Sunday, August 31, 2014

Marshall holds off Miami's Surge to Pick Up Season Opener Win in Oxford

Marshall football kicked off its 2014 season against Miami (Ohio) as the Thundering Herd held off a late charge by the RedHawks for a 42-27 win at Yager Stadium.

“There was so many unknowns there in the first quarter and we made some adjustments there in the first half and I thought we played pretty good on both sides of the ball,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “Second half we didn’t play quiet as well but I was happy with the way they responded in the fourth quarter and put that game away.”

Marshall elected to defer after winning the coin toss allowing the defense to flex its muscle for the first time this season, forcing Andrew Hendrix and his RedHawks to a three-and-out and bringing Heisman Trophy candidate Rakeem Cato to the field.

Cato marched his troops to the Miami 32-yard line but the drive would stall after center Chris Jasperse was flagged for a personal foul, turning 3rd-and-4 to 3rd-and-19 which the Herd failed to convert and was forced to punt.

Miami’s offense remained stagnant after being forced into another three-and-out but Cato found the spark he needed on his second possession.

Eric Frohnapfel hauls in a TD at Miami (Ohio).
Cato hit redshirt freshman Angelo Jean-Louis for a 39-yard gain on first down taking the Herd from its own 46 to the Miami 15. Two plays later, Eric Frohnapfel showed there is life after Gator Hoskins as he hauled in a great diving catch on an 11-yard post route to put the Herd on top 7-0.

“It’s an opportunity we get as tight ends,” Frohnapfel said of his scoring production. “Gator (Hoskins) did that a lot last year and I’m trying to fill that role.”

Miami mounted a seven-play drive that started at the Herd’s 18 on the ensuing drive, but once again stalled as the Herd forced a turnover on downs and take over from its own 43.

Cato connected with his Miami Central receiver Tommy Shuler three times on the drive for gains of 17, 9 and finally a 3-yard touchdown putting Marshall up 14-0 after one quarter of play.

Tommy Shuler makes a leaping TD catch at Miami (Ohio).
Cato looked sharp after the first 15 minutes completing 10-of-13 passes for 124 yards and 2 TDs.
Marshall’s defense made another big stop to start the second quarter after Jarquez Samuel met Hendrix at the line of scrimmage forcing back-to-back turnover on downs for the RedHawks.

The Herd’s offense took the spark from the first quarter defensive performance and scored on its third consecutive possession after Devon Johnson busted a 55-yard run off left guard that came up one yard short of six more points. Cato hooked up with Frohnapfel on the next play for a 1-yard touchdown pass as the Herd stormed out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Trailing by 21 and having little help from the back field, Hendrix not only found an offensive rhythm, but much needed confidence as he led a 13-play 62-yard drive—the longest Miami drive of the game— to put his team on the board. Miami converted two third downs and a 4th-and-1 on the drive while receiving a 15-yard gift from Herd nickel back Antavis Rowe after being flagged for a personal foul. Hendrix had three chances from the Herd’s 5-yard line but threw three consecutive incomplete passes forcing the RedHawks to settle for a field goal to cut the Herd’s lead to 21-3.

Marshall’s next position looked sloppy at best as Cato was sacked on first and second down. After Cato’s 9-yard gain to Demetrius Evans failed to move the chains, the Herd was forced to punt. But the Herd lost more than a failed conversion on the play as starting left tackle Sebastian Johansson was injured forcing freshman A.J. Addison to step in and fill the void.

Cato rallied the troops with the assistance of a spectacular 37-yard circus-like catch from Davonte Allen that set up first-and-goal from the two. Johnson finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run extending the lead to 28-3.

Hendrix calmly led his team 74 yards to the Herd 1-yard line before being stood up at the goal line by A.J. Leggett and Jermaine Holmes, saving a touchdown. Miami had one final shot to cash in for six but came up empty after Darryl Roberts deflected a Hendrix pass intended for David Frazier as time expired in the half.

Although Marshall added 14 more points in the second quarter, it held the ball for less than five minutes, forcing the defense to battle through hot and muggy conditions with field temperatures in the upper 90’s for nearly 20 of the first 30 minutes of play.

Deandre Reaves opened the second half with a 29-yard kickoff return as the Herd looked to continue its stellar offensive production from the first half. Marshall appeared to be moving the ball at will after Cato connected with Reaves on back-to-back passes of 8 and 15 yards respectfully. After making a grab that pushed the Herd into RedHawks territory, Reaves lost the handle on the ball and Miami came away with the recovery near midfield.

Hendrix patiently chipped away at the Herd’s defense as the patience paid off with a 28-yard strike to Frazier that set up first-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Hendrix hit is former Norte Dame tight end Alex Welch for the RedHawks first touchdown of the game from 2 yards out trimming the lead to 28-10.

Throughout the third quarter everything seemingly fell into place for the RedHawks as they outscored Marshall 17-0 while holding the ball for 10:30 in the quarter.

Marshall’s offense looked stagnate after picking up only two first downs and turned the ball over on downs at the Miami 35-yard line as a Cato’s intended pass to Shuler missed its mark forcing the exhausted Herd defense back to the field.

On the final play of the quarter, ‘Rockhead’ Johnson showed he was going to lead his team to a win as the 243-pound back delivered a punishing 16-yard gain on first down that carried his team into RedHawks territory to start the final stanza.

Cato continued to feed Johnson the ball as the Herd tried to slow the pace of the game allowing the defense a much needed rest.

With the ball at the Miami 22-yard line, Holliday once again left the offense on the field rather than settling for a field goal attempt, and much like the first attempt to convert on fourth down, the Herd came up short as Johnson was stuffed at the line for no gain.

Marshall’s defense stepped up big trying to regain the momentum it had apparently lost after the intermission by forcing Miami to a three-and-out the netted minus 17 yards.

Remi Watson joined Cato in the backfield as the Herd started its drive in Miami’s half of the field. Watson tallied 13 yards on four carries in the drive, but it was Johnson who may have had the biggest play of the game.

Devon Johnson rushes against Miami (Ohio).
Facing yet another fourth down and short, the offense stayed on the field as a rested Johnson would replace Watson in the backfield. Johnson found a whole off Jasperse’s right hip and was determined to run over anyone who stepped in his path. The once tight end converted tailback broke two would-be tacklers to bust into the endzone for a 27-yard touchdown and the Herd’s first points since 8:03 remained in the second quarter.

“The game was getting close and we needed a spark and I wanted to be that spark to make sure that we got that win,” Johnson said.

Holliday said Johnson’s score swung the momentum back to the Herd.

“It was huge. It gave us the momentum back to put us back up by 15.”

Miami responded with yet another sustained drive which ended in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Hendrix to Rokeem Williams to pull the RedHawks back to within a single possession.

As the RedHawks refused to surrender to the Herd, it was Cato that came through when his team needed him the most.

With nearly five minutes remaining in the game, Marshall faced a third-and-7 from its own 38-yard line. As Cato started to step up into the pocket, it quickly closed, forcing Cato to scramble. Cato’s eyes remained downfield during the scramble allowing him to see Frohnapfel break free over the middle. Cato delivered a frozen-rope to Frohnapfel that was met by heavy contact by the Miami secondary, but the 6-foot 7-inch tight end never flinched as he confidently pulled in the catch for a 29-yard gain to move the chains.

“Those two plays are plays that Gator caught a lot of touchdowns on,” said Frohnapfel on his two-touchdown performance. “Hopefully I can continue to fill that role.”

His quarterback certainly likes the abilities Frohnapfel has to offer.

“He made some huge plays,” Cato said. “Not only with his catches but his blocks to set up a big run plays.

Holliday agrees with his senior tight ends thinking.

“He (Frohnapfel) made a tremendous catch on the first one, actually both of them,” Holliday said. 
“He’s a guy we fell can make plays in the redzone.”

Marshall continued the march towards the goal line on the back of Johnson’s rushing performance. Working from Miami’s 15-yard line, Johnson busted a 12-yard run that up-ended Miami safety Jay Mastin, throwing him through the air like a rag doll.

Cato finished off the Herd’s best drive of the game with a 2-yard diving scamper that broke the goal line giving the Herd a 42-27 lead. Marshall used 11 plays, going 65 yards over 4:24 to push the game out of reach for Miami.

“Everybody kept their composure,” said Cato on the Herd’s second half adversity. “We knew we were going to have adversity and I think we responded great to that adversity. As long as we keep improving every day we will keep getting better and better.”

However, Miami had 2:01 and one timeout remaining but the well-rested Herd defense stole the show at the end.

Miami managed seven plays over its final 1:22 of possession, but managed to gain only 1-yard. 

Darryl Roberts makes a tackle on Miami's Dawan Scott.
While appearing calm through much of the second half, Hendrix was rushed nearly every snap as D.J. Hunter and Gary Thompson lived in the backfield. Hendrix managed to get a pass away to Frazier for an 8-yard gain, but Herd defensive end Arnold Blackmon finished the RedHawks off with back-to-back sacks of Hendrix including the final sack coming on fourth-and-7.

Statistically, Miami bettered the Marshall in many categories including total plays (85-68), passing yards (318-261) and more importantly, time of possession (34:46-25:14).

“I’m glad that we had a little adversity here, we needed that,” said Holliday. “Bottom line is that we walk out with a win and that’s all that matters.”

Cato offered his thoughts on how he felt the Herd would be graded and the Heisman hopeful did not offer the best of marks for his team.

“I’d give it a B-,” said Cato. “I thought we did some pretty good things but we also had some mistakes.”

Cato finished 20-32 for 261 yards and 3 TD’s and a rushing touchdown. Johnson’s first game as a running back proved to be a memorable one as he finished with 151 yards on 19 carries and 2 TD’s. Johnson‘s net yardage was 1-yard more than Miami’s entire rushing yards gained (150) as a team on 17 fewer carries.

Frohnapfel led the team in receiving going 5-54 and 2 TD’s. Shuler went 4-40 and a TD but went without a catch in the second half.

Hendrix finished 24-49 for 318 yards with 3 TD’s and one interception. Frazier led all receivers with six catches totaling 109 yards including a 47-yard catch.

“The most improvement you’ll make in a game is from game one to game two and we’ve got to make sure we do that,” Holliday added.

The Herd gets that chance when it returns to Huntington Saturday for its home opener against Rhode Island at 7 p.m.

Marshall Football Devon Johnson Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Rockhead speaks to the media after his 150 rushing yards led the Herd to a 42-27 win over Miami.

Devon Johnson Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Marshall Football Linebacker DJ Hunter Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Hunter speaks about his team's season opener win over Miami 42-27.

DJ Hunter Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Marshall Football Quarterback Rakeem Cato Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Cato talks to the media after his team picked up a 42-27 season opening win over Miami.

Rakeem Cato Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Marshall Football Tight End Eric Frohnapfel Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Eric Frohnapfel speaks to the media after his team knocked off Miami 42-27 in the season opener.

Eric Frohnapfel Post Game Interview Miami 8-30

Marshall Football Head Coach Doc Holliday Postgame Presser vs Miami (Ohio)

Coach Holliday speaks to the media after his team's 42-27 win over Miami.
Coach Holliday with his team at Miami

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shuler Eager For Senior Season With The Herd

Ask any Marshall football fan to name one of the best receivers ever to play for the Herd and senior Tommy Shuler’s name is sure to make the list.
Tommy Shuler makes a diving catch at Miami (Ohio).

“He (Shuler) has that ‘it’ factor that you talk about all the time with a guy,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “He finds a way to make plays.”

After back-to-back 100 catch seasons, the Miami Central native has a chance to do something no one has ever done in Division I football, go back-to-back-to-back.

“If he has a great year, he could finish up as the first receiver in the history of college football to have three back-to-back-to-back 100-catch seasons,” Holliday said. “He’s matured, he’s come along and he’s a tremendous, tremendous player.

In fact, Shuler is the only receiver of the 128 FBS teams that is eligible to achieve such a feat.

Shuler hauled in 110 catches in 2012 as the crafty sophomore slot receiver took advantage of the additional coverage that Herd outside receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson drew. After all, both were NFL caliber receivers and Dobson now plays for the New England Patriots.

In 2013 defenses focused solely on Shuler as Dobson and Wilson moved on to the next chapters in their lives. While Shuler did not produce any 19 catch, 200-yard games like his 2012 performance at Purdue, he finished with 106 grabs and 10 touchdowns while fighting through double coverage nearly every contest.

Shuler own's back-to-back 100 catch seasons.
Shuler said he never dreamed of having such success while at Marshall.

“Never,” Shuler said humbly. “After my freshman year I was like wow. Then my sophomore year I caught 110 (passes) and then caught another 100 last year. Every day I replay catches in my head and I just think how did I catch so many balls? I just pray and thank God every step of the way.”

As Shuler enters his senior season, he reflected on his time spent in Huntington while choking back the emotions from the memories.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Shuler said. “I was in the team room and Coach Furrey was like, you got 4 months. I told him, don’t say that again please. You are about to make me cry. I just hope this season lasts as long as it can last because I’m not ready to leave yet.”

Marshall finds itself in the national spotlight this season after turning in a 10-4 record and a win in the Military Bowl last year. It also has its first Heisman Trophy candidate since Byron Leftwich in 2002—Rakeem Cato—who happens to be Shuler’s best friend.

“Cato is a great quarterback and person,” said Shuler.” He’s my best friend and we are just trying to do what we can do and help Marshall football win.”

Shuler and Cato have been a duo long before they arrived in Huntington after playing youth football together before become a dynamic combo at Miami Central High School.

However, the Miami Central connection was nearly broken when Cato committed to Florida International University and a chance to spend a season with future Indianapolis Colt’s receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Tommy Shuler works in practice.
But Shuler said it was not hard to persuade his best friend and teammate to follow him to the Herd.

“It wasn’t that hard,” Shuler chuckled. “I just begged him every day he was at my house and kept begging and begging every time he came around.”

As the tandem enters their final year for the Herd, they both understand that history awaits. While they ultimately are in control of the season’s outcome, Shuler said last season provided a good foundation for the attention the team is receiving.

“It helped us a lot,” said Shuler. “When we beat Maryland everything just started rolling. We know what we can do but we had to stop at a point. Now we get to pick it back up and make more history. I feel like the teams ready and we are ready to go attack the season.”

Should this team have the historical season the experts are predicting, not only could the Herd finish undefeated but could also be playing in a major bowl game New Year’s Day as the recipient of the ‘Group of 5’ Golden Ticket.

Shuler and Cato could rewrite some individual records too.

Still, the Herd wide out remains humble while trying to get better each day.

“When we wake up we know we have people back home that want to see us do great and success so we have to work,” Shuler said. “We don’t come out every day thinking we are the best duo but just another day that we are trying to get better and learn something different about each other that will help us at the next level and out here this year.”

But no matter his stats or anything he accomplishes in his final season with the Herd, Shuler said there will always be one memory that stands above all others.

“Tulsa,” Shuler said without hesitation. “The sideline when we won that game. It wasn’t just because of that touchdown. It was the ceremony of the plane crash and we came back. We was winning, losing, then we took the lead. Everything played into a great success and moment. That was one of the greatest moments and I’ll never forget that. That was my favorite moment and my favorite touchdown at Marshall.”

But amongst all the hype Shuler said he strives to remained focused on enjoying the game he loves.

“I just pray that I have a successful season, we go undefeated and just win games and have fun.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Miami RedHawks Football Season Preview

While October 27, 2012 may not seem like a very long away, for the Miami (Ohio) football team that day seems like an eternity.

It was the last time the RedHawks won a football game.

Jumping out to a 20-7 lead early in the first half, Miami’s Kaleb Patterson connected with a game-winning field goal in the final minutes for a 23-20 win over then No. 23, and in-state MAC Rival, Ohio.

Since that day, 16 games have passed all resulting in a Miami loss and the Oxford community is hoping to return to the ways of 2003, where Ben Roethlisberger commanded the RedHawks to a 13-1 season and a top-10 finish.

But 2014 brings several new looks for this struggling football team eager to get back to its winning ways.
Chuck Martin was hired as the programs 36th head coach and inherits a program searching for any signs of life. Martin spent his last four years at Norte Dame where he worked as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (2012-13) and as the defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator (2010-11) while serving under head coach Brian Kelly.

During Martin’s tenure of play calling, the Fighting Irish finished 20-5 including an appearance in the BCS National Championship against Alabama in 2013. His unit averaged 26.4 points per game with a balanced offensive attack that tallied 170 yards rushing and 235 yards passing per contest.

However, Miami is nowhere close to Norte Dame’s production leaving Martin with a serious uphill battle.

Miami is picked to finish sixth in a seven team MAC East division after a 0-12, 0-8 MAC 2013 season. Another serious problem with the outlook from this season, while there are several returning members of the offense, their performance last season was far from stellar.

In seven of the RedHawks 12 games last season, they were held under 14 points while eclipsing 300 yards only once (Akron 303). Overall, Miami averaged 3.7 yards per play and just under 226 yards a game including touting the third worst rushing attack in the nation (1219 yards). More importantly, it only converted third down 41-of-167 (25 percent) of the time.

The defense was not much better.

Coming in at 108th in the nation last season, Miami’s defense could not get off the field as opponents converted 80-of-166 (48 percent) third down chances including 9-of-12 (75 percent) fourth down attempts.
Miami allowed 428 points last season—including three games it surrendered over 50—while scoring only 117 points of its own.

Needless to say, major work is needed to right the ship in Oxford.

I will preview each position and how Miami stacks up on both sides of the ball.


After losing starting quarterback Austin Boucher to injury in late October last year, true freshman Austin Gearing had to command the ship. Gearing struggled mightily going 24-of-54 for 188 yards with no passing touchdowns and three interceptions. He was also sacked 22.9 percent of the time he dropped back to pass. The upside to Gearing, he could run. He led the team in rushing, totaling 478 yards on 145 carries. Both quarterbacks last year suffered with a shaky at best offensive line and lacked a go-to guy that could make a big play.

With the addition of Gearing, Drew Kummer returns to the mix as well as redshirt freshman Tom Tupa who was recruited after being high-touted in high school. With three able bodies ready to battle for the starting position, someone forgot to tell Norte Dame transfer Andrew Hendrix that three’s company and four is a crowd.

Hendrix enters as a fifth-year senior after spending four years as a backup under Martin’s system in South Bend but has yet to prove his is a proven leader on the field. Hendrix finished 25-of-58 with 360 passing and a touchdown during his time as the Fighting Irish’s backup. He also ran for 229 yards and another score.
Should Hendrix earn the starting nod this season, he best have his running shoes laced up tight as the RedHawks’ offensive line allowed 49 sacks last season. Hendrix has the athletic ability and a familiarization with Martin’s system which makes him a favorite for the starting nod.

Running Backs

After looking at a stat sheet from last season, it is no wonder the RedHawks were ranked 125th in the nation in rushing. The team’s leading rusher was the quarterback with a wide receiver occupying the second position. Spencer Treadwell returns as the team’s leading ‘running back’ after a dreadful 2013 season. Treadwell amassed 171 yards on 56 carries with his lone score coming against Marshall. Not exactly something to write home about.

However, the running back stable appears to still be empty entering the 2014 campaign.

Miami returns sophomore Grant Niemiec and Specer McInnis and welcomes freshman Paul Moses into the backfield with Treadwell. Collectively Niemiec and McInnis had 48 touches for 147 yards and one touchdown. With a position that is a must to help alleviate the pressure from a struggling passing game, keep looking if you thought this was the hidden clue to solving this puzzle.

Wide Receivers

Leading the way for the RedHawks will be senior Dawan Scott who returns as the team’s leading receiver and second leading rusher. Scott pulled in 28 catches for 425 yards and 2 TD’s and 231 yards on 37 carries. Joining Scott in the receiving unit is fellow senior David Frazier who was second on the team in receiving with 28 catches for 302 yards and 2 TD’s in only eight games.

Redshirt junior Alvonta Jenkins and sophomore Rokeem Williams look to provide an additional target within the unit. Miami adds two big bodies in the receiving core this season with hopes of improving its 10-of-19 (53 percent) redzone touchdown production from last season.

Redshirt sophomore Sam Shisso and freshman Chris Hudson stand 6-foot 5-inches 214 pounds and 6-foot 6-inches 259 pounds, respectfully, have received positive reviews for their production in the redzone during camp. Shisso had one catch for two yards last season in seven games. Hudson was a tight end at Hazard High School (KY) but has converted to a wide out in his first year at Miami. The true freshman caught 13 touchdowns his senior season which was third best among Kentucky Division 1A tight ends.

Tight Ends

This is a position that is a total unknown for this season. Exiting is Steve Marck who played all 12 games while catching 12 passes for 133 yards and 2 TD’s and Dustin White’s 9 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in 12 games.

Who is poised to take over? Notre Dame transfer Alex Welch stands at the head of the class. Welch played in 22 games in four seasons for the Irish catching only one pass for eight yards. He also turned in six special teams tackles. He much like Hendrix understands Martin’s offensive game plan.

Junior Orlando David looks to join Welch on the field after working on the practice squad last season. David played in 11 games and caught seven receptions his freshman year.

Offensive Line

There is one word to sum up Miami’s offensive line last season, bad. With no blocking up front, the RedHawks saw the defense in the backfield almost as often as its own players. Not only was blocking an issue, finding a combination that worked well together never happened. Altogether, Miami used six different combinations in its first nine games.

Gone from the line is center John Anevski who started 11 games while Anevski started nine.

Senior Marcus Matthews looks to take over at center after playing in five games, three of which he started. Trevan Brown and Jeff Tanner returns as the most experienced linemen at left guard and tackle respectfully, playing in all 12 games and starting 10.

While the RedHawks return an experience left side, the right is not as fortunate. Collin Buchanan played in 10 games behind Lewis could be in line for a starting spot at right tackle while Wesley Scott, Brandyn Cook and Julian Green will compete at right guard, none of which played more than nine games last year.

Defensive Line

Just like the old saying “speed kills”, so can an undersized line. Miami returns three defensive tackles whose average weight is 275 pounds. While this is not the worst problem to deal with, the defensive ends only average 234 pounds. Giving up 50-plus pounds on the ends could spell disaster for the RedHawks chances of controlling the line of scrimmage.

Junior Bryson Albright recorded a team-high five sacks last season and 55 tackles—11.5 for loss—returns to one defensive end while sophomore J’Terius Jones (Brown) provided three sacks and 26 tackles of his own. Collectively, the tandem accounted for 8-of-14 of the team’s sacks.

This biggest issue with the defensive line, it struggled much of the season to get a push into the backfield. Without anchors on the outside, much of the same can be expected from last season.

Working the middle of the line will be senior Mwanza Wamulumba, Jimmy Rousher and Mitchell Winters. Although all three played significant minutes last season, their tackling numbers were non-existent. 

Considering the team’s three leading tacklers were two linebackers and a corner, the offense was able to bust past the undersized RedHawks defensive line.

Miami has two freshmen coming in this season but they appeared to be at the same level as what is already there. Games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage and until Miami upgrades its defensive line, several more losses are in its future.


 If there is one shining spot on this team, this is it. Last season, the linebackers were responsible for 351-of-988 team tackles (35.5 percent). While Miami loses middle linebacker Chris Wade, the team’s fourth leading tackler, it returns a full collection of linebackers in juniors Kent Kern, Josh Dooley and Tyler Tucker.
Kern led the team in tackles with 98 including five for loss and Dooley finished third with 87 tackles. Tucker finished inside the top-10 with 50 tackles. The upside of their performance, although the rushing attack frequently busts into the second level, Miami’s linebackers tackle well, preventing the break-away run.

Miami allowed only one run of 50-plus yards (53 vs Ohio) and one of 40-plus (45 vs Kent State). The bad part of their performance, not a single interception was recorded and only a handful of pass breakups were made. If anything must change in this unit, this is it. Too many big plays happened through the air.

Defensive Backs

Much like the linebackers, several players return from 2013 in the RedHawks secondary. That is a good thing for a team searching for some form of consistency. However, possibly the biggest playmaker on the defensive side of the ball is gone in Dayonne Nunley. Nunley was second in tackles with 88 and had an interception to go along with 13 pass breakups. How big was Nunley? His 13 breakups were over one-third of the team’s total of 37.

With Nunley gone from the secondary, the duty of controlling the corner position falls solely on sophomore Heath Harding and senior Chrishawn Dupuy. Harding had a team-leading three interceptions and 56 tackles while Dupuy had two interceptions and 25 tackles. Of the team’s 10 interceptions last season, five belonged to Harding and Dupuy.

Another person who plans to throw his name into the mix at corner is Notre Dame transfer Lo Wood. Wood played in 32 games during his four seasons with the Fighting Irish, recording 19 tackles with his lone interception being returned for a 57-yard touchdown in a win over Maryland. Wood may not bring best stats, but he spent time with Martin at Norte Dame which benefits every member of a secondary unit that gave up several deep balls last year including one for 54 yards at Marshall, a season-long 88 yards at Kentucky and 75 yards at Ball State.

Should the trio of corners be able to lock down opposing receivers on the outside, safeties Brison Burris and Jay Mastin could take away the deep balls that showed itself in nearly every game last season. Both had an interception last season with Mastin’s coming against Marshall. With a combined 137 tackles, only 1.5 for a loss, says that the tandem was responsible for halting another score for the opposition.

Marshall Taylor returns to the secondary after redshirting all of last season. Taylor played in all but one game, starting 5-of-7 as a true freshman in 2012 in which he led all freshman with 40 tackles.

Special Teams

On a team that desperately relies on its kickers, 2014 brings yet another position with complete uncertainty. Gone are punters Zac Murphy and kicker Mason Krysinski. Murphy sailed 79 punts averaging 46.6 yards per kick. Murphy placed 25-of-79 punts inside the 20 while earning 18 fair catches and seven touchbacks
Krysinski had a lesser of a duty as he only tallied 30 kickoffs while averaging 54.3 yards per kick.

After the RedHawks special teams finished in the top-50 last season, place-kicker Kaleb Patterson finds himself the man who must carry the special teams forward. The junior was a perfect 12-of-12 on PAT’s and 7-of-11 on field goal attempts including booting a season-best 52-yard attempt that sailed through the uprights. Patterson has been cool under pressure his entire career at Miami. In his freshman season, Patterson connected on a game-winning field goal in the final two minutes to knock of No. 23 Ohio.

Reports from camp have Patterson consistently connecting from 50-plus yards which provides some hope for an offense that struggled to break 100 points all season. Patterson may not be the answer to all of the RedHawks problems, but he certainly will help.

The return team consists of senior J.J. Greenwood and sophomore Fred McRae. Greenwood split kickoff returns with McRae while McRae handled 12-of-15 punt returns last season. While neither did anything extraordinary in the return game, McRae possesses the speed to break off a big gain if he finds daylight in front of him.

Miami opens its season August 30th as it plays host to Marshall. While Marshall struggled early with Miami in last season's matchup in Huntington, the Herd pulled away after being tied at 14 at the half for a 52-14 win.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marshall Football Notebook 8-20

Coach's Corner

Coach Holliday opened with talking about the Paint the Capital City Green event that takes place tomorrow evening in Charleston.

"It's huge," Holliday said. "Its a well attended event. There will be a lot of people there, our players, we will take about 20 of our players there for that deal and our fans will get a chance to interact with our players and gives us an opportunity to thank our fan base for everything they do for us throughout the year."

Holliday said he likes what he has seen from his young receivers.

"It's good, its great to be honest," said Holliday. "We didn't get a lot of those plays a year ago. So normally what happens in practice happens in games. So if we can continue to make plays down the road in a game situation we will be alright because we can make them here in practice."

Holliday commented on rookie receiver Angelo Jean-Louis saying he is a talented guy but lets hold off Sportscenter--at least for now.

"He's a talented guy," Holliday said of Jean-Louis. "He may be one of our most consistent guys out here this fall. If he continues to do that, he's going to be a good player."

Holliday talked about the quality of the freshman coming into the program and the number of them that could see action this season.

"I think we have nine true freshman that are going to play a significant role this year," Holliday said. "That being said, we are bringing in good players and that's a tribute to Mike (Hamrick) and Dr. Kopp for providing us with the facilities we have to attract them here. Our coaching staff has done a tremendous job of recruiting. We think we have a pretty solid football team when you have nine freshmen who have a chance to come in and play.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

After receiving a challenge from Rakeem Cato, the entire Marshall receiving core took the Ice Bucket Challenge as a unit. It can be viewed HERE.

Senior wideout Tommy Shuler challenged Coach Holliday, Team Chaplin Rev and Athletic Director Mike Hamrick.

Hoskins Injury Holding Him Out

Former Herd tight end has been fighting for a roster spot with the Miami Dolphins through training camp but has also been fighting a hamstring injury. In the first 53 man roster projection, it appears Hoskins is not listed with the tight ends, but it also appears his injury is the only reason.

Read NFL beat writer and columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Omar Kelly's report HERE.

Scout's Honor...Again.

More NFL scouts attended the Herd's practice session today as reported by Herd Football's Assistant AD Mark Gale's Twitter account. The San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs were in attendance of today's session making this the 7th and 8th NFL team to visit the Herd's practice sessions. Add these to the list of the Bears, Texans, Bengals, Cardinals, Browns and Patriots who have all attended a Herd practice.

Is a Group of 5 school powerful enough?

Dennis Dodd from released another article today regarding the Group of 5 which Marshall is listed at the top. Dodd likes the Herd's chances this season but said it takes 12-0 or it becomes a distant memory.

Read his article GROUP OF 5 ARTICLE HERE.

Football Promotional Events Schedule Released

Marshall released the 2014 promotional event schedule for all the Herd's home football games. All games will have some special promotion and can save fans money on tickets. A big announcement for the Rhode Island game all of the first responders for the Morris Building Fire will be recognized.


Marshall Football Head Coach Doc Holliday 8-20

Coach Holliday speaks about the upcoming Paint the Capital City Green.

Coach Holliday Interview 8-20

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Marshall Football Tight Ends Coach Todd Hartley Talks Welcomes A New Member to the Family

Coach Hartley welcomed a new child to the family this morning. Here his story right here.

Coach Hartley Interview 8-19

Marshall Football Head Coach Doc Holliday Post Practice Interview 8-19

Coach Holliday Interview 8-19

Marshall Football Notebook 8-19

Coach’s Corner
Coach Holliday had an official work with the secondary and return unit today mostly to just keep a check on the hands and formations.

“He is just watching their hands mostly within the secondary making sure we were playing clean back there and getting alignments,” Holliday said. “We did some punt return things where we could check out our hold up and blocks.

The official was Kenny Long who attended Marshall and lives in Hurricane. He is a licensed CUSA official but he does not work any of Marshall’s games.

Holliday said that Gunnar Holcombe’s time spent within the program aided in his choice for the backup position.

“He’s making plays and better decisions,” said Holliday. “We stuck him there with the ones a couple times even today and he’s getting better as a player and he’s progressing.  The one thing that Gunnar has that Cole (Garvin) doesn’t have is Gunnar has been here a couple springs. He understands the offense a little better and is executing better at this point.

Holliday said he has a good idea of who will start the season returning punts with some addition hands joining the unit at a later time.

“I think there’s no doubt that Shuler and Reaves have both done it and can do it and there are two young freshmen in Gator Green and Hyleck Foster that both have tremendous ball skills back there,” said Holliday. “Early on it will be more Reaves and Shuler and then as we go along we will see how Foster and Green do. All four of them have the ability to get that done.”

One of Doc’s favorite things on a field is competition among players and he has a major battle brewing between the kickers. Justin Haig has been pushed all camp by Nick Smith which has actually stretched Haig’s distance out farther than it’s ever been and even farther than Holliday ever imagined.

“He (Haig) has more range now than he ever had,” Holliday said. “I didn’t realize he had it and he hadn’t had the range the last two or three years that he has right now. That’s a tribute to him because he has worked and Nick (Smith) has given him a battle and Justin isn’t backing down he is sticking in there and kicking right with him. It’s a good battle but Justin has responded and he’s kicked pretty well.”

In other news from former Herd player Blake Frohnapfel and him being named the starting quarterback at UMASS, Holliday said he was not surprised that Blake won the job.

“There were schools that Blake was interested in that wasn’t interested in him and I couldn’t understand why,” Holliday said. “We wish him the best, he’s an excellent kid and I’m sure he’ll do well for them.”

Ice Bucket Challenge

After being challenged by current New England Patriot and former Herd wide receiver Aaron Dobson, Rakeem Cato took the Ice Bucket Challenge today after this mornings practice. Cato challenged his entire receiving unit at the conclusion of taking the bucket of ice water. View Cato’s Challenge HERE!!!

If you can’t beat them, join them

Shawn Petty officially joined the team today after transferring to Marshall from Maryland. Petty is listed as a 6-1 235-pound linebacker and will play the same position at Marshall. Petty attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School before heading to Maryland where he spent time as a linebacker on the scout team before moving to quarterback during the 2012 season after the team became depleted with injuries. Petty played four games as the Terps signal caller going 39-84 for 500 yards with 6TD’s and 2 interceptions. Petty played in 13 games last season for Maryland as he recorded 24 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 sacks (-26 yards) with one pass breakup and deflection each. Petty will sit out this season (transfer) and will be a redshirt junior next season. Petty will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Welcome to the Herd Family

Tight ends coach Todd Hartley and wife Jessica welcomed the birth of their third child at 10:15 a.m. this morning. Teagan Elizabeth Hartley weighed 5-pounds 13-ounces and was 19 inches long. Mother and baby are doing fine.

Coach Hartley said the outpouring of support from everyone has been tremendous.

“The good part about being part of something like this it truly is family,” Hartley said. “We’ve had coaches wives coming by and all kinds of texts and tweets and Facebook and its been unbelievable just because of the Marshall family. We’ve got our family back home in Georgia but the Marshall family is just unbelievable.”
Hartley said with child number three his wife Jessica has become more accustomed to the life of a football coach, unlike the birth of his first child when the couple was still in Georgia and one of the biggest games of the season was on the schedule.

“I was working for Georgia and I missed about three days of work,” explained Hartley. “We were playing Florida that we, Georgia-Florida game and I was on the plane on Friday to down to the game on Saturday. She was upset because I was gone after three days.”

 With the birth today, Hartley missed only the morning practice.

Congratulations to the entire Hartley family on their new addition.

Turn up the music

At 4:17 p.m. today, somewhere between 3rd and 5th avenues and approximately around 20th street in between McDonalds and Tic Toc Tire, Thunderstruck was heard filling the air over Huntington. Have you…?

You’re not worthy

After a lengthy discussion with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakesvp) today, he made it perfectly clear that anyone who does not have a win over a Power 5 team. He basically said that should Marshall go 12-0, it was pretty much meaningless due to its terrible schedule. Even with every other team in the nation going 11-1 and Marshall going 12-0, he says Marshall has no chance.  View the conversation on my Twitter feed at @CollierSZLive.

Brotherly Love

Keep a look out for an upcoming article featuring Eric and Blake Frohnapfel and football life after Marshall. This will be the first season they will place on different teams after Blake transferred to UMASS after obtaining his undergraduate degree at Marshall. The interview covers football life and life away from the field including some brotherly love humor.

Watson Hopes His New Direction Leads to Paydirt

Ask Marshall football running back Remi Watson the two best pieces of advice first-year running backs coach Chris Barclay gave him and his answer may shock you, a compass and a toilet.
Remi Watson 

No Barclay was not playing a practical joke but rather providing Watson with valuable tools to help the redshirt junior perform to his expected potential.

How is Watson supposed to use these two items to make himself a better runner? It all started after a straight forward talk from his coach.

“The best thing I’ve told him (Watson),” Barclay said. “It’s a revolutionary statement. I said I don’t know if you know this Remi but the end zones are north and south. The quicker you can get north or south, the faster you can get in the end zone. I would hate for you to run 20 yards east and west to gain three yards or five yards.”

Barclay may know a thing or two about scoring after finishing a stellar career at Wake Forest where he was named the 2005 ACC Player of the Year and the Offensive Player of the Year. Barclay also set seven school records including rushing yards (4,032), scoring (240 points), rushing touchdowns (40), total touchdowns (40), all-purpose yards (4,930), 200-yard rushing games (3) and 1,000 yard rushing seasons (3).
Running Backs Coach Chris Barclay

So what does Watson attribute his sudden surge thus far in camp? Listening to his coach’s advice and putting it to use in practice.

“I told myself once again like I do every day when I come out to practice, north and south, north and south, north and south, as quick as possible,” Watson said.

Entering his third season with the Herd, Watson said past experience meant nothing and Coach Barclay was very clear on what was expected from the junior.

“He (Barclay) gave it to me how it is with no beating around the bush,” Watson said. “No just thinking you have arrived because I played as a freshman. I got to work every day when I come out here.”

Watson understands there is work to be done, especially if he plans on rebounding from a sub-par 2013 season. Watson’s rookie season in 2012 saw the kid from Lakeland, Florida rack up 380 yards on 79 carries and seven touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. His best performance in 2012 came in a 54-51 win over Rice when he finished with 14 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

However, Watson’s rookie production did not continue in 2013. Watson struggled finding his place in the depth chart behind Essray Taliaferro, Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms largely in part to his running style consistently running him sideline to sideline with little to no gain, therefore stalling the Herd’s high-octane offense.

Watson played in only nine games in 2013, none of which he started, after playing in 11-of-12 in 2012 and starting four. Watson’s 2013 stats plummeted to 120 yards on 30 carries with no touchdowns and his best game of the season did not come until Marshall’s Military Bowl victory over Maryland when he gained 42 yards on six carries including a 19-yard run.

So what does Watson have to do this season to find increased opportunities in an extremely crowded backfield? For starters, he must heed to his coach’s advice.

“Coach Barclay laid it on the line,” explained Watson. “If you want to play, you’ve got to add this to your game. If you don’t, it’s not that you aren’t talented enough to do it, but if you chose not to add that to your game, we will find someone else who will.”
Watson works during a drill in camp

Watson seemed to take Barclay’s advice after having a decent performance in Saturday night’s scrimmage. Watson tallied 11 carries for 51 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown including a five-play 25-yard drive that Watson carried the ball five times.

Watson started slow in the scrimmage with runs of 1-yard and no gain. However, Watson stayed the course stringing off runs of three and nine yards in back-to-back carries. More importantly, Watson never seemed to lose his composure on the field.

That must be music to Barclay’s ears.

But while Watson’s numbers appear to be returning to those of his rookie year, Barclay demands him to play the next play and forget what happen on the last, or simply flush the toilet.

“Coach Barclay always tells us when something doesn’t go your way you have to flush the toilet,” Watson chuckled. “If you have a bad run, he wants us to do the same thing. You’ve got to take what you are given. I can’t get mad and frustrated I just have to stay with the program and my runs will come.”

Watson said he starts fresh every day, no matter the previous outcome.

“Even if you have a good practice when you come out the next day he’s going to ask you about it,” said Watson. “He will ask me how did I practice yesterday. I just tell him, I don’t know coach I flushed the toilet.”

Leading up to and during the scrimmage, Watson’s running lanes were much different than that off old. He worked largely between the tackles and often waited for a lane to develop before attacking at just the right time. As represented by last season’s team production, a solid running attack makes Rakeem Cato’s high-powered air attack even more effective.

Perhaps this truly is a new version of Remi Watson that has heeded Coach Barclay’s advice and turned over a new leaf in his style of running. But take caution should Watson revert to his old running ways as the outcome could get messy in a hurry.

Hopefully for Herd fans Watson has flushed the toilet of his old ways for good and there are no clogs along the way in the system.

Eric Frohnapfel Interview 8-19

Frohnapfel speaks about football life after his brother Blake's transfer to UMASS, as well as him getting the starting nod at quarterback plus some good brotherly love humor.

Eric Frohnapfel Interview 8-19

Stefan Houston Interview 8-19

Houston talks about battling back from injury last year and how that has helped motivate him for this season.

Stefan Houston Interview 8-19

Monday, August 18, 2014

Marshall Football Notebook 8-18

With the open sessions of Marshall football practices in the books for this season, it means the camp part of the fall is nearing a conclusion and the prep for Miami is soon to begin. While the two-deep will not be released until next Tuesday, Coach Holliday did comment about the race between the players today at the conclusion of practice.

Coach's Corner

Coach Holliday was upbeat after today's workout and spoke about the grind that leads the team into week three.

"We come to practice every day and its important that we get better," Holliday said. "Right now there's a lot of teams that have to make a decision of whether they want to be average or want to be great."

As the team reported to practice today, it finds itself 12 days away from the season opener at Miami. Holliday said its important to make every practice count.

"They have to understand they have 29 practices before the first game and you have about the same amount the whole rest of the season," said Holliday of his team. "If you are going to have a good football team you have to get everything out of those 29 practices leading up to that first game. This is when teams are made. We have to make sure we come out and take advantage of every practice we have and get better as an individual and a team."

While the official team two-deep chart will not be released until next Tuesday, Holliday did comment on how positions were playing out.

"The two deep is starting to sort itself out," Holliday said.  "We aren’t giving reps to the three’s anymore and some of the threes might become twos."

Holliday said the younger guys are forcing the vets to step up or step aside.

"They work really hard or they get beat out," Holliday explained. "Its really pretty simple, we are going to play the best players regardless of the class. Anytime you’ve got a lot of competition at one position everyone gets better."

Everyone who started camp with red stripe on their helmet still has it to this point but Holliday said it was possible a few would come off tonight. For more on the meaning of the helmet's red stripe and how it comes off, check out my article HERE.

Holliday continued to praise the freshman class and said he expects several to find a way on the field.

"I'm not sure I've had this many since I've been here ," said Holliday. There could be six or eight that may play and that’s true freshman. That’s probably one of the higher numbers since I've been here and that’s a good thing because that means we've got more talented players coming in."

Holliday has 27 true freshman on this season's roster.

Holliday also spoke about the team enjoying some entertainment last night before meetings.

"We had a little fun last night," Holliday said. "We had a musician come in and he was pretty good so they enjoyed it. We have a little fun every night around 8 o'clock before going into meetings. This is a team that likes each other, they work extremely hard and they are fun to be around."

Back it up

At the end of his interview today, Holliday officially named redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holcombe as Cato's backup. Holcombe was 11-of-22 for 151 yards with 2TD's and an interception in Saturday's scrimmage.

The Hype is nationwide

Several columnists released preseason rankings and predictions today with Dennis Dodd ranking the Herd as high as No. 8 by season's end. Simply put, several around the country are sipping the Kool-Aid but not many have taken a big drink. However, the consensus seems to be if the Herd loses one game, any chance of a major bowl is gone. Three of the seven CBS Sports experts had the Herd ranked in the Top 25.

Everybody's favorite person from last season, Jerry Palm released his Bowl Predictions today with the Herd headed to the Heart of Dallas Bowl for a match up with Minnesota December 26th. released its season projection's today with the Herd picked to finish 12-0 and a No. 10 ranking. It also shows how favored Marshall is entering each game.

A backup no longer

Former Herd backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel has won the starting job at UMASS and will start the season opener against Boston College. Frohnapfel transferred after obtaining his undergraduate degree from Marshall. Frohnapfel finished 35-of-45 for 386 yards with 5 TD's and 2 interceptions. He also had 164 yards on 24 carries and 2 TDs.

A new addition to the Herd family

Coach Todd Hartley announced today via his Twitter account that he and his wife will welcome their third child to their family tomorrow.

Marshall Football's Life After Hoskins Does Not End Here

When a team such as Marshall operates an offense with a pass first mentality loses one player that was responsible for 15-of-42 (35.7 percent) of its passing touchdowns, one may think there would be some concern.

Not if you talk to Herd tight ends coach Todd Hartley.

“You would think if you lost a first team all-conference kid, one that had 15 touchdowns last year and 25 over the past 2, there may be a drop off when you try to replace him,” Hartley said referring to former Herd tight end Gator Hoskins. “There might be a drop off in numbers but there’s not going to be a drop off in production.”

So who will replace Hoskins? No one person will, but rather a collective contribution by all four tight ends.

“We may not replace Hoskins with one guy,” said Hartley. “But I expect those guys to replace his production as a unit.”

Allow me to introduce you to “those guys” who have the daunting task of filling the void of a position that combined for 25-of-81 (30.9 percent) of the Herd’s passing touchdowns over the last two seasons.

I give to you, Eric Frohnapfel, Joe Woodrum, Deon-Tay McManus and Ryan Yurachek.

This season’s tight end unit has a career combined 30 receptions, 29 belonging to Frohnapfel, for 318 yards and five touchdowns. Hoskins himself total 50 catches for 821 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
However, Hartley remains confident that his unit will remain a reliable target for Heisman Trophy candidate Rakeem Cato.

“We’ve got four options that we feel we can throw in there that can do what we want at any time without having any drop off,” Hartley explained.

Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday agrees with Hartley’s projection.

“All four of the tight ends have shown they can play,” Holliday said. “I like what all four of them have to offer and at this point it looks like all four will play.”

As the lone senior in the unit, Hartley expects Frohnapfel to inject more than just stats this season.

Eric Frohnapfel
“Frohnapfel is a senior, a leader and I expect him to be a captain of this football team,” said Hartley. “I expect him to set a standard for our unit and hold the younger guys accountable to that standard.”

Frohnapfel saw his potential playing time increase significantly after former tight end Devon Johnson was moved into the backfield on the first day of camp. Frohnapfel said the move puts tremendous pressure on the defense.

“Coach Legg wants to run as many packages as possible without subbing out,” Frohnapfel said. “If they can move me around and not stop the clock that just puts more pressure on the defense as they are stuck in one personal group and are forced to cover us all over the field.”

Joe Woodrum
Woodrum is sure to see his share of time this season as he shadows Frohnapfel after earning a scholarship this season. Although he caught only one pass last season, Woodrum did play in all 14 games.

The biggest addition to the tight end unit this season could be the redshirt McManus who was converted from a wide receiver after arriving at Marshall. McManus has made an impact on the field during the first two weeks of camp. As the Herd searches for a hybrid like player that fits the role that Hoskins vacated, Hartley believes McManus could be that guy.

“McManus is oozing with talent who wasn’t a natural tight end coming in that we tried to get into that hybrid position we have, that Gator Hoskins mode,” Hartley explained. “He (McManus) fits that mold of a hybrid player.”

But do not read into Hartley’s comments, he is not ready to crown McManus as Hoskins predecessor—at least not yet.

“Very comparable to Gator but he’s not there yet,” Hartley said. “Gator played at a very elite level especially his senior year and McManus has that potential. He is going to have to work his butt just as hard as Gator did to get there.”

However, Frohnapfel and McManus go together like yin and yang allowing the Herd's
game plan to center on their production.

Deon-Tay McManus
“They complement each other so well,” said Hartley. “Gator was that total package as far as the route runner and the physicality at the point of attack. Both Frohnapfel and McManus have strengths and weaknesses but they complement each other perfectly. We will center our attack around them and go from there. They have earned our trust.”

Ryan Yurachek
An unexpected surprise after the first two weeks of camp has been the production of Yurachek. After working through a case of rookie jitters, Yurachek certainly settled in during week two. Holliday has been a big fan of Yurachek and as the game continues to come to him, so does his production. While he is expected to travel with the team, he could still take a redshirt if he does not take the field this season. However, if the Herd needed him to produce, he is winning over the trust of the staff in a hurry.

Even with the high expectations that Hartley has for the members of his unit for this season, he has one that is above all the others.

“The most important thing a player can leave is his legacy,” Hartley said. “It doesn’t matter how many touchdowns you caught or passes you caught, the legacy I’m talking about is how you teach those young guys how to practice, go to field and how to act on and off the field.”

A legacy like the one that Hoskins left is certainly a good place to start.

Marshall Football Coach Holliday Interview Post Practice Interview 8-18

Coach Holliday talked about how the players are continuing to develop as well as a few other topics.

Coach Holliday Interview 8-18

Marshall Football Scrimmage Grades 8-17

With a opportunity to get on the field with conference officials, Marshall football participated in a green-white scrimmage Saturday night with someone wearing a color other than green or white calling penalties. As expected, there were several pass interference and false starts called during the session but as the evening grew longer, the flags became less visible.

Below is MY grades for each skill player and a few players on defense. Again, take this grading with a grain of salt and feel free to agree or disagree. This grading is based solely on the scrimmage and has no impact from their performances throughout camp.


1. Rakeem Cato- Cato started the evening 0-5 including a fumble on a botched hand-off. 12 was simply amped up last night and looked much like his start against Miami-OH last year. However, its not how you start but rather how you finish. As for Cato, his finish was 5-of-6 and 2 TD's, including his first completion that went 27 yards to Angelo Jean-Louis for a touchdown. The Heisman Trophy candidate's best pass of the night, a 42-yard strike on 1st-&-11 from his own 1-yard line to Davonte Allen down the visitor's sideline which received a roar of applause from the crowd. Cato hooked up with Tommy Shuler twice before exiting and watching the other quarterbacks battle for a job. Final line: 5-of-11, 122 yards, 2 TD's.

Cato's grade: A-

2. Gunnar Holcombe- Holcombe's night was like a roller coaster for the first time--up and down and never knowing what was coming next. Holcombe's first two attempts, both directed towards Rodney Allen, fell incomplete. Holcombe over threw Allen on the first pass and it appeared Allen zigged when he should have zagged as he broke on a post route while Holcombe's pass was headed towards the sideline. However, Holcombe did bounce back with a completion to Craig Wilkins for 8 yards and a 34-yard strike to Deon-Tay McManus. But, Holcombe next six passes missed the mark including a pass being tipped at the line and an interception before hitting Gator Green on 3rd-&-24 for a 21-yard gain by the freshman after eluding a tackler and some shifty footwork. Holcombe's best pass of the night went to Wilkins in the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown after Wilkins made an amazing grab. Nevertheless, Holcombe missed Jean-Louis who was wide open on a post route from 11 yards out that would have been his third touchdown. Final Line: 11-of-22, 151 yards, 2 TD's, INT

Holcombe's Grade: C

3. Cole Garvin- Garvin is stuck in neutral with a game that is running in fast forward. While only a freshman, he has seldom shown that he can adjust to the speed of the game. His first series was short lived as his only pass attempt fell incomplete. He did however put together a seven-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Emanuel Beal. Garvin finished 3-of-3 on the drive for 36 yards. His night ended on a pass intended for Hyleck Foster that Mark Shaver picked off. Garvin has much to learn and plenty of time to do so, but this season the learning will be from the sideline. Final Line: 3-of-5, 36 yards, TD, INT.

Garvin's Grade: D+

4. Michael Birdsong- Although Birdsong will sit out this season due to his transfer, he will provide an excellent option for the scout team. Birdsong was given the final series of the night which he commanded a four-play 28-yard drive that started on the 25. Birdsong's passes were crisp with zip on each of his two passes with the final play of the evening finishing with a juggling catch in the end zone by Rodney Allen for a 12-yard touchdown. Fans got a brief look of what is in the hopper for next season. He was was eligible this season, he would be sitting as the number two man on the totem pole behind Cato. Final Line: 2-of-2, 28 yards, TD.

Birdsong's Grade: A

Running Backs

1. Devon Johnson- Fans got a chance to see a much different look from the Herd's backfield with Johnson carrying the ball. Johnson has one style of running, create total destruction with anyone who gets in his way. Johnson saw the ball only five times in limited action but was never stopped for a loss or no gain. Johnson in fact was hit in the backfield for what should have been a loss, but never stopped churning his legs allowing him to break free and get up field. Johnson's best run of the night--which also was the longest rush of the night--went for 14 yards on second down. Johnson busted through the line with a head of steam that pushed him past several would-be tacklers. Johnson provides an intangible for the Herd that creates a problem for defenses-his powerful style of running. Expect Johnson to have a big year for the Herd. Final Line: 5-32

Johnson's Grade: A

2. Remi Watson- Watson continues to display a new-look Watson this season as he appears to heeded his coaches advice, run north and south. Watson did just that in the scrimmage. Watson had the chance to revert back to the old Watson after his first two rushes went for 1-yard and no gain. However, Watson stayed the course and rolled off carries of three and nine yards. Watson's highlight of the evening came during a five-play, 25-yard drive with Watson finishing it off with a 1-yard touchdown run. Watson carried the ball on all five plays. Watson's best run was a 13-yard carry and for the most part, he ran between the tackles and let his line open the holes. His field vision is coming around but he appears to have improved. Final Line: 11-51 TD

Watson's Grade: A-

3. Stew Butler- Butler needed a good night to put some of the grumblings about his ability to be a dependable back in the backfield. He was also hoping to put up a good showing for his hearty supports that feel Butler should be the primary tailback. What he ended up doing was both. Butler appeared to be getting on track after a slow start only to have his worst nightmare come true, an unforced fumble. Butler busted a run to the outside for a gain of 4 yards only to have the ball squirt out of his grasp and onto the turf. Beal was able to dive on the ball and recover for his team saving Butler even more grief.  Butler did save his best for last as he took a nice read-option hand off from Holcombe and busted up the middle for an 11-yard touchdown and his biggest gain of the night. His speed is explosive but its only good with the ball in his grasp. Final Line: 11-46 TD, Fumble.

Butler's Grade: C-

4. Tony Pittman- Pittman is one of the young players Coach Holliday is expecting big things from. Pittman continues to improve but also has lapses where he takes two steps forward and three back. Pittman tallied the most carries on the night but had the lowest average per carry of the four backs. Pittman struggled to amass consistent gains throughout the evening as his longest gain of the night went for only six yards. Pittman was also the only back of the four to get brought down in the backfield. However, he did put together runs of 6, 2 and 4 to move the chains and followed that up with a 3-yard gain on first down. Pittman has the tools he just has to learn how to use them effectively. Final Line: 14-27

Pittman's Grade: C-


1. Tommy Shuler- Shuler saw little action during the scrimmage as Cato's favorite target was only thrown to four times. Shuler finished with three catches but never had a chance to get up field as he saw double coverage much of the night. The good thing for Shuler, it appears Marshall has a few legitimate deep threats this season therefore not allowing teams to bracket the senior. Even at that, he's a tough guy to stop. Shuler's biggest gain was for 15 yards on a pass from Cato. He made a nice move to make safety AJ Leggett miss the tackle allowing Shuler to get up the sideline. Holcombe hit Shuler twice but one went for a loss of four. Final Line: 3-16

Shuler's Grade: B

2. Hyleck Foster- Foster is a freshman who could be on the field this season but the question is exactly where. Foster has the potential to contribute now, but will he give enough to warrant burning a redshirt. Foster was targeted twice and finished with one catch, that being a 13-yard strike from Garvin. Final Line: 1-13

Foster's Grade: C

3. Demetrius Evans- Evans finds himself in a tough position, backing up Shuler in the slot and his struggles have been real. In the scrimmage, Evans had two targets with one catch and a drop. Evans only grab came from Holcombe on a 12-yard gain that pushed the offense into the red zone. Final Line: 1-12.

Evans' Grade: C-

4. Gator Green- Do not give this kid a chance to bust one open. Up against a 3rd-&-24, Holcombe dumped a pass off to the freshman and let him go to work. Green nearly pulled off the feat as his shifty and explosive speed moved him 21 yards. Green offers a Shuler type of player out of the slot with Moo-Moo speed. Green was targeted only one time. Final Line: 1-21.

Green's Grade: A

5. Davonte Allen- Could this be his season? If his production during the scrimmage is any indication of what's to come this season, Allen could be in for a breakout year. His biggest obstacle, confidence. He certainly added plenty to the reserve after making two highlight reel catches in five targets. Allen's first grab was on a 42-yard go route up the visitor's sideline as he pulled away from the man in coverage to provide the separation. His second catch was nothing less than amazing. Allen skied over Corey Tindal in the near corner of the end zone to pull in a 22-yard touchdown strike from Cato. Allen timed his jump perfectly and maintained complete focus on the ball to bring in the catch. Every player on the offense benefits if Allen can provide a consistent deep target this season. Final Line: 2-65 TD.

Allen's Grade: A+

6. Angelo Jean-Louis- Just call this kid the streak. Jean-Louis wasted little time taking advantage of a great opportunity when the lights were on the brightest as the redshirt freshman solidified his argument of a starting position as an outside receiver after pulling in a 27-yard touchdown catch from Cato. Jean-Louis was only targeted twice with the second pass coming from Holcombe, missing a wide open Jean-Louis on a post route. Jean-Louis may have been able to get vertical a bit quicker on the pass, but the ball sailed well over his hands. Final Line: 1-27 TD.

Jean-Louis' Grade: A-

7. Deon-Tay McManus- McManus could be the second coming of Gator Hoskins in the works. His tight end coach Todd Hartley thinks McManus has the mold of a Hoskins, it all comes down to putting in the work. The redshirt freshman led the team in targeted passes with six but finished with only two catches including a drop. McManus did however pull in a 34-yard catch on 2nd-&-9 that began at the 47 and moved the offense into the red zone. He is a converted receiver and could become a favorite target to Cato if he can prove he is a consistent target. Final Line: 2-50 TD

McManus' Grade: B

8. Craig Wilkins- Wilkins need the performance he had during the scrimmage as his stock value was dwindling by the second. Wilkins was targeted three times, all by Holcombe, and pulled in two of them. Wilkins also had one of best catches of the night on a deep ball that took him skyward for a 38-yard touchdown. If Wilkins can be a consistent target on the outside, the combination of Allen, Jean-Louis and Wilkins could spell disaster for the opposition's defense. Final Line: 2-46 TD

Wilkins' Grade: A

9. Emanuel Beal- Beal is a victim of trying to find a place to land with in a group overflowing with talent. But do not sell the freshman short as he has shown he deserves a spot on the field. The question is where? Beal was targeted three times but finished with only one catch, an 11-yard touchdown from Garvin. Beal had another opportunity on a low ball from Holcombe but could not haul it in. Final Line: 1-11 TD.

Beal's Grade: B

10. Eric Frohnapfel- Frohnapfel finds himself in a giant shadow, and the person casting it is no longer around. Froh has to play behind the legacy of Hoskins but thus far has shown he is up for the challenge. Froh has been a consistent target to Cato and Saturday night was no different. The senior tight end had only one chance at a catch but took full advantage of what was given. On a drive that started on Marshall's own two, Frohnapfel hooked up with Cato down the middle for a gain of 15 and more importantly, providing more distance from the shadow of the end zone. Final Line: 1-15.

Frohnapfel's Grade: A

11. Josh Knight:-This could be the year that people say who is this kid? Knight did not catch a pass last year but continues to push for time on the field. He saw three balls come his way, two from Garvin, but finished with only one catch. The upside, his catch went for 12 yards on first down. His downside, he was called for offensive pass interference down field. Final Line: 1-12.

Knight's Grade: C

12. Ryan Yurachek- Give this kid two years and he is going to be a handful. Watching him develop over the past two weeks has been a treat as the drops has quickly turned into catches. Yurachek drew three targets with two catches in the game which included gains of 13 and 15 on first down. Yurachek is a big kid and Doc thinks highly of him. Not sure he sees the field this year but its not because he can not play, more that it would be a waste to burn a redshirt unless Marshall has to. However, if Yurachek finds his number called, he will be ready to answer. Final Line: 2-28.

Yurachek's Grade: B+

13. Rodney Allen- Give Allen some time to comprehend everything that is taking place and eventually he will come around. While Allen drew five target--four coming from Holcombe--he only hauled in one pass. Allen's lone reception was a 12-yard juggling catch on a bullet from Birdsong for a touchdown. Two of Allen's missed targets were of no fault but his own as he appeared to run the wrong route on a pass from Holcombe and fell down on another. Final Line: 1-13 TD.

Allen's Grade: D

13. Joe Woodrum- Woodrum was targeted only twice in the session but found his lone catch of 3 yards being 1-yard short of converting a 3rd-&-4 which is a critical piece of Marshall's game plan. Woodrum has certainly matured since last season and continues to blossom behind Frohnapfel and McManus. He blocks well when lined up with a hand down which makes him a good candidate to open holes for the running game. Final Line: 1-3.

Woodrum's Grade: C


Remember the names Kendall Gant and Antavis Rowe. Both are freshman and both have big game skill. Gant had one of the games two interceptions and Rowe saw some premium time on the field and continues to demonstrate his ability to work as a returner as he offers blistering speed.

Stefan Houston shared the top tackling honors with Cortez Carter as both had 6. The linebackers held the top five spots with Raheem Waiter, DJ Hunter and Gant rounding out the list.

The best thing about the defense this season is there are guys waiting in the wings to step on the field and produce while seeing little if any drop off. The linebackers unit has more able bodies that there are spots for on the field, which is a good problem to have, especially after the 2012 season where the secondary basically was the linebackers.