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Chuck Landon: Graham, Sullivan struggling in practice

Apr. 21, 2011 @ 12:06 AM

Doc Holliday was looking for some separation between quarterbacks A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan.

He's still looking.

After 12 workouts and the last meaningful scrimmage of Marshall's spring practice on Wednesday, the two quarterbacks are closer now than when drills began 24 days ago.

And it's not because of improvement.

The lack of separation is because neither Graham nor Sullivan is good enough right now to be Marshall's starting quarterback next season.

"They both need to be more consistent," said Holliday, the Herd's second-year head coach.

That has been glaringly obvious during the last two practices.

Although Sullivan turned in his best performance of the spring on Tuesday, it was marred by far too many bad reads. As for Graham, he muddled through his worst day of spring drills on Tuesday.

"It was just one of those kind of days," said Graham. "I wasn't feeling it from in the morning. I just tried to come out and get through it. I tried to fight through it."

Graham bounced back a little during Wednesday's scrimmage and Sullivan was decent, but -- again -- neither was good enough.

One of the biggest problems Wednesday was both quarterbacks held the ball far too long on pass plays. That produced a two-fold effect.

No. 1, it ruined the rhythm between the quarterbacks and receivers. On two of the three longest completions of the day, the receivers had to wait on the ball because the quarterback -- in this case, Graham -- didn't deliver the passes on time.

The first was a 61-yard strike to Conelius Jones, who beat cornerback Corie Wilson for what should have been a 98-yard touchdown pass. The second was a 25-yard completion to tight end Gator Hoskins that should have produced a bigger gain.

No. 2, the quarterbacks holding the ball too long led to 10 sacks. Yes, they were "tag" sacks because the quarterbacks aren't allowed to be tackled, but sacks nonetheless.

Sullivan was sacked six times and Graham four.

What's worse, all 10 sacks were courtesy of Marshall's defensive line because the Herd defense wasn't permitted to stunt or blitz during the scrimmage.

"We handcuffed the defense a little bit today," admitted Holliday. "We didn't allow them to blitz near as much. And we held out Omar (Brown) and Vinny (Curry) and Delvin (Johnson) and played a lot of young guys."

Despite facing a vanilla defense instead of defensive coordinator Chris Rippon's usual rainbow sherbet of a unit, the quarterbacks still made far too many mistakes.

Just ask Sullivan.

"I made some mistakes," said the sophomore, after completing 13 of 23 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. "I've got to get in the film room and figure it out."

When told he sounded like a coach, Sullivan had a matter-of-fact reply.

"I'm just giving you the truth," he said. "I know for a fact I made wrong reads today. I've got to cut that out. I know for a fact there were some good plays made, too, but you've got to eliminate the bad ones.

"You've got to make more good ones."

He's right.

To Graham's credit, he also was a standup guy.

"I started out a little sluggish at first, but I picked it up toward the end," said Graham who was 10 of 20 for 167 yards and a TD. "It was a good day out, so there's no excuse. I've just got to get better."

Both quarterbacks have to get better.

A lot better.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. Email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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