By Woody Woodrum
Herd Insider Senior Editor
April 28, 2012
HUNTINGTON - In front of a crowd of just over 4,500 Herd fans, and a number of former Herd players in for a Friday night Big Green Banquet, “An Evening With The Pros,” the Marshall first team scored three touchdowns and didn’t give up a score on defense to take the annual Green-White Spring Game, 21-7.
It was the final of 15 spring football workouts for third-year head coach Doc Holliday, and the head coach of the Herd was happy with what he saw all during the spring, not just on the field for an overcast, sometimes rainy, game.
“I feel like we are a lot better,” said Holliday, who was also thrilled to have former Marshall players like two-time Super Bowl champion Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants or former MU and Jets and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, hanging out with his team on the sidelines.
“Our guys can look and see a guy like Ahmad Bradshaw, who has two Super Bowl rings, or a guy like Chad Pennington, who has been where they are.”
One of the guys in particular who is where Pennington has been were quarterbacks Rakeem Cato and Blake Frohnapfel.
Rakeem Cato scores one touchdown on the ground, threw for one more, in leading the first team to a 21-7 win in the annual Green-White Spring Football Game at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Stadium in front of a crowd of 4,543 on an overcast, at times rainy day in Huntington. Safety Stephen Roush closes too late on the rushing touchdown by the Herd's starting sophomore quarterback. Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry, HI Publisher
“I need to be a leader on the field, and these guys are great to have here with us," said Cato.
"They are great role models, because when they come back it’s like, ‘been there, done that,’ when you talk to them about plays you make on the field.
“We love having those guys around.”
Cato again put up good numbers, running by and large with the first team offense against a defense of twos and threes.
He hit 15-of-29 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown, a 14-yard strike to his favorite receiver, former Miami Central and now Herd teammate Tommy Shuler.
Shuler had another good day a week after catching 13 passes, as the sophomore teamed with the sophomore quarterback for six catches to lead the Herd, for 45 yards and the only touchdown through the air.
But red-shirt freshman Blake Frohnapfel continued to make great strides after shoulder surgery last season, recovery from which initially looked to keep him out the entire spring.
Frohnapfel hit 10-of-19 against the first team defense, throwing for 96 yards.
“We put a bunch of new offense in this spring, and I think the offense got a lot better as the spring went on,” said Frohnapfel.
“My are is still pretty limited, as you could see on some throws, but it is coming. When I first went out to throw this spring, it would hurt for three days.
“Now, the last week, when I throw, it doesn’t really hurt even the next day, and the doctors say I should be back 100 percent in late June or early July.
“I thought we played pretty well today, but not scoring - well, a lot of that is on me.”
Blake Frohnapfel readies a throw in the Marshall Green-White Spring Football game, as linebacker Devin Arrington closes. Frohnapfel continues to rehab his throwing shoulder after surgery late last season, and expects to be 100 percent by summer. Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry, HI Publisher
Actually, a lot of the non-scoring was due to the defense playing well, a week after the defense was ripped for 10 touchdowns in a scrimmage on Friday, April 20.
On the day, the defense recorded 14 tackles for loss, eight passes broken up, eight quarterback sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, including the second team’s only score when linebacker Cortez Carter picked up a ball that slipped out of Cato’s hand when the rain came down hard for about ten minutes and returned the ball 58 yards for a touchdown.
Carter is excited to be in the mix of a number of linebackers who can step up and play in games with no drop off in the play of the defense.
“We are all pushing each other,” said Carter, a sophomore from Bealton, Va. “We have no personnel issues with our unit (the linebackers), both the ones and the twos.
“I feel like I stepped up today - and the touchdown return helps. I was going in for a sack, saw the ball bounce and just scooped and scored.”
Cato was as surprised as Carter the ball was not in his hand.
“I had my gloves on, figuring I had the ball glued to my hand,” said Cato.
“I almost broke my arm with a throw with no ball there, and it certainly caught me by surprise.”
Carter finished the scrimmage with the fumble recovery for a touchdown, five tackles and two sacks on the day.
Raheem Waiters, another young linebacker as a sophomore from Quincy, W.Va. and Riverside High School, had six tackles in the scrimmage while sophomore safety Evan McKelvey ended the day with a team-leading nine tackles.
Junior defensive end Alex Bazzie had seven tackles and two tackles for loss, and Holliday was thrilled with the big numbers put up by the back-up defensive players.
“Waiters, (Deon) Meadows, Jermaine Holmes and Carter are some young players who have really made strides in our defense,” said Holliday.
“Waiters had an excellent spring. Overall, I feel a lot better about our overall depth on defense, especially the second team defenders.”
Holliday also likes the depth the spring showed him on offense, as well.
“On offense, (junior college transfer) Gage Niemeyer is going to be a good tackle. Channing Smith is an athletic guy who we asked to play center this spring.
“He had never played center but did a good job. We now have depth at wide receiver. Our quarterbacks improved, too.
“Frohnapfel, it has been tough on him to throw once or twice a week, but he has great intangibles and we know he will get there.
“Cato was put in some situations today with no tight ends, and we threw some wrinkles at him. We improved this spring on offense, too.”
Tight end Eric Frohnapfel turned his ankle on one play after making his only catch, leaving for the training room and returning on crutches.
One play later, Gator Hoskins left after making his first catch with an apparent hamstring problem, so the Herd offense stayed in the spread much of the latter part of the scrimmage.
Marshall ran the ball pretty well, even with the tight ends coming up injured.
True freshman running back Kevin Rodriguez loses his helmet on a run, rushing for 47 yards and one touchdown in Saturday's Green-White game. No. 25 in background is Stefone Grace, also a true freshman linebacker. Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry, HI Publisher
True frosh walk-on running back Kevin Rodriguez had 14 carries for the second team for 47 yards and a touchdown with runs of ten yards, four yards and one yard for the score on three straight plays.
He was set up for the score on a 27-yard run by red-shirt freshman Remi Watson, who had 43 yards on nine carries.
“We got off to a slow start today on offense, and didn’t have a lot of carries early, but this offense is going to make some big plays,” said Watson, who is from Lakeland, Fla.
“The weather had a little bit to do with the slow start.”
After sitting out his first fall, Watson is hoping to get carries with Tron Martinez and Trevon Van, who both sat all spring with surgeries.
“It felt good to come back here late in spring,” said Watson, who sat for a couple of weeks himself this spring. “I was still battling a shoulder injury from high school, a sprain of the A/C joint, but I will continue to rehab it and be 100 percent for this fall.
“We have a backfield full of good backs, like today, so I hope to get carries in the rotation this fall.”
Leading all backs with 49 yards, coming on just four carries, was Washington, D.C. junior Essray Taliaferro, who has also had some injuries this spring but broke a 25-yard run on the fourth play of the scrimmage.
Cato rushed eight times for eight yards, and scored on a two-yard run for the offenses first touchdown. Frohnapfel rushed nine times for five yards (quarterbacks yards include losses on those eight sacks).
Receiving-wise, Jermaine Kelson caught four passes for a team-leading 66 yards.
Chris Alston had four catches for 51 yards and Jazz King caught three for 32 yards, exactly the same numbers for Demetrius Evans.
Craig Wilkins caught one pass for 14 yards and Dameon Garrett caught two passes for 18 hours.
Also on defense, safety D.J. Hunter had four tackles and broke up a pass; Meadows has four tackles and a sack; and the following players had three tackles each (plus specialty plays) - corner Derek Robinson (pass broken up), linebacker Billy Mitchell, safety Zach Dunston (pass broken up), J. Holmes (tackle for loss and pass broken up), tackle Blake Brooks (sack), tackle Ken Smith (two sacks) and tackle Brandon Sparrow (0.5 sack).
Demetrius Evans looks to evade safety Derek Robinson after the receiver made one of his three catches for 32 yards in the Green-White game on April 28. Robinson had three tackles and broke up a pass on the day. Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry, HI Publisher
Other defensive stats include two tackles each for senior linebacker Devin Arrington, safety Lawrence Johnson, corner Deontae West (two passes broken up), defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers and tackle Seth Doss (0.5 sack).
Others on defense include a tackle and a fumble recovery for linebacker Armonze Daniels; a forced fumble for corner Monterius Lovett, a tackle and pass broken up by corner Keith Baxter, Jr.; a tackle for safety Lorenzo Steele; a tackle for corner Darryl Roberts; a tackle and a sack for defensive end Malcomb Strong; and a tackle and tackle for loss for true frosh tackle Joe Massaquoi.
The Herd will now get ready for finals, then spend the summer working out with the strength and conditioning coaches and throwing on their own before coming back in August to get ready for the opener at West Virginia on Sept. 1 in Morgantown.