PowerMizzou - Mizzou commit Marshall shows run-stuffing ability
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Mizzou commit Marshall shows run-stuffing ability

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — St. Thomas Aquinas had the game in hand, leading Blue Valley North 35-14 late in the fourth quarter on Friday. But when Blue Valley North got first and goal from the one-yard line, it was still important for the Saints to get a stop.

For one thing, the Thomas Aquinas defense wanted to keep its second-half shutout intact. More important, the Kansas State High School Activities Association uses margin of victory as a tie-breaker for seeding in the state playoffs, which start next week. The St. Thomas Aquinas staff knew that if the team won by 16 points or more, it would earn the highest seed of the three Class 5A schools that finished the year 4-4.

On first down, Blue Valley North tried a quarterback sneak. With Missouri commit Jalen Marshall manning the middle, the St. Thomas Aquinas defensive line didn’t budge, and the play lost a yard. The Mustangs tried an inside handoff on the following snap, and once again Marshall blew the play up in the backfield for a loss of yardage. Blue Valley North would throw incompletions on third and fourth down, keeping the Saints’ second-half shutout and the 21-point lead intact.

“I knew that we had to win by 16 to get on the side of the bracket that we wanted to get on, so that was very important for us,” Marshall explained.

The first two stops showed what Marshall can bring to Missouri. Listed at 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, the 2022 prospect excelled at clogging rushing lanes, even when blocked by multiple players. St. Thomas Aquinas rotated between three- and four-man defensive fronts, and Marshall showcased the ability to line up both at nose tackle and in a 4i technique.

Marshall said he sees his run defense as his strength, although he believes he can rush opposing passers, too. He didn’t record a sack Friday, but his team had several, a few of which could be attributed to Marshall providing pressure up the middle and flushing the quarterback from the pocket.

“I’m definitely a run-stopper right now, and I think as I continue to develop and get my pass rush down, I think I could also be a big threat on the pass rush,” Marshall said.

St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Randy Dreiling said his defense’s ability to generate pressure was key to the win over Blue Valley North. He credited Marshall with helping generate that. Dreiling also said that Marshall brings more to the team than just his on-field production.

“He’s a first-class person, great kid, and every day I see him he looks like he gets bigger,” Dreiling said. “I mean, it’s incredible. (Mizzou is) getting a wonderful human being, great family.”

Missouri’s situation has changed a bit since Marshall committed to the Tigers in August. The team has struggled during the first seven weeks of the season, starting the year 3-4, including an 0-3 record against SEC competition. On Oct. 3, following a loss to Tennessee, Eli Drinkwitz fired defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

Marshall said the firing of Franklin meant he communicates with different coaches on the staff than he used to, but it didn’t impact his commitment. He said he has a good relationship with interim defensive line coach Al Davis, and he texts with a Missouri coach “almost every day.” He also had a Zoom meeting with the staff last week. He doesn’t plan on taking any other college visits or reopening his recruitment.

“I’ve always been talking to coach Al, and I feel like I have a really good relationship with him, also,” Marshall said when asked about Franklin’s firing. “It changes stuff, but not a whole bunch. I’m still committed.”

Missouri’s slow start to SEC play this season hasn’t caused Marshall to waiver, either. He said the Tiger staff has pitched the 2022 recruiting class on making a quick impact and helping turn the program around.

“They said that we just have a lot of holes to fill, and that our incoming class, the class of 2022, is going to be a big part of filling those holes, and that we’re the class that’s supposed to change everything,” Marshall said. “So we have high expectations.”

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