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Herd numbers rising

MU football
Apr. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Numbers, as in body count, are better for the Marshall football team. Coach Doc Holliday hopes those numbers lead to better numbers in 2013, particularly the record. A 5-7 campaign/no bowl bid in 2012 made it a tough off season for all parties concerned.

At the morning practice Saturday, fans seated on the East Side at Joan C. Edwards Stadium saw quarterback Gunnar Holcombe make some impressive throws. The quarterbacks spread the ball around to different backs and receivers in the situational scrimmage at the end of practice.

Up front, many linemen on both sides of the ball got reps.

"The last three springs at certain positions we had problems at practice at times," Holliday said. "The numbers now are getting closer to where they need to be.

"We'll be at 85 (scholarships) in the fall. Offensive line ... 10 or 11 guys can go play.

"Running backs last spring we had two out (Kevin) Grooms and Stew (Steward Butler). Every spring we've had issues at certain positions. It's getting better."

Junior Rakeem Cato continues to show the form that helped him lead the nation in passing yards per game in 2012 and get voted Conference USA's most valuable player. The catch now is more work for Blake Frohnapfel and Holcombe the rest of the spring. Last spring it was pretty much Cato and quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen, who's now at Louisiana Tech.

Frohnapfel hooked up with Jack Gammon on a 25-yard TD pass as Gammon got open down the seam. Holcombe drilled a pass to Chris Alston Jr. on a crossing route for a 23-yard gain.

"Tony threw better than the others," Holliday said. "I hope he's doing that right now at Louisiana Tech. Gunnar just needs reps. He's got good arm strength, good athletic ability. He has all the intangibles, everything you need. You'll see a bit less of Cato and more of Frohnapfel and Holcombe the rest of spring."

On successive running plays, Grooms picked up good yardage on handoffs on the read option.

"We clicked at times on both sides of the ball," Holliday said. "As a head coach, when you walk off you're not totally happy. Cato has a total understanding of what's going on. When he's in there, we're hard to stop. The offensive line continues to do a good job."

The defense is getting adjusted more and more to new coordinator Chuck Heater, who's installing a new system. A year ago, the Herd gave up nearly 460 yards and 43 points per game.

"I'm seeing things from the defense. They play extremely hard. Chuck's getting them fundamentally sound and improving them technique wise. You have to on defense. You have to get your feet grounded to play. When you play teams like us, that's hard. You don't see guys run around not lined up or don't know where to go. They understand the concepts, the techniques are good. The intensity is good. We had our first live tackles today and I saw some kids put hats on people."

Heater wants to keep things simple as he adds to the playbook.

"We try to keep it as clean as we can," he said. "We've thrown a lot at them. We move to different packages. Man free is still man free though. You have to build in the notion they understand it. We're not having those problems. That's good, especially with our offense. They play at warp speed."

Herd practices are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through the Green-White game on April 27. Weekday practices are at 3:30 p.m. Saturday sessions start at 9:15 a.m. Practices are open to the public, with the exception of the April 13 and 20 scrimmages, which will be open to those who present a valid Big Green membership card or a copy of their 2013 football season ticket renewal form.

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