As the first practice for Marshall football's 2014 season got underway this morning inside Joan C. Edwards stadium, many of the faces present were just like the turf, brand new. With freshmen and newcomers to the program filling out many of the uniforms, it was visibly easy to see that nerves hovered over the new members of the Thundering Herd much like the haze that lingered throughout Huntington.
While dropped passes and players lining up in the wrong position were only among the list of early mistakes during the opening session of fall practice, things progressed as the morning wore on as the players began to settle in.
The team worked through 22 different stations with the final workout before the huddle on the block "M" at midfield was offense vs defense 11 on 11. Although the players are only in helmets, shirts and shorts, the intensity level was easily seen that this group was hungry to make an impression to not only the coaches, but also some of the veterans who were also a part of the session.
Senior TE Eric Frohnapfel spent his morning donning one of only three helmets that did not contain a red-stripe--something this must be earned to have the stripe removed--preparing himself for the grind of the three weeks of practice that leads up to the opening game with Miami-Ohio.
"I'm out here with the young guys due to a class conflict," Frohnapfel said. "Its good for me to be able to work with the younger guys and provide the leadership they need to learn what is expected of them at practice."
With full contact practice not permitted until Friday, the field is covered with smiles and up-beat attitudes as players try to do anything to work their way up the depth charts. One of those players was Donquell "Gator" Green.
Although he shares a nickname that many Herd fans know all too well, "Gator", physically there is no comparison to the former Herd TE Gator Hoskins who is currently fighting for a roster spot with the Miami Dolphins. Green, who was Georgia's player-of-the-year, stands 5-8 and weighs only 160 pounds and shows signs of a combination of Tommy Shuler and Devon "Moo-Moo" Smith all in one.
"When the ball is in his hands (Gator), he's Tommy Shuler size and is so dynamic because he's quick as lightning too," Marshall receiver's coach Mike Furrey said.
Green made several quick adjustments on misguided passes to convert an incomplete pass to a completion. His best catch of the morning, a one-handed grab on a ball thrown behind him on a post-route that was an easy six in a live game situation.
Furrey said while it was way to early to think about who would be doing what with the young group he was happy to see the guys come out and compete to get the session off to a positive start.
Another topic of interest for the morning session was the first chance to see Michael Birdsong (will red-shirt due to transfer) and Cole Garvin who will battle with Gunnar Holcombe for the back-up quarterback role that was vacated by Blake Frohnapfel who transferred to Massachusetts.
Garvin seemingly had the better arm early on when working with the receivers as many of his passes hit the intended target on time and in stride, it was Birdsong who marched the offensive unit down the field to end the session with many of those connections going to Green.
One final note from this morning, about the last 10 minutes of the workouts starting offensive linemen Chris Jasperse and Clint Van Horn made an appearance to see the underclassmen at work. I could see each of the members in the line group step up their drive with the presence of the upperclassmen.
No injuries to speak of and all in all, a good start to the 2014 campaign.
This afternoon will be the vets of the team with names like Cato, Shuler and Butler ready to ramp up this high-octane offensive unit while Rouse, Thompson and Holmes prepare to defense to repeat its dominate performance from 2013.