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
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.