By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Saturday afternoon with approximately eight minutes showing on the third quarter clock, Marshall lined up at the Memphis nine yard line, first and goal.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato took the snap, rolled to his right and floated a short pass to his fullback, Devon Johnson. Johnson made the catch, lowered his shoulder at about the three and bulled his way into the end zone for a Marshall touchdown, the first of his young college career.
Earlier this year Johnson, a true freshman who played at Richlands High School, was listed on the Thundering Herd depth chart as a linebacker, but due to a shortage of runners he was moved across the line of scrimmage and is getting playing time as a fullback.
In addition to his score he had a number of key blocks that helped sustain drives and help the Herd stave off the Memphis Tigers 38-28, this past Saturday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington. For the season Johnson now has two receptions and has not rushed the ball.
“I played defense and offense in high school and it was kind of easy (moving to offense),” Johnson said following the game. “Coach (Bill) Legg and Coach (Doc) Holliday put me on offense and now they’re getting me in on more plays.”
For the Richlands Blue Tornado, where Johnson was two-time Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year, he ran primarily from the tailback position, but for him it makes no difference where he is positioned when the ball is snapped.
“I played fullback before, but it’s all the same thing. I love hitting,” Johnson said with a grin. “I like contact. We’ve been running a lot of 20, 21 personnel lately and that means you pound up in there. They let me pound in there and get an opening.”
Still relatively new on campus, Johnson said he’s still getting acclimated to college life and football at that level.
“It’s going great. I’m taking my time, getting used to the environment,” Johnson said. “All around, I love it and I can’t wait to start (practicing) tomorrow.”
Joe Woodrum has been seeing action on special teams since the opening game of Marshall season at West Virginia, a wing back on extra points and field goals. Woodrum, a product of Bluefield High School, said slowly but surely he is getting more time on the field.
“I’ve been getting some (reps) here and there, a little time at tight end, so I’m just hanging in there and trying to keep getting more and more,” Woodrum said.
With Marshall’s high-scoring offense, Woodrum has been on the field for many point-after attempts. His goal is to continue his hard work on special teams and get in on more offensive plays.
“Last week (vs. UCF) I got a little bit (of action), so I’m just going to work hard and try to keep getting more and more,” Woodrum commented.
“It has been going well, I’ve been getting a couple of reps during the games, a couple of reps in practice, so every day I just keep getting better and hopefully I will be able to get on the field soon and try to contribute a bit more.”
Both Johnson and Woodrum have siblings playing high school football in the two Virginias. Johnson’s brother A.J. is a senior wide receiver at Richlands, while Woodrum has two brothers, David and Matthew who suit up for the Bluefield Beavers.
Johnson said he keeps an eye on his brother and the Blue Tornado from Huntington.
“I’ve been following him, he’s doing great,” Johnson said. “I tell him to keep his head up and keep working hard. Hopefully later he will be smiling just like I was on signing day last February 1.”
Woodrum’s brothers and the Beavers played about 30 minutes from Huntington on Friday night in a game many in the Beaver Nation would like to forget, a 45-14 loss at No. 1 Wayne.
“I talked to them last night and I gave them words of encouragement. It’s hard after that kind of loss,” Woodrum said. “I told them to keep their heads up and they will be all right. They’ve done some good things and have to just keep their heads up.”
Next up for Marshall (4-5, 3-2 CUSA) is another Conference USA game, Saturday at Alabama-Birmingham. Woodrum laid out what he, Johnson and the rest of the Herd must do.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Woodrum said. “It’s good because we got this win against Memphis and you built upon that. We’ve got to keep the streak going and try to get a two-game win streak.”
—Contact Bob Redd