Marshall hosted about 500 of its fans at its annual Paint the Capital City Green event at Embassy Suites in Charleston. It’s a fun time for Herd fans to get some good food then hear what Marshall President Stephen Kopp, AD Mike Hamrick, coach Doc Holliday and several players had to say. Below are some scenes and sounds from the night. (For a much better crop of photos, head over to Daily Mail photographer Bob Wojcieszak’s gallery.)
First, the obligatory inflatable Marco shot …
So is that old Marco, new Marco or new old Marco?
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin stopped by to talk with folks …
The governor and the media
The governor and the AD
Holliday brought about two dozen players to the event, from sophomores like Corey Tindal to seniors like Rakeem Cato, Tommy Shuler and James Rouse.
Good luck getting behind that crew in the food line.
Blake Brooks sits among the fans.
When folks walked into the actual pep rally, they were greeted with this scene …
Line of the night went to Doc Holliday, who recounted Dr. Kopp’s mission for him when they were hammering out Holliday’s new deal. He said Kopp told him to onside kick after every score, always go for two and never punt. Holliday said he thought he was talking to Cato, and that you respond differently to those requests depending on the requester.
“With Dr. Kopp, I said, ‘Yes sir, we’ll see what we can do,’ and walked out of the office,” Holliday said. “When Cato says that, I say, ‘Get the damn third down and we don’t have to worry about punting.’”
A short one with Marshall football coach Doc Holliday. Among the topics is Thursday’s “Paint the Capital City Green” event in Charleston, which we were told is sold out with more than 480 tickets bought.
It’s one thing for Marshall to call quarterback Rakeem Cato a Heisman contender. How many others around the country are saying the same thing?
A couple of folks at CBSSports.com are.
A poll of five of the site’s college football writers have Cato sixth in their voting. Check out that site to see the breakdown. He’s the only Group of Five player receiving votes among the website’s crew.
Whether that translates to actual Heisman votes remains to be seen. The Heisman Trust doesn’t release the names of the voters, and none of the five CBS Sports writers are on this list, last updated on Dec. 10, 2013. (Dennis Dodd used to be a voter, but gave up that privilege over his displeasure in the vote’s lack of transparency. )
What it does mean is plenty of folks have taken notice of Cato. Writers both national and local have written in depth about his rise to prominence. His appearance on a national sports website’s Heisman list can only help.
Marshall tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Todd Hartley had what could be considered a pretty productive day Tuesday, when you couple Marshall’s afternoon practice with the birth of his third child, daughter Teagan Elizabeth, in the morning.
Good Lord has blessed us with a beautiful, healthy baby girl this morning! Teagan Elizabeth Hartley… http://t.co/qkY0Fgc5Mp
A new member of the Herd roster was announced Tuesday, former University of Maryland linebacker-turned-quarterback-turned-linebacker Shawn Petty.
That’s a heck of a resume, now isn’t it? Here’s how it was formed.
Petty played both quarterback and linebacker at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt, Md. His freshman year in 2012, he started as a scout team linebacker, but with all the injuries to Maryland’s QBs, he started four games under center. He completed 39 of 84 passes for 500 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions.
He moved back to linebacker in 2013, played in 13 games and registered 24 tackles, four for a loss, with two sacks. He played but did not record a tackle in the Terrapins’ loss to Marshall in the Military Bowl.
Then, in February, Maryland coach Randy Edsall announced that Petty would transfer. And now he’s found his new home in Huntington, reinforcing the old adage that, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
(Doc Holliday’s post-practice video doesn’t have much to do with the content of this blog post, but since practices are now closed, there really isn’t much to talk about there.)
The Herd picked up 41 points in the preseason Associated Press sportswriters poll. The great thing about the AP poll is, unlike the coaches poll, the ballots are made public every week. So if you want to know who the voters are and which way they went, it’s as easy to find as a couple clicks of a mouse.
Of the 60 AP voters, 11 had the Herd on their respective ballots. We’ll begin with my boss, Daily Mail sports editor Chuck McGill, who ranked the Herd 23rd on his first ballot. He’s one of two voters who put Marshall at 23. Of the 11, nine had the Herd ranked between 21 and 25.
The two exceptions were Donald Heath of the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News, who ranked Marshall 19th, and Jon Wilner of the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, who ranked the Herd 15th.
Below is the list of folks you’ll be sending fruit baskets to this week:
Chuck McGill, Charleston Daily Mail – 23rd
Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News – 15th
Chris Murray, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal – 23rd
Daniel Berk, Arizona Daily Star, Tuscon, Ariz. – 25th
Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News – 19th
Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press – 25th
Ed Johnson, Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal – 24th
Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth (Tex.) Star-Telegram – 24th
John Silver, Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer – 21st
Here’s a link that offers a side-by-side view of the sportswriters and coaches preseason top 25 college football polls.
Notice anything missing?
Like, say, a Group of Five team?
The University of Central Florida comes closest to breaking the seal, sitting as the top team in the “also receiving votes” group in the writers poll and third from the top in that group in the coaches poll. ESPN.com has the preseason top 25s archived back to 2002. In every one of those polls, there’s at least one small-conference team included, usually more than one. (FYI, Marshall started the 2002 season 19th in the preseason writers poll and 21st in the preseason coaches poll.)
What might that say? This could be just an anomaly. One of the Go5 schools could do well enough this season and have enough coming back to warrant inclusion in 2015. That might have been the case for UCF if QB Blake Bortles would have stayed for his senior year.
Could it possibly be that most top 25 voters, with the new College Football Playoff in place, will disregard Go5 teams in favor of eight SEC teams and six Pac-12 teams, as we saw in this preseason AP top 25? Whichever way it goes, the new reality for Go5 teams is likely that they’ll all have to work their way into the top 25.
Former Marshall running back Kevin Grooms, in search of another chance after being dismissed from the Herd following his third arrest since April 2013, appears to have found one at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. The News and Advance in Lynchburg reported that Grooms has transferred to the FCS school and will sit out the 2014 season.
Why say “another chance” rather than “a second chance?” After three arrests, the 2012 C-USA freshman of the year is past a second chance and onto the fourth. That’s probably why Liberty coach Turner Gill was so adamant to the News and Advance that Grooms must stay on the straight and narrow through his entire tenure there.
“Zero tolerance,” Gill said. “It’s a second chance. If there are some things that come up that are inappropriate, then he will no longer be here. Again, zero tolerance.”
For those not familiar with Liberty, it’s a Christian school founded by the late televangelist Jerry Falwell. His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., is the current chancellor. The university employs a code of conduct called “The Liberty Way” that is password protected on the LU website. Other sites mention the rules prohibit R-rated movies, immodest clothing and drug and alcohol use.
Some Herd fans took to social media last night and voiced their surprise at Grooms’ transfer to a school with such strict rules. I’d argue that is exactly the place he needs right now. With as many problems as there are in his past, a strictly-regimented place like that should help keep Grooms from screwing up again. Structure would be very good for him, and at Liberty, structure he will get.
So there has been talk of Marshall’s outside receivers needing to raise their level of play in 2014, considering they didn’t give slot receiver Tommy Shuler a whole lot of help in 2013. If Saturday’s scrimmage is any indication, that group is up to the challenge.
Those wideouts made plenty of pretty catches, and a heap of touchdowns, through the around-90-minute exhibition Saturday night in Joan C. Edwards Stadium. After a slow start for the offense, quarterback Rakeem Cato’s first completion was a jumping 27-yard touchdown strike to freshman Angelo Jean-Louis. Not one to let the youngsters get all the glory, redshirt junior Davonte Allen had two fantastic grabs, a 42-yarder down the visitors sideline that Cato threw from his own 1, then a 22-yard touchdown he caught over 2013 Conference USA co-freshman of the year Corey Tindal.
Of the six touchdowns thrown Saturday, four went to freshmen — Jean-Louis, Deon-Tay McManus, Rodney Allen and Emmanuel Beal. Craig Wilkins caught the sixth TD. Could the young tight ends and receivers be giving the upperclassmen such a run for their money that those veterans are stepping up their respective games to stay at the top of the depth chart? We’ll visit that in my next story, which you’ll be able to see Sunday night at charlestondailymail.com and in Monday’s Daily Mail print edition.
Speaking of touchdowns (more about the guys throwing them), Marshall coach Doc Holliday didn’t officially name a backup after Saturday’s scrimmage, but look at these numbers:
Gunnar Holcombe: 11 for 22, 151 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
Cole Garvin: 3 for 5, 36 yards, TD, INT
Holcombe threw more than four times more than Garvin, and even got some time with the first-team offense. As I said Friday, unless it’s absolutely necessary, I don’t see Marshall burning Garvin’s redshirt. My guess is Holcombe’s your No. 2.
As far as the running game goes, Devon Johnson got only five carries, but he gained 32 yards, an average of 6.4 yards a carry. The guy keeps his feet moving, has no problem with contact and runs with malicious intent.
Here are the scrimmage stats, courtesy of Marshall Sports Information:
Butler 11-46, TD
Watson 11-51, TD
Team 21-40-337, 6 TD, 2 INT
Cato 5-11-122, 2 TD
Holcombe 11-22-151, 2 TD, 1 INT
Garvin 3-5-36, TD, INT
Birdsong 2-2-28, TD
Jean-Louis 1-27, TD
Wilkins 2-46, TD
McManus 2-55, TD
Allen 2-65, TD
Beal 1-11, TD
R. Allen 1-13, TD
Houston 6 tackles
Waiters 5 tackles
Carter 6 tackles
Hunter 4 tackles
Gant 4 tackles
PBUs – Leggett, Tindal, Waiters, M. Johnson, Gant, Rowe, Myers