Marshall beefs up for season

In football, size matters. Junior defensive end Craig Marshall took that saying to heart in the offseason.

“I had to get bigger over the winter, that was important,” Marshall said. “I spent a lot of time in the weight room trying to improve my strength.”

After transferring from Pearl River junior college, Marshall saw significant playing time last season as a sophomore when two-time All-American defensive end George Selvie suffered an ankle injury at Florida International on Sept. 20.

Since then, Marshall has gained 15 pounds of muscle to help him compete for the starting left end spot and is No. 1 at on the spring depth chart.

Marshall, who is listed as 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, has improved his bench press to
325 pounds in order to compete better at the line of scrimmage.

Last season, the Fort Walton Beach native proved himself as a pass rusher, gaining 5.5 tackles for a loss. This season, however, Marshall said he’s focused more on helping the rush defense as well.

“It was all about getting stronger, because I have good speed and so now I can help out in other areas,” he said. “The coaches have really been telling me they want me to hold my gaps stronger, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on this spring.”

Coach Jim Leavitt said having more strength will help Marshall improve as a player.

“He’s gotten bigger. We wanted him to get stronger … he’s got to get better at everything,” he said. “You’ve got to get bigger and stronger all the time and get better technically in what you do for all aspects of the game.”

In his first start, Marshall totaled one tackle for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one interception against N.C. State on Sept 27. In the Big East, he recovered fumbles against Syracuse and Louisville, earning him a starting spot entering this spring.

The USF defensive line returns six players who saw significant playing time. It also has two highly recruited incoming players for next fall. JUCO defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is a five-star caliber according to Rivals, and four-star Armwood defensive end Ryne Giddins will add depth to an already competitive bunch.

“We’re going to be pretty good next year on the line, so right now I’m just trying to work hard in the spring ­— ­that way I can be ready for next fall,” Marshall said.

Along with a competitive line, Marshall has to deal with adjusting to new defensive coordinators Joe Tresey and David Blackwell. Defensive line coach Kevin Patrick said it’s been an adjustment for the whole defense.

“For (Marshall) and a lot of the guys, it’s about getting used to the new type of terminology of the defense,” he said. “Our guys have some work left in getting used to it.”

In terms of physical ability, though, Patrick said Marshall has improved in the offseason.

“Getting stronger and adding weight was important, but it was about adding good weight,” he said. “I think (Marshall) has done that.”