HUNTINGTON — The smile on the face of Marshall quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Todd Goebbel comes readily to his face when he talks with Thundering Herd players, other coaches on Doc Holiday’s staff or even the media — really! But the former quarterback at Marshall opponents like longtime Mid-American Conference member Kent State and FCS member Northern Iowa gets to talk about getting a chance to coach the Marshall quarterbacks this season and assist eighth-year co-coordinator Bill Legg in setting up and calling the offense Marshal will use and the smile gets just a little bit bigger than normal.
Marshall will meet Kent State in 2017 at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Sept. 16 during Marshall Hall of Fame Weekend. Goebbel was there in 1995-97, as the Golden Flashes captain and quarterback for the Herd’s first season back in the MAC, and MU’s first game was in Kent, Ohio, a 42-17 win for Marshall. He transferred to then I-AA Northern Iowa for 1998 and was the starting quarterback and the Gateway Conference Newcomer of the Year for the Panthers. MU defeated UNI in I-AA quarterfinals in 1991 and 1995, then in the semifinals of the 1996 season when Marshall was 15-0 and No. 1, wire-to-wire.
Goebbel graduated in 1998 fro UNI with a Bachelor’s in Physical Education, then spent the early part of 1999 with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Destroyers in the Arena Football League before heading to the coaching ranks. He first coached tight ends at the NCAA Division III College of Wooster that fall (where Jack Lengyel of the “Young” Thundering Herd was the head coach before taking the Herd job in 1971) for Coach Jim Barnes of the Fighting Scots. He then moved to coach quarterbacks and wide receivers at Division II Tiffin University for two years, working for Dragons head coach Cam Cruickshank.
Goebbel next took his talents Quincy (Illinois) University, where he was both recruiting coordinator and the offensive coordinator in 2002 and 2003 for Coach Bill Terlisner, and also earned a Master’s degree at Quincy in Educational Leadership. Back in his native Ohio, having grown up in Delaware (just north of Columbus, home of the Buckeyes), Goebbel worked one year as the Ohio State quality control coach as OSU posted an 8-4 record and beat Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. That brought Goebbel to Marshall in 2005 with new head coach Mark Snyder, who was also at Ohio State in 2004.
That brought Goebbel to Marshall in 2005 with new head coach Mark Snyder, who was also at Ohio State in 2004. Here at Marshall from 2005-09, Goebbel worked with receivers and special teams, helping players like Darius Passmore, Emmanuel Spann and Chubb Small to earn honors in those areas. Marshall struggled to make the move from the MAC to Conference USA following the Bob Pruett era of winning over 100 games from 1996-2004. When current Marshall head coach Doc Holiday was hired at Marshall in 2010, Goebbel was not carried over to the new staff and was on the move again.
He moved to Ohio Dominican and between 2010-2014, the Panthers had one of the most high-octane offenses in Division II. In 2011, the team set a single-season and career rushing record for running back Mike Noffsinger. ODU averaged 41 points per game in 2012 and were No. 8 in passing, and in 2014, they were 11-2, made the NCAA Regional finals and were No. 4 in the nation, averaging 35.6 points and 445 yards of offense for a group that was No. 2 nationally scoring in the red zone. Goebbel’s quarterback, Mark Miller, was seventh in the voting for the D-II Player of the Year.
Doc Holliday brought Goebbel back to Marshall in the spring of 2015, where Todd’s younger brother, Aaron, is the long-time Associate Director of Athletics for External Affairs. Todd was the tight ends coach, special teams coach and recruiting coordinator in 2015 as the Herd was 10-3 and won the St. Petersburg Bowl. In 2016, he moved to wide receivers and continued pushing players. Two of his successes were Deandre Reaves, the C-USA Special Teams player of the Year in 2015 as well as having a career year in catches and yards, and punter Tyler Williams, who averaged 44.4 yards per kick and set a new Marshall record for average kicks (43.9 yards over his career).
Now he is going to move to quarterbacks — and the thought of that makes his ready smile come even faster — while Legg moves to tight ends and David Dunn will be the Recruiting Coordinator/ Defensive Analyst until the NCAA adds the tenth full-time assistant to staffs in FBS, expected to be either by this fall or 2018 at the latest. But he has a group as different as different can be when it comes to quarterbacks for the Herd.
Junior Chase Litton (No. 14, 6-6/223, from Wharton HS in Tampa, Fla.) has played in 21 games over the last two seasons, leading the Herd to a bowl win and the 10-3 season as a true freshman in 2015, then to the 3-9 year last year. The funny thing is, his numbers did not really change at all. He passed for 2,605 yards and 23 TDs in ’15, then threw for 2,612 yards (7 more yards) and 24 TDs (1 more score) last season, averaging 6.8 yards per pass as a frosh replacement for Michael Birdsong when the transfer was hurt at Ohio. He passed for 7.0 yards per pass last year, missing the 59-28 loss to No. 3-ranked Louisville and the final game blowout, 60-6, against WKU, both games in Huntington.
Sophomore Garet Morrell (No. 12, 6-3/214, from Lee County HS in Leesburg, Ga.) played in five games last year as a true frosh, throwing for 33-of-67 (49.3%), 290 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, and running for 14 yards. The WKU game, Morrell’s second start after the UofL game, saw the freshman hit 19-of-35 (55%) for 143 yards, two interceptions, and a 4-yard touchdown to junior tight end Ryan Yurachek.
Behind Litton and Morrell in experience is redshirt freshman Xavier Gaines (No. 11, 6-2/218, from Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas) as well as redshirt freshman Jackson White (No. 13, 6-2/192, from Buchholz HS in Gainesville, Fla.), both of whom were gauged by Marshall’s Legg and Holiday to be just a bit behind Morrell in development but both competing with Litton and Morrell for the starting job. There is also redshirt frosh Christian Schlegel (No. 19, 6-3/216, from Shikellamy HS in Sunbury, Pa.), who walked on this spring.
Goebbel says getting back with quarterbacks is something he was looking forward to. “When I was notified by Coach Holiday that I was going to change positions,” Goebbel said. “Any time you get a chance to coach a position you played, there is some excitement about it.
“I was very excited to get to coach the tight ends as well as the wide receivers, but just like anything else when you get a chance to ‘go home’ there is an excitement about that. I have a good group to work with, and Coach Legg did a tremendous job with them, so I will just keep pushing to get this great group of young men to an elite level.”
With just six of 15 allowed practices in the books, there certainly is not set rotation as of yet. As is normal in the spring, however, the players who were getting the playing time in the fall come in according to the nearly same level as they were when the Herd was practicing and playing games in the fall.
That means, in a nutshell, that Litton is going with the ones, Morrell the twos and the other quarterbacks work in as they can. Gaines is sometimes the No. 2, Morrell sometimes is with the ones, and Jackson gets work off and on in the team. Right now, everyone is competing for a starting job by the end of spring.
But right now, the Herd coaches are looking for consistency and for physical play — even scoring those areas for the offense and defense during each practice, throughout the 2.5-hour drills at the stadium. Goebbel is looking for consistency but in three ways.
“More than anything with quarterbacks, when you talk about consistency, it developed in three ways at three levels,” Goebbel said. “You look for them to have consistent fundamentals, you want to consistently take care of the football and you want them to consistently step up and lead the team. If you can do those three elements pretty well, you have a chance to be a pretty good quarterback.”
Goebbel knows the mix of experience would normally put the players who have less experience as players at a disadvantage in having the “chaos” — a word Goebbel uses for what others call having the game ‘slow down’ for players — being harder to manage. But there are other standards to think about from looking at tapes of 2016 to trying to fix some of the problems in the spring of 2017.
“The biggest thing I want to see out of all our quarterbacks, all of them, is for every one of them to act like they are the starter this spring,” Goebbel said. “And there are a lot of things that go into acting like a starter, whether it is carrying yourself as a starter, or if it is practicing and preparing yourself every day like you are a starter or running your every rep like it is a starting quarterback rep. As long as everyone in the group is acting like a starter, preparing like a starter and running plays like a starter, that will make the entire group better this spring.
“When you walk into the quarterback room, you get to know each players strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. There is not a tighter relationship on the team than quarterbacks and their position coaches. I know that for sure, as a former quarterback.”
One of the things the Herd did later in the season last year after Litton took a hard shot against Akron and a couple of more as the offensive line was beset with injuries, was to get the quarterbacks out of the traditional pocket and have the quarterback rolling left or right on plays.
“Anytime during a spring, you want to make changes to your play. Whether it is getting the quarterbacks out of the pocket, or staying in the pocket, this is the time to work on those things. Those are the base things we will continue to work on day-by-day, throughout the spring, having the quarterbacks familiar with those things if we need to use them in the fall as we progress here in the spring. Each quarterback has to get better to make us a better offense.
Goebbel is a change for those quarterbacks, who have had either one or two seasons under the older and a bit more laid back coach in Legg and neither coach has any trouble with making that distinction. But Goebbel is an energetic guy, and Litton — the guy with two years under Legg — is happy to have a coach this year who is a bit louder and who brings a bit more energy to practices as well as to the quarterback room for film study, as Litton told Doug Smock of the Charleston GazetteMail last month before talking with the media last week for the last time until the end of spring. He also returned to No. 14, the number he wore as a freshman and for the black jersey game last year around Nov. 14, when Marshall remembers players, coaches, and staff lost in the 1970 charter airplane crash at MU.
He also returned to No. 14, the number he wore as a freshman and for the black jersey game last year around Nov. 14, when Marshall remembers players, coaches, and staff lost in the 1970 charter airplane crash at MU. “He’s just an energetic guy. That’s Goebbel,” Litton told Smock on March 29. “Goebbel’s very loud, very happy to be around. I mean, he loves quarterback. He played it, he’s home, and you can tell he’s home (coaching quarterbacks). We’re ready to put on a show for him and make sure he stays as coach.”
The coach would agree with that. “No matter what you do, it all starts with your attitude,” Goebbel said, with his voice rising slightly. “If your attitude is right, it affects everything. If your attitude is uplifting, if your attitude is positive, it affects all you do, and we want to start each day with a positive attitude. It seems everything follows that what you do is effective if you start the day with the right attitude.
“So, it is all about attitude. We want to start the day with a great attitude, then finish the day with a great attitude, excited about what we accomplished in that day — every day.”
One thing is for sure. Attitude is the first of many changes for the Herd to rebound from last year’s downturn and Todd Goebbel is at the forefront of believing it … and being it.