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Marshall Gill (West Point High) feels 'it's an honor' to be trusted at left tackle in VMI's Air Raid
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Marshall Gill (West Point High) feels 'it's an honor' to be trusted at left tackle in VMI's Air Raid

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The quarterback’s value cannot be overestimated in VMI’s Air Raid offense. He handles the ball every play, commonly runs it, and the Keydets throw often. Next on the list may be the left tackle, who safeguards the QB’s blind side.

This is why Marshall Gill, a graduate of West Point High, feels so strongly about being in command where he has started for four seasons.

“It’s an honor to be able to be trusted in that position,” said Gill, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior. “If someone else doesn’t do their job, it can be covered up. If the left tackle doesn’t do the job, someone could get seriously hurt. I take a lot of pride in keeping my guys upright and protected.”

Gill, a first team All-Southern Conference selection following the spring-semester season, didn’t think he’d be playing offense in college. Gill believed defensive line fit him. But there was an O-line need Gill filled soon after arriving in Lexington.

Saturday at VMI’s Foster Stadium on Family Weekend, the Keydets (3-2, 1-1 SoCon) will lean hard on Gill and the rest of the program’s offensive linemen to loosen things up against Chattanooga (2-2, 1-0 SoCon), which was picked atop the league’s preseason poll and features the conference’s best defense.

“They put their front four up against you and they kind of just have a mindset where they think their front four is going to be better than that offensive line,” Gill said.

Chattanooga allows 19 points per game and has caused 11 turnovers, with 13 sacks among 25 tackles for losses. The Mocs “went stride for stride with Kentucky for four quarters,” said VMI coach Scott Wachenheim, before falling 28-23 to the nation’s No. 16 team on Sept. 18.

The Keydets refocus after last Saturday’s 35-24 loss at The Citadel in The Military Classic of the South, which isn’t an easy transition after putting so much into preparation and the game. Wachenheim has interest in moving VMI-The Citadel to the end of the season every year.

“I’d even do it at a neutral site, but I do like doing it home-and-home because of the fanfare,” he said. “The whole experience at their place and our place is pretty cool, especially when our corps goes down there and their corps comes up here.”

Nevertheless, “When Sunday hit, it was time to win Chattanooga,” Gill said of the Keydets’ attitude. Losing to VMI’s chief rival the day before “kind of gave us more motivation, actually,” he added. “This is one of best weeks of practice. A loss like that, it hurts you, and you’re kind of like, ‘We don’t want to be hurt like that again.’ So you go harder.”

Notes: Seth Morgan returns as VMI starting quarterback after injury issues. … The son of Richmond coach Russ Huesman, Jacob Huesman, is Chattanooga’s tight ends coach. Jacob Huesman, a former Mocs quarterback, was the SoCon offensive player of the year in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Wachenheim, on the recent installment of former Richmond AD Jim Miller as VMI interim AD: “Danny Rocco [ex-UR coach] and I coached together for three years at Liberty and I heard Jim was being considered and I called Danny on the phone and Danny gave Jim an enthusiastic thumbs-up, said that Jim was very smart, that he was very fair.”

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233

@RTDjohnoconnor

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