For the first time since the 2014 season, the Marshall Thundering Herd will head into a football season without the services of quarterback Chase Litton. The three-year starting quarterback announced Sunday he would be forgoing his senior season to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
The news caught Marshall fans and followers by surprise and now, the Herd will be forced into the task of trying to replace statistically one of the best quarterbacks in program history.
Litton ranks fourth in Marshall history in completions, fifth in yards, and fourth in touchdowns. The only other Herd quarterbacks that have thrown for at least 8,000 yards and 70 touchdowns in their careers are Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich, and Rakeem Cato.
He will end his Marshall career with a 20-14 record in games in which he started as well as two bowl wins. Many NFL scouts believe Litton has the measurables and tools to make it in the NFL.
But things have not been as smooth sailing for Litton and the Herd as those numbers might suggest. While Litton’s talent has been proven, his consistency on and off the field has been criticized.
His passing efficiency rating improved from a 132.8 during his freshman season to a 137.9 during his sophomore season. But the rating dropped down to a 131.4 during his junior season. In addition, his interceptions total has increased each season.
During his freshman season, he had 23 touchdown passes to eight interceptions. His sophomore season saw 24 touchdown passes to nine interceptions, but his junior season saw 25 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions.
Litton’s completion percentage also hit a Marshall-low of 60.0 percent in 2017 compared to 60.2 during his freshman season and 62.3 during his sophomore season.
His character has also been in question among the Marshall fanbase as well over the past couple years. A glaring example of this came during the 2016 season in which he was suspended for a violation of team rules in the season finale against Western Kentucky.
Litton has worked hard to grow as a person and a player and even said as much over the past year or so, which will loom large in his attempt to make it in the NFL. But regardless of the circumstances, Litton is NFL Draft bound, for right or for wrong.
Saying that, it does seem too early for him to test the NFL waters. He could have stayed for his senior season and had a potential breakthrough season to help his draft stock. Struggles in C-USA won’t catch many scouts’ eyes, despite what his upside could be.
This begs the question, where does that leave Marshall heading into the 2018 football season? Expectations are high for the Herd next season with closer to 20 returning starters, but now without the services of a three-year starting quarterback, who will Marshall lean on at quarterback next season?
Whoever takes the reigns as the Herd’s starting quarterback in 2018 will have plenty to work with offensively, including an entire returning starting offensive line, the two top running backs from 2017, and each of the leading wide receivers from 2017.
But one factor that should shake up the Marshall offense in 2018 will be a new offensive coordinator after Bill Legg resigned following the 2017 season after eight seasons as the Herd’s offensive coordinator. It’s safe to assume Marshall’s offensive scheme will be different and it might be geared towards fitting the next quarterback’s skill set.
Three quarterbacks will likely be in the running to become Marshall’s next starting quarterback barring any later additions. Jackson White, Isaiah Green, and Garet Morrell are likely the odds-on favorites in the race, but none have much, if any, college experience.
White saw very limited action in 2017 while not throwing a pass, but did serve as the Herd’s holder. Green was a three-star prospect out of high school while being rated as the 41st best dual-threat quarterback in the country by 247 Sports, but he has not taken a snap in a college football game before.
The only player of the three to have started games for Marshall was Morrell, who started two games in 2016 for the injured and then suspended Litton and he was redshirted this past season. He completed 33 of 67 pass attempts in those two starts for 290 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions.
Marshall will be in a unique position over the next several months in trying to find a new offensive coordinator and starting quarterback. Losing Litton came as a surprise and replacing a veteran quarterback at the college level is never an easy task.
But the returning talent the Herd has coming back in 2018 should help lighten the load for whoever takes over as the starting quarterback as Marshall hopes to compete for a C-USA Championship.