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2016 University of Louisville football preview: Marshall Thundering Herd

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The Cards will head down to West Virginia to face off against The Herd.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall Thundering Herd

2015 Record

10-3

Wins

Purdue, Norfolk State, Kent State, Old Dominion, Southern Miss, FAU, North Texas, Charlotte, FIU, UConn

Losses

Mid Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Ohio

Season Recap

Marshall is coming off of a 10-win season, but ultimately fell short of winning Conference USA.

The Herd would start off the 2015 season with a 7-1 record, the first loss coming to Ohio University in Athens, OH. Marshall had a couple of OT thrillers as well. In week 4, the Herd would win a double OT game against Kent State 36-29. In an early November game against Middle Tennessee, Marshall would go to triple OT, but would end up losing 27-24. They would end the regular season with a 49-28 loss against WKU. However, they'd end the season on a high note with a bowl victory over UConn in the St. Petersburg bowl.

Coach Resume

John "Doc" Holliday is a West Virginia Man through and through. He was born and raised in Hurricane, West Virginia, played linebacker for the Mountaineers from 1976-1978, and spent the majority of his coaching career in the state. He would start out as a Graduate Assistant at WVU following his playing days in 1979. He would stick with the Mountaineers as a coach for linebackers and wide receivers up until 2000 when he would take a job at NC State. From 2000-2004, he would remain at NC State before moving on to Florida from 2005-2007. After his time at Florida, Holliday would come to WVU for a short stint before accepting his current position as head coach at Marshall in 2010. It took Doc a few years to get things going at Marshall, but in 2013 the Herd would win their division then follow that up in 2014 by winning their conference and posting a 13-1 record. Overall he is 55-28 with a 4-0 bowl record.

Returning Starters

Marshall will be losing a lot of talent for the most part, especially on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, they will return starting quarterback Chase Litton, who put up good numbers in 2015. They will also return starters at left tackle, right tackle, and right guard, while the two guys tabbed to play left guard and center both logged starts last year. Starting tight end Ryan Yurachek is the returning leading receiver. On the defensive side of the ball is where things get trickier. Taquan Lang returns at safety, and Gary Thompson and Ryan Bee are the returning defensive ends. Those two should be one of the more lethal duos in Conference USA at the defensive end position.

Returning QB

Chase Litton returns after throwing for 2,605 yards and 23 touchdowns against 8 interceptions as a true freshman in 2015. It may be a tough time following that up in 2016, though, as his top two receivers from last season will be gone. Litton did split some time last year with junior Michael Birdsong. Birdsong put up much smaller numbers than Litton, just throwing for 365 yards with 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Barring any unfortunate injuries, it looks like this will be Litton's team for the next few years.

Biggest problem

Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater is definitely going to have a lot of work to do with the 2016 defense. The defense loses two cornerbacks in Keith Baxter and Corey Tindal, leaving only Rodney Allen and Antavis Rowe with any experience at the position. Safeties Tiquan Lang and C.J. Reavis will help the corners in early transition. Heater also has to replace two linebackers in Evan McKelvey and D.J. Hunters. McKelvey is a former Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. To add to some more losses, the interior of the defensive line lost 3 seniors.

Biggest Strength

The Herd will have a very experienced offensive line to help out young quarterback Chase Litton and the mostly inexperienced offense. Marshall returns senior Clint Van Horn, who was granted a 6th year of eligibility. Along with Michael Selby at right guard, those two have a combined 52 career starts on the right side of the line. On the left side, Sandley Jean-Felix is back at left tackle. Jordan Dowrey will move to left guard and Nate Devers will take over center as the two split time last year at right guard.

4 players to remember

Chase Litton: A talented young quarterback. Despite losing his top two receivers from a year ago, he has valuable experience to lead the Herd.

Hyleck Foster: Dynamic athlete, he is a threat not only as a receiver, but as a rusher. He is actually the leading returning rusher on the team.

Ryan Yurachek: The leading returning receiver, he's a big tight end target for a team needing an established playmaker in the passing game.

Gary Thompson: Senior defensive lineman who lead the team in sacks in 2015 with 9 and tackles for loss with 12.5.

Final Thoughts

Many have tabbed this game as a trap game since it lies between the matchups against Florida State and Clemson. While it does make sense to view this as a trap game, I'm not too worried about it. The Herd's defense is going to be highly inexperienced despite still having a couple good players on that side of the ball. Losing two linebackers and 3 of some of your more experienced D-linemen could lead to a big day of rushing from Lamar. On the offensive side of the ball, Litton is going to be a very good quarterback, but there's just too much inexperience after losing your top two receiving targets and leading rusher. The Cardinals defense is going to be too experienced and talented for Marshall's offense. While this could be a trap game and the Cards come out sluggish in the opening half, I don't envision Petrino letting his team sleep on Marshall between two big games.