PULLMAN – Members of Washington State’s football team made a request on multiple occasions during media sessions this week.
Keep an eye on Armani Marsh, several Cougars advised their supporters, because he deserves more attention.
“For the fans, I don’t think they knew how good he was,” WSU edge Brennan Jackson said of Marsh, the Cougars’ nickelback. “But I know how good he is.
“That dude’s a killer. He’s a beast on the field. I knew he was going to break out like this, but I think Cougar fans need to remember that name, because he’s a special player.”
Marsh, a fifth-year senior from Spokane, doesn’t always stand out to spectators. He’s one of five defensive backs in the Cougs’ base defense, and steady DB play is often not as noticeable as other phases of the game.
But Marsh’s performance last weekend turned a few heads.
In WSU’s mostly dismal 45-14 loss to Southern Cal, Marsh was a consistent bright spot, logging an interception, a forced fumble and five tackles – 1.5 for loss.
“He played a heckuva game,” Cougars coach Nick Rolovich said. “I hope people get a chance to pay attention to him when they’re in the stadium. He’s such a fantastic player and person.”
Marsh will start his 10th career game for the Cougs when they meet Pac-12 adversary Utah at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
The former walk-on, who’s a team captain, made two of the Cougs’ most meaningful plays vs. the Trojans.
With WSU leading 14-0 in the second quarter, Marsh threw an accurate punch at the ball and knocked it from the grasp of scrambling USC quarterback Jaxson Dart.
Cougars cornerback Jaylen Watson recovered the fumble, setting up WSU with a short-field opportunity.
The Trojans were building steam at a considerable rate late in the third quarter. Ahead 21-14, USC was threatening to extend its lead.
Dart was pressured out of the pocket to his right by an all-out Cougars blitz on a third-and-12 and the freshman signal-caller lofted a high-arching pass downfield toward slot receiver K.D. Nixon.
Marsh, who often lines up inside and defends slotbacks, read the route and stayed back for a one-on-one challenge.
“My guy went under and I saw vertical from the inside slot going across. I knew I had to get on top of it,” Marsh said after the game.
Marsh hung right with Nixon as the ball floated, then won positioning at the 5-yard line and recorded his first career pick.
Rolovich highlighted the timely interception as a sign of resilience for a team that he said has a tendency to falter when its opponent swipes the momentum.
“When things were starting to turn, Armani Marsh comes up with a big play,” Rolovich said. “We’ve been a little averse to making plays when things start going south on us, so that was a positive.”
To succeed at nickel, a player must possess the ballhawking coverage skills of a corner while also being a strong enough tackler to replace a linebacker without much drop-off in his defense’s run game. Marsh impressed in both facets.
“I just love football, I love being out there, so just helping out any way I can,” Marsh said.
Marsh started at nickel in Week 1 against Utah State, but for unknown reasons, watched the Cougars’ next game from the sideline in sweats.
Safety Daniel Isom shifted to nickel and looked comfortable despite only a week of prep time.
The Cougs’ depth behind Marsh and Isom is limited, so the two have been given heavy workloads while still absorbing the principles of second-year defensive coordinator Jake Dickert’s 4-2-5 system.
“Armani Marsh played excellent – excellent – both him and (Isom),” edge coach A.J. Cooper said. “No offense, but the outside world doesn’t see what those guys are doing, the load that’s on their shoulders from a schematics standpoint, from a reps standpoint.”
Marsh was a first-team All-Greater Spokane League pick as a senior at Gonzaga Prep. He landed on a couple of lists that featured the Northwest’s top high school players, yet was lightly recruited.
Marsh was a two-star cornerback prospect and only held one offer from a Division I program (San Diego), according to 247Sports.com.
He redshirted in 2017 after walking on at WSU. By 2019, Marsh’s career was becoming a success story – he broke into the DB rotation and was getting some starts.
Marsh has appeared in 24 games over the past four years.
“When I took that chance to walk on, I always believed in myself and felt like I could play here, and I wanted to play here,” said Marsh, one of only two Cougar players from Eastern Washington – along with backup running back Kannon Katzer, of Mt. Spokane High.
“I just always kept that in the back of my mind and just worked as hard as I could and let the rest take care of itself.”
Marsh has been commended by his coaches and teammates for his overall work ethic and commitment to WSU.
“I don’t know if he sleeps,” Jackson said. “He’s just always doing extra, always out on the field doing more work, asking questions and he just has such a love for the game. And when you show so much passion every day, you’re gonna make plays and you’re gonna be fired up and amped up. So yeah, Armani Marsh, remember that guy.”
Rolovich was asked Wednesday to elaborate on the traits that make Marsh a distinctive talent, and the second-year coach called attention to his nickel’s intangibles.
“Love him. He cares so much. He cares so much about the right things,” Rolovich said. “Armani is so consistent in his demeanor, in his approach, preparation, and I think he just plays so hard. I feel very honored to be able to coach a kid like that.
“He’s a great role model for young kids in the game. … Just look at how he plays. If you get a chance to be around him, look at how he treats people.”
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