By Gary Fauber
Even with teams like West Virginia and Virginia Tech on future schedules, Ahmed Shakoor had Tulane squarely in his sights.
“We have been talking about this game since I signed my letter-of-intent,” Shakoor said.
Shakoor’s excitement has nothing to with New Orleans’ French Quarter. By “we,” he means himself, former Marshall recruit Cory McCutchen and Andre Anderson, Tulane’s senior running back.
The three went to the same high school, Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, Ga., although Shakoor and Anderson were never teammates. Shakoor transferred there in the middle of Anderson’s senior year, after football season was finished.
(McCutchen also went to Stephenson and signed with Marshall the same day as Shakoor, but is no longer with the program.)
“We didn’t play together, but we know each other,” Shakoor said Tuesday. “We have talked a lot about (the game).”
Shakoor, a sophomore cornerback, and Anderson will line up against each other Saturday in New Orleans. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. The game can be seen on WVNS-TV 59.
They never were teammates, but Shakoor and Anderson know each other well, staying in touch and talking about the game on Facebook.
It seems former Stephenson players are more than just alumni.
“We’re all tight,” Shakoor said. “We all work out together when we get back home. Everybody is real tight.”
“We play seven-on-seven, get back and just do different things,” Anderson said. “Last year, when I found out we were playing Marshall, I told him I was looking forward to it. We’re just two good competitors from a competitive high school.”
Shakoor gives Anderson a favorable comparison.
“He’s an aggressive back. He’s kind of an Adrian Peterson-type back,” Shakoor said. “He’s aggressive up high. He tries to get his pads under you.”
Shakoor, a 5-foot-11, 208-pound sophomore, has been a work in progress for the Herd (3-2, 0-1 Conference USA). He has started four of the Herd’s five games in place of regular starters DeQuan Bembry and T.J. Drakeford, the latter of whom has been battling a foot injury.
The results have admittedly been mixed for Shakoor. He leads the team with seven pass breakups and has 15 tackles, but has given up a big play or two as well.
“As far as getting acclimated to the game speed, there is more that I want to do,” Shakoor said. “As far as right now, I’m not a rookie anymore. I don’t have that excuse. For the most part, I feel I’m doing pretty good, but I should be doing a lot better.”
Overall, the Marshall secondary has played well this season. The Herd has five interceptions in five games and is fifth in the conference in pass defense at 222.6 yards per game and third in pass defense efficiency at 117.7.
“We have just been blessed to have two great coaches,” Shakoor said, praising Mike Cassity and Jeff Burrow. “We work hard every day and (success) is the outcome. But we want more.”
As for the Green Wave (2-2, 0-1), Shakoor is aware of its top two receivers, Jeremy Williams and Casey Robottom. And, of course, Anderson, his fellow former Jaguar.
“I know his weaknesses.”
— E-mail: gfauber@