Marshall opens the season this Saturday at Miami (Ohio)

Updated 2 weeks ago Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone

By Chuck McGill

HerdZone.com

OXFORD, Ohio – Marshall is the only FBS team with two 800-yard rushers and an 800-yard receiver back this season. And, of course, the new starting quarterback will create intrigue for this Saturday's opener at Miami (Ohio).

The MU offensive line, meanwhile, will continue to exist in relative anonymity, despite staggering statistics. Yes, there are numbers for the big guys up front that can be discussed. Like, for example, the fact that there are seven offensive linemen on the Herd roster with starting experience. Those players have combined for 103 career starts.

"When you have an offensive line like ours that has been playing beside each other as long as they have, it's comforting," said Ryan Bee, a senior defensive lineman. "They're all on the same page; they're a tight-knit group."

In 2017, the Marshall offensive line allowed 11 sacks in 13 games, ranking fourth-best nationally. The individual numbers are eye-popping.

Will Ulmer, now a sophomore left tackle, played in 13 games (nine starts), saw 762 snaps and allowed only two sacks. Jordan Dowrey, now a senior left guard with 36 career starts, played 665 snaps last season without a sack allowed. Center Levi Brown, who has made 24 starts in two seasons, played 932 snaps last season and allowed one sack. Alex Mollette, who made starts at both guard spots as a freshman, played 740 snaps without a sack allowed last season. Tarik Adams played 883 snaps as a college rookie and allowed only one sack.

"Having five guys back, there's no learning curve," Brown said. "We're on the same level of knowledge even with a new offensive coordinator and new offensive line coach. We have a level of trust and level of communication with each other that you almost know what the other is thinking at this point."

Last season, Marshall started three freshmen on the offensive line at times. The same group is back, giving the Herd one senior, one junior and three sophomores. They're young, but they have grown close in a short time.

"We're five different personalities," Brown said. "Tarik is a quiet, kind of weird guy. Him and Dowrey get along really well. They have long, deep, intelligent conversations. Mollette and Ulmer live together and are around each other all of the time. We're five different guys, but we really do play as one."

That, Dowrey said, is what is important.

"We all have different interests and we have some characters in the group," he said. "But on the field your individual personalities are less important than the group personality. That's one of the things we've learned over the years. At the end of the day we have to work as a group. We have to trust each other."

NOTES:

*Saturday's game is the season opener for both teams. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN+. Jim Barbar (play-by-play) and Bobby Carpenter (analyst) will handle the call for ESPN+.

*Miami leads the all-time series 30-13-1. This is the 45th meeting in the series. Marshall has won nine of the last 10, including the last four meetings. Last season, the Herd won 31-26 in Huntington.

*The leaders in starts among returning players: Dowrey (36), Bee (31), Brown (24), Chris Jackson (24), Chase Hancock (22), Nate Devers (14), Adams (13), Artis Johnson, Willie Johnson (12), Tyre Brady (11) and Malik Gant (11).

*Marshall has won five consecutive regular season openers, including three against Miami. The Herd defeated the RedHawks in 2013, 52-14, in Huntington before winning against at Miami, 42-27, the following season.

Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a six-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to HerdZone.com's Word on the Herd, McGill is the editor of Thundering Herd Illustrated, Marshall's official athletics publication. Follow him on Twitter (@chuckmcgill) and Instagram (wordontheherd).

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