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Chuck Landon: Trio of QBs to battle for backup slot this spring

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

Marshall's spring football practice suddenly became relevant last weekend.

Otherwise, it was expected to be just another hum-drum exercise in watching college players do something they really dread in the spring.

Namely, practice football.

But when Marshall's veteran backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel confirmed rumors he was transferring to another school, it changed everything.

That's because now Marshall doesn't have a single quarterback on its roster other than Rakeem Cato who ever has taken a snap in a collegiate game.

Not one.

So, when spring practice begins in late March, all eyes will be on the quarterback position because Marshall obviously has to develop a backup for Cato.

That's particularly true in light of the uncertain situation at left offensive tackle. The Herd has to find someone to protect Cato's blind-side. And there doesn't appear to be many viable candidates.

Marshall wasn't able to find any junior college offensive tackles that could enroll for the spring semester. To make matters worse, the left tackle of the future, Sandley Jean-Felix, is expected to miss spring practice and certainly not be ready for starting duties next season after undergoing knee surgery.

The stop-gap measure?

It appears to be Sebastian "Swede" Johansson, 6-foot-4, 284-pound redshirt sophomore who started at left guard in 2013.

Maybe Swede will be the answer. Maybe not.

The point is it takes only one blind-side hit to injure Cato. So, with a new left tackle and no backup quarterbacks with any experience. ... well, it isn't difficult to determine what will be the point of emphasis in Marshall's spring practice.

So, yes, the attention will be on Gunnar Holcombe, Kevin Anderson and Cole Garvin during spring drills.

Holcombe is a 6-3, 192-pound redshirt freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has a big arm. Anderson is a 6-2, 199-pound true freshman from Boca Raton, Fla., who was redshirted last season. Anderson is a protégé of former Herd star quarterback Eric Kresser and enrolled at Marshall a year ago. So, he already has one spring practice under his belt.

Besides that unique experience, Anderson also distinguished himself as Marshall's scout squad quarterback during the 2013 season. He was so competitive and so hard-nosed, Anderson actually ran over a starting defensive back one day in practice. When the embarrassed defensive back took offense and pushed the freshman quarterback after the play, Anderson didn't blink.

He pushed back.

Such moments are why Anderson was given an award at Marshall's team banquet honoring him as the scout squad's offensive player of the year.

Then, there's Garvin. The recent graduate of Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Ga., is taking the same route as Anderson did a year ago. Garvin already has enrolled at Marshall for the spring semester.

That means the 6-1, 196-pound quarterback will get a head-start on the rest of Marshall's Class of 2014 recruits by participating in spring drills.

In three years as Sandy Creek's starting quarterback, Garvin completed 406 of 628 passes for 6,869 yards with 62 touchowns and only 17 interceptions. As a result, Garvin was offered scholarships by Arkansas State, Charlotte, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, Buffalo and Memphis.

Those are the contestants.

And the trio promises to make Marshall's spring practice interesting. ... for a change.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.



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