Herd offense sets tone
HUNTINGTON -- All it took was a little spark to start a burning fire in the offense during Thursday's fifth spring practice session for Marshall football.
As the Herd went to the 11-on-11 team period in the late stages of the practice, Marshall offensive lineman Alex Schooler and strong safety D.J. Hunter got tangled up after a hit and the two sides had to be separated.
It was certainly not a big deal -- just all just part of the competitive nature of spring practice.
However, the play amped up the offense, which showed its best execution of the spring thus far over the course of the following dozen plays.
"The one thing that has to happen and needs to happen every day, which it has to this point, is that every day when we go offense vs. defense, they are competing their tails off," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said.
On the play directly after the Schooler-Hunter lock-up, running back Kevin Grooms used his speed to get to the edge, made a hard cut to his left in a dead-sprint and was gone from defenders.
Two plays later, wide receiver Devon Smith, whose nickname is "Moo-Moo", took a screen pass from Cato and juked defensive back Corey Tindal for extra yardage -- much to the delight of his offensive players, who let the defense know about it as the sides returned for the next play.
"It was live today. It started in the 7-on-7 with Swagg (cornerback Darryl Roberts) talking and it just went from there...," Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato said with a smile. "I love it. Last year, it wasn't really like that. Everybody got a little more juice in them this year and we're all excited for the season."
As play continued, there were several other highlights, including Cato hooking up with wide receiver Shawney Kersey on a play in which Kersey turned on the burners and went to the end zone after getting behind the defense on a crossing route.
Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel also connected with wide receiver Deandre Reaves on a touch pass before Reaves turned on the jets as well.
For Cato and the offense, it's all part of a bigger picture that will start to come together later this year.
"Once everybody gets back into their rhythm, it's going to be hard to stop our offense because we've got a lot more speed and the running backs -- they were freshmen last year -- now they understand the game a bit more as sophomores," Cato said.
Offensive lineman Garrett Scott explained the symmetry between the offensive players and how the entire unit shares in the successes.
"We feed off each other a lot," Scott said. "Different receivers call us out when we come to the sidelines and say 'Schooler, Garrett, we see your pancakes, man.' We feed off of their cuts, too -- let them know we saw it.
"We just get excited off of each other. Not too many people know the excitement from the offensive line to the skill guys and the skill guys for the offensive line. Shout-out to Schooler, though, with the stand-off with D.J. That got it started."
Scott added that practices sometimes get spirited like that, but the competitive nature of both sides on the field builds chemistry between the entire team. He also said it is a key ingredient if the Herd is to turn last year's 5-7 team into a Conference USA champion in the fall.
"As the offensive side of the ball, we feel like if we turn it up, the defense is going to continue to turn it up and we'll be practicing hard like coach Holliday wants," Scott said.
Marshall football will take Friday off, but will return to the field at 9:15 a.m. Saturday for its first spring situational scrimmage.
The event is open to the public and fans are asked to enter through Gate D (northeast concourse gate) and sit on the East side of the stadium due to on-going construction on the west (20th street) side.
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