By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
It’s been a season of progression for Clint Van Horn, and last Thursday it resulted in his first college start.
Van Horn, a Woodrow Wilson graduate, started for Marshall at right tackle in the Thundering Herd’s 51-49 heartbreaking loss at Middle Tennessee State.
“It was a good experience,” Van Horn said Tuesday in a phone interview. “I love being out there with my teammates. Even though I didn’t start the (previous) games, I’m thankful for the opportunities the coaches gave me.”
Van Horn, a redshirt sophomore, played all 89 snaps against the Blue Raiders, as did the four other offensive linemen — injuries and the departure of two players have begun to take a toll depth wise. He was OK with his performance, although he graded out at 75 percent.
“I did all right,” he said. “I had the lowest score, but we played good as a unit. We had a couple of things but we will get back to practice and fix it.”
Van Horn has played in all but the UTSA game, which he missed with concussion symptoms. His most successful game was Marshall’s 24-23 win at Florida Atlantic, in which he played 58 snaps and graded out at a season-best 91 percent, highest on the team.
It was a couple of days later that Van Horn was told he would be starting at MTSU.
“I came in (against FAU) after the third series and stayed in,” he said.
“I was happy. It was an honor to be on the field with my teammates. The offensive line is like a brotherhood, so I was excited to be on the same field as guys like Garrett Scott and Chris Jasperse.”
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has expressed his confidence in Van Horn throughout the season.
“Clint has stepped up for us at that right tackle spot,” Holliday said. “He’s a big massive guy that can give us some stability there. We’ve been really pleased with his development and look for that to continue.”
Van Horn’s progression has stemmed from a revelation that came at him in the spring.
“I wasn’t ready to play,” he said.
Getting to where he felt he needed to be required several things, including getting in better shape. The 6-foot-4 right tackle slimmed down to 294 pounds in the offseason.
“I knew I had a tough summer ahead of me if I wanted the coaches to trust me, and the rest of the guys to trust me,” he said. “Like I said, offensive line is a brotherhood and to be a part of that I have to hold my own.”
Van Horn also said first-year offensive line coach Alex Mirabal has been a positive influence.
“I have never been around a coach who can take a whole line and make them more disciplined players as a unit,” Van Horn said.
Van Horn will get his second start when Marshall (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) hosts Southern Miss (0-7, 0-3) at noon Saturday. He said viewing the Golden Eagles’ defense on tape reveals a challenge for the Herd offense.
“They have a defensive scheme that we have not seen before,” Van Horn said. “But we’re going to prepare for them like we have everybody else.
“We have lost three close games and can’t afford to lose another one. We’re not taking anybody lightly. We will take every game as we always have, be ready and come out swinging.”
And Van Horn will be a big part of that.
— E-mail: gfauber