Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 30, 2012

Van to carry the load for Thundering Herd

BECKLEY — Tron Martinez missed spring drills and all of the preseason while recuperating from two knee surgeries.

He will also miss Marshall’s season opener — at least.

Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday confirmed Tuesday that Martinez has been ruled out of Saturday’s game at No. 11 West Virginia. The final Friends of Coal Bowl will kick off at noon and can be seen on FX.

Martinez, a 5-foot-10, 199-pound junior, emerged as a true freshman when he played in seven games and ran for 253 yards and a touchdown. He started 11 games last year and had 649 yards and three scores on 160 carries.

But he played through pain the entire season before having surgery.

“I don’t know that I’ve coached a tougher player that played with what he played with a year ago,” Holliday said Tuesday at his first press conference of the season.

Holliday did not rule out the possibility of Martinez returning this season. He also left open the chance that the Hampton, Va., native may not play at all in 2012.

“He will not play this week, but he will not be ruled out for the future,” Holliday said. “He does have a year that he could sit. But we’ll see how that goes. That’s a decision that doesn’t have to be made right now.”

The absence of Martinez doesn’t spell doom for Marshall’s running attack. Travon Van gives the Herd more than just a solid second option.

Van, a 5-10, 193-pound redshirt sophomore, got off to a slow start a year ago. That includes a 10-carry, 1-yard performance at West Virginia.

Marshall kick returner/receiver Andre Snipes-Booker, who recently changed his last name in honor of his grandfather, had an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Mountaineers. After the game, he came to Van’s defense.

“That’s his first game in two years,” Snipes-Booker said of Van, who signed with Marshall after originally committing to Florida. “He hasn’t seen things yet, but he’ll get on a roll and we’ll both be able to dominate.”

Van definitely improved. He ran for 114 yards in a 59-17 loss at Tulsa, including a 69-yard touchdown on the Herd’s first possession of the second half. Van finished the season with 551 yards and three touchdowns.

Backing up Van will be Essray Taliaferro, a 5-7, 181-pound redshirt junior.  He played in all 13 games a year ago, running 26 times for 93 yards.

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