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Herd quarterback unannounced heading into season opener

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Richard Crank
Quarterback Isaiah Green (17, in red jersey) looks downfield for an open receiver during the Green-White game. Green completed 80 percent of his passes and had two touchdowns in the game.

Marshall football opens its 2018 season Saturday afternoon at Miami (Ohio), as the Herd competes for its first Conference USA Championship since 2014. Who takes the first snap under-center for the Thundering Herd, however, remains a mystery.

“We’re trying to read everything we can about their team,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “They obviously lost their quarterback last year, who went to the draft and was a really nice player for them.”

A quarterback competition for the starting position has been in place since the start of fall training camp, but it appears Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has yet to make up his mind.

“(The starting quarterback) is going to be a game-day decision,” Holliday said. “Whoever that guy is, will be starting (for Marshall) for the first time. The great thing is, whoever that guy is, will be surrounded by people who have played a lot of football. They’re going to have to step up—and whoever that guy is—I’m sure, is going to do a tremendous job, but the guys around him have to do a great job, as well.”

Marshall’s first official two-deep depth chart was released Tuesday. One of two players will get the nod for the Herd against the RedHawks: redshirt junior Alex Thomson—a 6-foot-6 graduate transfer from Wagner College—or redshirt freshman Isaiah Green—a former three-star recruit out of Georgia, who did not see the field in 2017.

“Both of those guys are tremendously talented, so whoever (offensive coordinator) Tim (Cramsey), myself and the offensive staff decide to go with, we have great confidence in both of them,” Holliday said.

Thomson has experience against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) competition, as he’s played against Boston College, Massachusetts, Rice and BYU while at Wagner. However, multiple injuries in the past have forced him to miss time. The Keyport, New Jersey, native did not see the field during his freshman campaign at Wagner, as he recovered from an injury suffered during his senior year of high school. Thomas then played just two games in 2017 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Thomson was also rested in some practice sessions during fall camp to keep his shoulder as healthy as possible.

Green, on the other hand, has no experience as a starting quarterback in college football, but he is a dual-threat option, similar to former Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato—who broke multiple program quarterback records, won the 2014 Conference USA Championship and accomplished three bowl wins for the Herd.

“I know (Marshall) has a freshman from Georgia who we recruited and know very well,” Martin said, referring to Green. “He is big, strong arm, is athletic and has NFL arm strength. He hasn’t played yet, but we know from high school that he’s a really talented kid.”

The quarterback situation for Miami is opposite of the Herd’s. Redshirt senior Gus Ragland returns for his final campaign after starting 16 games and playing in 10 others through his first four years. Ragland threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a rushing touchdown in Miami’s season-opening loss to Marshall in 2017. Ragland will be expected to shoulder a lot for the RedHawks, as they are a contender in the Mid-American Conference this season.

“For (Miami), they’ve got their quarterback back,” Holliday said. “Ragland’s a three-year starter and he’s an excellent player for them. He’s a guy that can beat you with his feet and his arm. You can tell by the way his team reacts around him that he has great leadership skills and has the intangibles. He’s the kind of guy that you want at quarterback.”

Marshall’s season opener Saturday at Miami kicks off from Yager Stadium at 3:30 p.m.

Kieran Intemann can be contacted at [email protected]

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