HUNTINGTON — As summertime begins to roll around, focus in the sports world begins shifting to the upcoming football season. With that focus comes prognostications from national magazines and pundits on how they think a team will fare in 2018.
One of the early national magazines thinks the Marshall Thundering Herd will have some of the best talent in Conference USA on the field. Athlon Sports released its 2018 Preseason All-Conference USA teams this week and Marshall had five players on the C-USA first team. Florida Atlantic University led the C-USA picks with six players on the first team. Overall, Marshall has nine players recognized.
Marshall All C-USA first-team honorees included senior wide receiver Tyre Brady, junior center Levi Brown, senior defensive tackle Ryan Bee, senior linebacker Chase Hancock and junior safety Malik Gant.
Brady headlines C-USA’s returning receivers after a 2017 season when he led Marshall in catches (62) and receiving yards (942) while adding eight touchdown receptions. Brady had a pair of standout performances, catching 11 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown against N.C. State while finishing the season strong with six catches for 165 yards and one touchdown in the New Mexico Bowl, a 31-28 victory against Colorado State. Both performances came in weeks when Brady returned to the lineup following an injury.
Brown has been the constant in the middle for the Herd for the last two seasons, showing durability while also leading Marshall’s protection up front. Last season, he was the key cog in a unit that allowed only 11 quarterback sacks in 13 games — good for fourth-best nationally.
On the defensive side, Bee made the switch from defensive end to defensive tackle and performed well. Bee led Marshall with 5.5 quarterback sacks and finished the season with 51 tackles, including 7.5 for loss.
Hancock was dominant in the middle of the defense as the team leader in tackles (128) and tackles for loss (9.5). The senior from Beckley added seven pass breakups, two sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Gant emerged as a play-making safety early in the 2017 season. He was second on the team with 100 tackles while also tallying five pass breakups.
Marshall added three players on Athlon’s All C-USA second team — sophomore running back Tyler King, junior cornerback Chris Jackson and senior kick returner Keion Davis.
King made his presence known as a freshman with 820 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. King had some highlight-reel runs in the win at Middle Tennessee and capped his season with a 106-yard performance against Colorado State when he broke loose for a 90-yard touchdown run in the third quarter of the bowl game.
Jackson led Marshall’s pass defense, finishing the year atop the team’s stat charts in interceptions (3) and pass breakups (10). He also had 62 tackles, which tied for fifth on the team.
Davis was one of the country’s top kick return men, averaging 30.4 yards per return on the season. Davis became just the 21st player in NCAA history to record two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a single game when he brought back returns of 99 and 97 yards in a win over Miami (Ohio).
The Herd also had sophomore right tackle Tarik Adams on Athlon’s fourth team. Adams started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman.