MURFREESBORO, Tennessee – As fall camp approached, Middle Tennessee coaching staff asked each player to choose a word to guide them through the hard work that would occur on the training ground. A defining theme for what they wanted their time to focus on.

Jimmy marshall had an easy word to choose from. With a new offensive coordinator Brent Chermon entering during Spring Ball, implementing an attack that uses tighter sets than the Blue Raiders ever had in Marshall’s time on campus, the 6-foot-5, 234-pound wide was a obvious choice for the coaching staff to try and mold themselves into the team’s new close-quarters weapon.

Marshall was hesitant at first. He had been a broad spectrum all his life, and developing the skills to play in a more hybrid and tighter role would require sacrifice, a will on his part. But in a wide and deep reception hall, he knew which word to choose.

“Open”

Open to what the coaches wanted him to do. Open to learning a new technique in the trenches. Open to being mutilated by Jordan ferguson as he learned to block as a tight end. Open to always be this slot receiver, this outside receiver, then go put his hand in the earth and block for his ball carriers.

“I think it’s tough any time you’re a catcher and hear the term ‘flex’ or ‘tight end’,” wide catcher coach Brent Stockstill noted. “It’s a bit of a shock. But then you look at where the game is heading. That’s kind of what the NFL is looking for. Guys like him, who can do a little bit of anything.”

The open-minded approach paid big dividends across two games, evidenced by an eight catch, 111 receiving yard performance against Virginia Tech last week which saw the senior find plenty of space in the defense. of Hokie for big wins.

“All summer I just tried to work as hard as I could for times like this, to be able to make plays, to be one of the best targets,” Marshall said. “It’s really just that everything falls into place.”

At Marshall’s size, he often presents a clash problem for opposing defenses. Linebackers are often able to compete physically, but are usually neither big enough nor fast enough to really challenge his routes. Defensive backs have the speed to follow him, but not the size to win a jump ball or make an easy tackle. Marshall, for his part, loves it when he draws linebackers on the roads, as Monmouth and Virginia Tech made up a big chunk of the Blue Raiders’ first two games.

But even beyond the confrontations, Marshall’s mere presence on the pitch can be extremely confusing for the other team’s defensive coordinator.

“There are a lot of coordinators trying to find out if he’s a receiver or do we count him as a close team? Are they 10 or 11 people?” Dearmon said. “So that’s the most important thing that we take away from him, is that we can kind of simplify some of the looks that we can get from him.”

Stockstill points out that Marshall still does much of the traditional receiving work he does since his coach was the quarterback throwing him, especially out of the slot. It’s part of the appeal, after all. You can go with a wide foursome with him on the pitch as easily put him aside Lance Robinson Where Steven losoya at the tight end.

But Marshall’s willingness to improve on the tight end, and even as a hybrid full-back in some lineups, has stood out in the weeks of preparation for this offseason, especially when it comes to his blocking.

“Training has really prepared me a lot,” said Marshall. “I feel like I’m going against one of the best d-ends of the conference in Jordan ferguson. Going against him everyday, and it’s really like when I’m in the game, it starts to get a lot easier. So this week should be easier than last week. ”

The development of Marshall’s blocking technique has been the biggest surprise to the coaching staff so far this season. Dearmon praised his efforts on the defensive ends of Virginia Tech last weekend, while Stockstill pointed out how his work to try to stay low, as well as his past technique to block as a receiver, have helped his development.

“It’s so long,” Stockstill said. “He’s good at placing his hands and getting those hands tight, so once he’s got a hold of you it’s hard to get out of it.”

His offensive coordinator also praised his technical development, especially for someone who had very few close reps. But his formula for blocking success is a bit simpler.

“Blocking is 90 percent of wants, and Jimmy has a lot of wants right now,” Dearmon said. “He’s doing a really good job of adhering to that. ”

Marshall says the support of his teammates helped him, that he came to get him when he needed it and cheered him on when he won it. He even tries to stop Izaïe Gatherings to join him in his hybrid role, due to their build similar to that of the broads. He will be hopeful that the teams will continue to watch him with linebackers as the season develops, but has the confidence to compete with anyone across the line of scrimmage, whether he s ‘be it a defensive end who stops the race or a safety pushed into a nickel corner.

The opening caused it to be “1000%,” Stockstill said. And his former quarterback thinks the sky is the limit for him.

“When you watch him here he just makes me smile,” Stockstill said. “The theme of our room is that when you have great energy, the ball is going to find you,” Stockstill said. “And Jimmy probably went into the box eight to ten times to block, and he had eight catches for 111 yards. So he represents that. You do the little things, the dirty work, and now the ball is going to find you some good. other ways.

“He literally did it all, he bought into it, and he was probably the most valuable player in our offense just because of his versatility.”

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