having off-the-field issues. They're getting out in the community and giving back.
"It's the little things that separate the champions from the rest. That's a mindset. It's coming to meetings on time, not just clocking in and clocking out. It's going to class, coming over here to the football offices, bringing their lunch and watching film. All the little things you have to do to be good. Our guys are learning that.
"It just takes time for all that to show up on the field, but I feel certain we're headed in the right direction."

On a team with so few upperclassmen, it can be difficult to establish leadership. Snyder can see it growing, but ultimately it's going to have to come from the current juniors, sophomore and freshmen.
"Is it where we need to be right now? No, but nothing is right now," Snyder said. "All of the championship teams I've been on had tremendous leadership. But
it's coming."

In a division with only one certain contender in Southern Miss, the C-USA East is wide open for a surprise team to rise through the ranks. In 2005 it was UCF. Last year it was East Carolina. How about Marshall this year?