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Herd offense wants more

MU football
Aug. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall's offense burst onto the scene in 2012, vaulting into the top of the NCAA rankings in several categories.

Now, the Herd's hyper-tempo style isn't going to necessarily catch anyone by surprise.

Regardless, Marshall football coach Doc Holliday knows his team has the weapons and the speed to continue to be among the tops in college football in 2013.

"The one thing we can't do offensively is take a step back," Holliday said.

Of course, that offense will be led by quarterback Rakeem Cato, who has been named the Conference USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and has been named a candidate for the Maxwell and Camp Awards (given to best college football player) as well as the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award (nation's top quarterback).

Cato threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2012 en route to being the Conference USA Most Valuable Player.

While Cato literally had much of the Herd's offensive output in his hands last season, this season could be a bit more of a balance for Marshall, which has a veteran front and three running backs who gained considerable experience as freshmen last season.

With the experienced offensive line, Holliday also said the Herd will likely change tempos in 2013 based on what the defense and situation allows.

"To be a great offense, which is where we want to be, we have to be able to change tempos and slow it down at times when we need to and that type of thing to help our defense a little bit," Holliday said. "I think our offensive line being a strength can help us do it.

"That being said, we still want to have the ability to go fast, make plays and score -- all the things we did before. We just can't take a step back. We can't be satisfied at all where we are and as an offense, we have to continue to get better."

At receiver, Tommy Shuler returns to the fold for Marshall following a record-setting single-season in which he caught 110 passes for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns.

However, the two outside receivers -- New England Patriots rookie Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson -- have both graduated, meaning Cato will have to get used to new targets on the outside.

That puts a bigger emphasis on the rushing attack in the season's early weeks, but the trio of Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson are all more than capable of carrying the load for the Herd.

Together, they rushed for 1,617 yards and 18 touchdowns on 301 carries last year -- an average of 5.4 yards per carry.

Much of the focus was on the Herd's prolific passing attack, but Marshall's greatest success came when the team was running the football efficiently.

"We were one of the top three rushing teams in the conference, even as much as we threw it," Holliday said. "We were pretty balanced -- run-pass -- and we were able to run the ball a little bit. I think the one thing we have to be able to do is just continue to not try and put square pegs in round holes -- just take what the defense gives us."

As camp opens on Monday, the team hopes to regain the polished look that made it one of the nation's more dangerous offenses in 2012.

The fall camp leads up to the 2013 season and home-opener, which is set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 31 when the Herd takes on Miami (Ohio) at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

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