Over the past two seasons of Marshall football, the Herd has gone from a potent aerial attacking squad to one with a well-balanced offense, and running back's coach Chris Barclay is largely to thank for the resurgence of a significant rushing attack.
While a great addition to the Herd coaching staff, it was announced today that Barclay has accepted a job as an offensive assistant with Western Kentucky. It will be Barclay's fourth stop in his coaching career. The former Wake Forest standout worked with his alma mater from 2009-11 and spent one season with William and Mary before coming to Marshall in 2014.
Barclay finished as the Demon Deacon's all-time leading rusher with 4,032 yards and 40 touchdowns in his NCAA career. He also became the first player in ACC history to lead the league in rushing three consecutive seasons. After college, the 2005 ACC Player of the Year spent three seasons in the NFL from 2006-08, making stops with the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.
During Barclay's first season with the Herd, he faced a major challenge in the first days of fall camp. After missing the opening of fall camp to welcome the birth of his first child Houstyn, Barclay found a new player in the backfield upon his return with little to no rushing experience; Devon Johnson.
Prior to the 2014 season, Johnson had tallied only five carries for 13 yards and three touchdowns, making his accomplishments in his junior season even more remarkable. In his first season as a full time running back, the converted tight end rumbled for 1,767 yards, the second-most in Marshall history, and found pay dirt 17 times from the backfield. Johnson also set the school's single-game rushing record with 272 yards in a win over FAU in Huntington.
Barclay guided a broken backfield in 2015 season, with not a single back seeing the field in all 13 Marshall games. Converted wide receiver Hyleck Foster worked in 12 games this season, although not all was as a running back and Keion Davis led the way with 11.
Barclay will have plenty of firepower to work with in the Hilltoppers' backfield, with the top two leading rushers returning in 2016. Anthony Wales led WKU with 1,091 yards and nine touchdowns after taking over for the injured Leon Allen, and D'Andre Ferby added 650 yards and 11 scores in his first season. Barclay also welcomes freshman Quinton Baker, who decided to join WKU after originally committing to Marshall. Baker finished a finalist for Mr. Football in Kentucky while tallying 1,976 yards and 26 touchdowns in his senior season with Ashland.
With the vacancy at the running backs position, Marshall will be in search of its third new face since the 2013 season. Former backs coach Thomas Brown left Marshall after the 2013 season for a job with Wisconsin. Brown is now the co-offensive coordinator under Mark Richt in Miami.
Marshall has failed to defeat WKU since the Tops joined Conference USA, including falling 67-66 in devastating fashion in overtime in the final game of the 2014 regular season. It was Marshall's only loss of the year and ultimately spoiled the Herd's shot at the College Football Playoff Access Bowl Bid as the representative for the Group of Five schools.
Barclay will make his first visit as an opposing coach to Huntington when the Hilltoppers visit Huntington this year.