With week one of Marshall football’s fall camp officially in the books, several players await what the future may hold for their 2014 season. After two days of full-pad practices, several players have separated from the pack, while others are sliding the wrong direction on the depth chart.
This will be my first full ranking of all skill positions. Keep in mind, my projections and a dollar may get you something from the dollar menu at your favorite local restaurant. But unless there is something I am completely missing, I would expect my projections to be in the ballpark.
1. Rakeem Cato: 6-0 176 Senior Miami, FL- For the first time since Byron Leftwich graced the Joan; Marshall football finally has a quarterback in the Heisman Trophy race. Not only is Cato on the prestigious award watch list, his pre-season accolades are as impressive as some may collect over an entire career. Cato is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. His biggest challenge is he is just the same as a quarterback who plays on the west coast; most of the nation will never get a chance to see him. Cato has been nothing less than spectacular thus far in practice with pinpoint accurate throws, superb reads and lightning fast decision making that puts a coach on the field for the Herd. Cato has spent time in every practice coaching players up and even helped out defensive coach Chuck Heater when a rookie defensive end did not hold his position which allowed Cato to make a positive gain on a play that should have resulted in a loss. Cato appears to have more weapons this season than he’s ever had at Marshall, including a 243 pound tailback in Devon Johnson who can run, catch and block. Cato is poised to break every Marshall passing record this season and is currently chasing current Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for the NCAA record of consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass (38). Should Cato successful break the record, he would tie Wilson in the homecoming game against Middle Tennessee and would break it the following week against FIU—which would be in his hometown of Miami. This could be a special year for the senior and a trip to New York in December is likely.
8/11 Update: Shuler continues to shine and has become a coach and leader on the field. Shuler looks to benefit by a talented group of receivers around him that will take advantage of teams who decide to bracket Shuler. Shuler could in line for his best season ever.
and his height gives him a 2-3 inch advantage over the typical secondary players. If Allen can be that consistent deep threat the Herd is desperately looking for, he could have a break-out season. However, if Allen’s lights don’t go on when its game time, Coach Holliday has plenty of young guns standing in the wings chomping at the bit for a chance to shine.
8/11 Update: Allen continues to make good progress in the fall after having a good spring showing. Allen’s biggest area of concern is consistency. Coach Furrey said Allen has all the potential but it’s time for production rather than potential to take over. Allen has made several nice catches through the first week and could be the deep threat Cato is looking for.
8/11 Update: Reaves looks to return kickoffs once again this season but his speed gives Cato a great target to hit on the underneath routes. Reaves has been a solid target and could work as an inside receiver that works in the opposite of direction as everyone else. Reaves becomes the most dangerous when he has the ball in hands and open field or blockers in front. Reaves can work the quick slant, quick hitch or bubble screen and let his speed take over. Reaves will be a serious threat this season.
8/11 Update: Knight has been a pleasant surprise in this talented group of receivers. He has worked well with all the quarterbacks and has been a deep threat all week. Knight can play behind Allen on the outside or on the opposite side of him in a “twins” set providing a dual deep threat.
performance once full-pad practices begin Friday.
8/11 Update: With high expectations for Jean-Louis, the time is now for him to step up. He has worked well with the quarterbacks and could be the #2 outside receiver behind Davonte Allen with a chance to push some seasoned vets down the depth chart. Just like every receiver on the roster, it all comes down to consistency.
8/11 Update: Justin has continued to fall farther down the chart as the drops continue to rise. As a true sophomore this season, Hunt was looking to improve on his two-catch season from last year. Unfortunately his inconsistent hands could cost him significant time on the field. With such a deep group of talented receivers this season, a receiver with a case of the drops has no chance of seeing the field. Hunt needs an answer and now.
7. Donquell “Gator” Green: 5-8 160 Freshman Waynesboro, GA. – The newest “Gator” has arrived at Marshall but in a much smaller package. Green has been nothing less than spectacular thus far in practice. His speed is explosive and has juked a few defenders out of their cleats, turning a quick slant into a monster gain. He plays through contact and does not get pushed out of his routes easily. Green looks like a combination of Shuler and Moo Moo which is scary to picture. Green has also been working with the special teams returning punts and looks to be a natural. Green played as a quarterback at Burke County High School but has made the transition to a slot receiver extremely well. So well some have already said the future of life after Shuler is in good hands. But let’s see what the youngster can do when he has some of the top corners in CUSA lined up against him and Cato firing the ball his direction.
|Donquell 'Gator' Green|
8/11 Update: Gator is going to be a unique animal for the Herd coaching staff to decide on. Without a doubt the kid has a tremendous amount of talent. However, he has Tommy Shuler playing in front of him. He has explosive speed and is a shifty player. However, his consistency has been a problem with a few drops and not properly running routes. Even with that, there is a place NOW on the field for this kid. The question is where and to what capacity. I would not be surprised to see Green take a redshirt this season rather than play behind Shuler and work as a returner on special teams. However, Green looks like a natural returner and could provide a solid 1-2 punch with Deandre Reaves. With no more Moo-Moo working the return game, it appears a mirror image is standing in the wings. The only question is, will it be this year.
8/11 Update: Foster is in the same boat as Green. He has the potential and skill set to contribute to the Herd NOW. However, inconsistency from Foster in the form of drops and “hearing footsteps” may keep him off the field this year. Foster has great speed, but struggles with the more physical player in coverage, especially linebackers. While he can go on a jet-route if he gets lined up in a speed mismatch, when he cuts in front of a linebacker, he is easily pushed off his route. He has worked with the special teams but due to the talent level waiting in front of him, may be redshirted this season. Take nothing away from him, any other year; this kid would probably make the two-deep without any consideration.
9. Emanuel Beal: 6-1 200 Freshman Powder Springs, GA.- Beal is a member of an elite group of incoming freshman that stands a chance to fight for a spot on the field if the chips fall his way. He works the field well and has hauled in several nice passes from both Cato and Holcombe. Beal, much like several others in camp stands to take time away from some of the crafty veterans. He could be a red-shirt candidate due to the hefty numbers of receivers in this year’s class.
8/11 Update: Not much has changed with Evans since my last report. Evans still lacks the ability to separate from the defense and be a consistent receiver for a quarterback who makes everyone around him better. He will contribute, but it will be in games that are well decided and as a backup role.
8/11 Update: Wilkins may be a member of the ones simply because he’s a senior come game one. But if his production from camp carries over to games, his decent will be rapid. He has frequently dropped catchable passes and appears to run routes poorly. With the standards of Coach Furrey, Wilkins needs to up the ante fast.
8/11 Update: No changes to report on Allen after working in pads for three days. The drops are too frequent and he will be on the bottom of the totem pole when the season begins.
8/11 Update: Frohnapfel has been impressive and Cato continues to feed him the rock on post routes. We have yet to see the tandem work in a red-zone situation but when Cato surveys the middle of the field, he is looking for 83. Frohnapfel has worked out of the back field as the H-back with Johnson opposite him and the tandem has been difficult to cover. This could be a breakout season for the senior.
8/11 Update: McManus has worked well when taking first team reps and gives Cato another big body with soft hands from the tight-end position. McManus has been solid after 3 days in full pads but received a ball-separating hit from AJ Leggett during practice this morning that was one of the best hits of the day. McManus will be a tough matchup for a linebacker to cover as he has excellent speed for his size. Expect several TD possibilities this season for him.
8/11 Update: Woodrum finds himself in a tough predicament with the quality of players who looks to see the field in front of him. Woodrum will see playing time this season, but how many targets he gets could be another story.
8/11 Update: No change since last report for Yurachek. He looks the part but outside of intermittent catches, his drop rate is too high to see playing time over the guys in front of him. Coach Holliday likes what he brings to the table but I still expect him to take a redshirt and compete for playing time next season.
|Devon 'Rockhead' Johnson|
2. Remi Watson: 5-11 190 RS-Junior Lakeland, FL- Watson is coming off a disappointing 2013 in which he carried the ball only 30 times for 120 yards in nine games. Working with a new running backs coach in Chris Barclay, Watson’s style of running has taken a 180-degree shift. Known for running east and west so many times while at Marshall has changed to a more explosive north and south guy. With Johnson appearing to be the starting back this season, Watson’s style of running offers a nice 1-2 punch for defenses to have to plan for. If Watson will stay the course of running north-south, this could his best season yet.
3. Steward Butler: 5-9 185 RS-Junior Lakeland FL- Stew had a phenomenal season last year He tallied 777 yards while averaging nearly nine yards per carry which was in the top 10 in the nation. Stew’s biggest issue is he seemingly lives in Doc’s doghouse. While he can run like a deer, his blocking is nothing to write home about. Of the top 3 backs in a linebacker blocking drill, he was the worst at achieving his assignment. He has worked as the third and fourth team back through camp and unless things drastically change, he will have limited carries behind Johnson and Watson this season with a pair of RS-freshman that will be breathing down his neck for playing time as well. There’s no doubt Butler has the skill, but does he have the mentality that is required as well.
4. Tony Pittman: 5-10 204 RS-Freshman Hampton, VA- Pittman enters this season with a lot of poise and passion. He also has a lot to learn. While the young man has the frame and speed, there’s so much more of the game he still has to learn. He has shown he can shoot a gap or cut up field off the edge, but he has also put the ball on the turf which Coach Barclay has zero tolerance for. Pittman could be a future star back for the Herd, but he has to let the game slow down before he can speed up.
5. Brandon Byrd: 6-0 197 RS-Freshman Gibsonton, FL- After entering camp with high aspirations for the staff, Byrd suffered a major setback in his bid to earn playing time this season. Byrd has a devastating collision with linebacker Cortez Carter last week in practice and has yet been cleared to return to practice duties. Byrd, much like Pittman, has the potential to be something special, but will he be able to embrace the game and eliminate the little mistakes that are sure to keep him on the sideline.