Marshall returns most starters but must replace Litton at QB

The shock of Chase Litton’s departure for the NFL draft has transferred into uncertainty at quarterback for Marshall entering the 2018 season.

The position appears to be the one of the few question marks on a team that has nine starters back on each side of the ball as Marshall goes after its first Conference USA championship since 2014.

Litton, a three-year starter, threw for a career-high 3,115 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, then surprisingly opted to skip his senior season and went undrafted.

The attention at quarterback has turned to Alex Thomson, a graduate transfer from Wagner of the Championship Subdivision. The 6-foot-5 Thomson missed most of last season with a shoulder injury and Marshall coach Doc Holliday has limited his work in preseason practice. Thomson threw for 2,436 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions in 2016.

Marshall also entered fall camp with junior Garet Morrell and sophomore Isaiah Green. Morrell is the only one among the pair with playing experience. He threw for four touchdowns and three interceptions in five games during the 2016 season.

Marshall also has a new offensive coordinator. Tim Cramsey arrived from Sam Houston State, which led the Championship Subdivision in scoring and total offense and passing yards. Cramsey replaced Bill Legg, who resigned last December and was hired at an offensive consultant at Mississippi State.

Marshall is looking to improve on an 8-5 record from last season, which included a win over Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl.

Holliday, who enters his ninth season, is looking for a few more players to add depth at wide receiver and cornerback.

“We’re the deepest we’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” Holliday said.

Other things to know about the Thundering Herd, who open the season Sept. 1 at Miami (Ohio):

OFFENSIVE STARS

While it will take time for the new starting quarterback to get acclimated, look for Marshall to rely heavily on running backs Tyler King and Keion Davis. Each surpassed 800 rushing yards a year ago, and Davis returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns against Miami last season. Top receiver Tyre Brady also returns. He had 62 catches for 942 yards and eight scores last season and was a Conference USA first team selection.

DEFENSIVE PROMISE

Marshall’s defense is anchored by last year’s top two tacklers, senior linebacker Chase Hancock and junior safety Malik Gant. The Thundering Herd allowed just 19.9 points per game last season, the 17th best in the Bowl Subdivision. Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater left for Maryland in January and Adam Fuller was promoted from linebackers coach.

KICKERS NEEDED

Kaare Vedvik, who handled punting, placekicking and kickoffs last season, is gone. Junior college transfer Justin Rohrwasser is likely to take over on field goals and extra points with sophomore Robert Lefevre and walk-on Shane McDonough battling it out for punting and kickoff duties.

SOLID O-LINE

Marshall’s offensive line returns all five starters. Greg Adkins joins Marshall as offensive line coach this season. He held the same job at Oklahoma State in 2015 and 2016. Adkins also was an assistant at Marshall from 1991 to 1995.

SCHEDULE

Marshall’s tough nonconference schedule includes a Sept. 15 trip to South Carolina and a Sept. 22 home game against North Carolina State. After that, the Thundering Herd could make a run at a league title but has tough tests at home Oct. 5 against Middle Tennessee and Oct. 20 against defending champion Florida Atlantic.