Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Marshall Football Day 3 Afternoon Recap 8-6

With the afternoon session filled with mostly seasoned veterans, drills were more like true game-time speed with the addition of shoulder pads being added to the uniform. Today was the first day we got a good look at the defense as spent most of the first two days walking through sets and having little contact with the offense. Today, all that went out the window. While the morning practice saw some contact here and there, the pads were popping the entire session this afternoon as players got their first chance this fall to have solid contact with another player.

"I liked that they weren't a whole lot different in shells than they were in shorts and helmets," head coach Doc Holliday said.

Holliday said he expects the young guys to be able to operate fine with the older group as they have been there through the summer and have been coached up over the past three days.

My favorite hit today goes out to Jermaine "The Freak" Holmes who picked Raheem Waiters about a foot off the ground and drove him backwards an easy 3 yards on contact during the linebacker's drills. Waiters tried to repay the favor but came no where close. Both players were very upbeat about the increased contact has both were slapping the other's helmet in celebration. One quick word on "The Freak", OK enough said. His nickname says it all as he has dropped an easy 20 pounds and is solid as a rock. Keep your eye on 46 this season as defenses will be doing the same thing.

Only one minor scuffle during the afternoon session. Two players got heated with each other and that's about all. I've seen better between middle-school kids.
Heisman Trophy Candidate
 Rakeem Cato

Now for the details of today's practice. Cato was dialed in as he finished the skeleton drill completing 6 consecutive passes and ran that number to 8 after hitting his first two in the 11-on-11. He had number 9 locked up but Craig Wilkens couldn't secure the ball on a beautiful throw by the Heisman Trophy candidate. Cato's reads today with true defensive pressure on the receivers was scary good. He utilized the pump fake a couple times to get defenders to bite. One of Cato's finest throws of the day went to Davonte Allen for a touchdown. Cato threaded the needle in tight coverage and Allen did a fine job pulling in the catch. Allen has been terrific thus far through camp but had a drop reminiscent of the final play in the thrilling triple-overtime loss at Virginia Tech. Allen did a great job getting open and Cato's pass was right on target, however, the pass sailed through the red-shirt junior's hands to the turf.

Deandre Reaves
hauls in a catch.
Allen has much to prove this season but I expect him to be on the field as a primary outside receiver. He ran good routes but needs to get out of them on cuts much faster. For him to become a primary target for Cato, he has to be on-time to where Cato expects him to be at. Josh Knight had another solid day after working out with the morning unit yesterday. Coach Holliday spoke highly of the sophomore and how he has stepped up to lead. Deandre Reaves had an exceptional day against the defense today as he torched red-shirt junior safety Corie Wilson up the seam for six. More on Wilson later.

Devon "Rockhead" Johnson worked as the first team back again today as it appears that is where he is slated as of now. As we know from last season, this could change in a moments notice as Taliaferro was the 5th string back coming into camp and he rushed for nearly 1200 yards as the starter. Remi Watson worked as the 2nd team back and Stew Butler moved to the 3rd team. Stew was absent on the field for much of the 11-on-11 but showed why he averaged 8.8 yards per carry last season with perfectly timed stutter-steps that allowed a gap to open before exploding through. He had three carries of near 10 yards or better.

Defensive back AJ Leggett showed off his vertical during pick drills as the 5-11 red-shirt sophomore elevated from the turf to pull in a one-handed grab. Leggett credits the opportunity to play against Cato everyday in practice for preparing the secondary to the upcoming season.

"Cato is the best quarterback I've played against," Leggett said. "On the back end he challenges us a lot by looking one way and then going another. He makes tight throws and it challenges us every day to get better.

Darryl "Swagg D" Roberts and Taj Letman had solid outings as Swagg nearly pulled down an inception from Cato that was six if he could have hauled it in. Look for Roberts to wreak havoc on the outside with newly transformed corner Corey Tindal who moved over from playing nickel last season. Tindal shut down Wilkins on several deep routes and said the position last year prepared him for the switch this season.

"Playing nickel teaches you for the outside," said Tindal. "It makes the outside much easier. Playing inside they've got both ways they can go but outside they only have one way to go and that's the sideline.

Raheem Waiters earned the first "Pick 6" of the 11-on-11 sessions as he stepped in front of a lazy pass from Gunnar Holcombe and took it to the house. It looked much like the pass he took back in the Miami-Ohio win last year.

Tyler Williams backed up yesterdays impressive punting display which included a 75-yard punt with a 78-yard towering kick that hung for over seven seconds. Williams, who was not pleased with the booming punt yesterday due to lack of hang time, seemed to be pleased with the kick today. Holliday said he expected the special teams unit to be even better than it was last year.

Injury report: Corie Wilson suffered some form of a knee injury during the skeleton drills and had to be helped from the field. The trainers assisted him to the sideline with Wilson placing no weight whatsoever on the right leg. Keith Baxter appeared to be working through a lower extremity issue with the training staff after coming up gimpy in the skeleton drill. Baxter, who has had issues with injuries in the past, was up walking on the sidelines during the 11-on-11 but did not participate. Stefan Houston participated in practice today and appeared to be working much better than he displayed the first two days of practice. Gary Thompson has been limited in practice but Doc expects him to be fully participating by next week.

Announcements today were Thursday's practice will be a single team practice rather than split squad like the previous 3 days. Practice will begin at 3:45 p.m. as the team will be in shells once again before full contact practice starts Friday. Marshall AD Mike Hamrick made an announcement via Twitter today that he "just received some big time news regarding our future football schedule. Major announcement in the coming days." One can certainly speculate on the announcement as my fellow colleagues and I ventured through every possibility imaginable. SEC or ACC game? One can certainly hope but no indications have been made.

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