HUNTINGTON - Ah, spring games. For excitement, they are college football's version of pro football's Pro Bowl.There are quarterback taps. There are punts with an offensive line consisting of a center. And in the end here on Saturday before 4,543 Marshall fans, Marshall defeated Marshall 21-7.Yes, there were some noteworthy moments and performances. Quarterback Rakeem Cato showed some nice moves. It was nice to see defensive back D.J. Hunter playing and ready to deliver hits. Receiver Tommy Shuler had a nice catch and run, tumbling into the end zone.Also, linebacker Cortez Carter seemed to use the game for its original intent: to make a mark. He had a fumble return for a score and a couple sacks. ("Every time you go out on the field, you have to give it 110 percent," said the sophomore from Bealteton, Va. "Right now, I'm learning the Sam and Will linebacker positions, being versatile. As with all linebackers here, you have to be versatile. You have to be ready to go when your number is called.")
The end of spring, though, is most useful to reflect on pre-drills goals - and to determine whether those goals were met. After Saturday's game, MU coach Doc Holliday said many were."Offensively, we were looking for the offensive line to continue to develop," he said. "And we're a young football team. The quarterback situation, we want to develop more leadership and leadership skills."We wanted to get some depth at the running back and receiver position. [Aaron] Dobson and [Antavious Wilson] and [Andre] Booker didn't play today. I don't need to see those guys anymore. We want to see those young guys begin to grow up: [Craig] Wilkins and [Tommy] Shuler and Demetrius Evans and those guys."I thought that happened. We did lose a couple tight ends [Eric Frohnapfel and Gator Hoskins] early [in the game] and you didn't get an opportunity to see what we worked on this spring, but that's OK. We got out pretty healthy and that's the important thing."Dobson, the pride of Dunbar, pointed at another offensive objective. "Tempo," said the 6-foot-3 senior. "Definitely tempo. That's what we've worked on since the beginning of spring. We've been trying to get more plays in. We're going to try and get 20, maybe 30 more snaps in a game."We've been getting lined up faster. Our communication has been better."Defensively?"We were trying to get faster and get more speed on the second level, the linebacker position," Holliday said. "I thought that was our biggest issue a year ago. I thought our secondary was pretty athletic. I thought our front four was solid. I just thought with second-level guys in this league, you need more speed and more plays made in space. A lot of young kids got a lot of work this spring."Raheem Waiters is a guy we moved from safety to [linebacker] who gives us more athleticism. Devin Arrington is back on the second level. Then we have Jermaine Holmes. Some of those young guys are really starting to come along."Both Waiters and Holmes are sophomores. Holliday seemed especially pleased with the former.
"Waiters came in as a wideout," said the coach. "He started to develop on special teams as a freshman. Toward the end of spring, he proved he has a chance to start for us."Holliday has also been working on the talent level within the program. He loved that Vinny Curry was taken by Philadelphia in the NFL draft. But he's hoping soon two or three players per year will be taken.Dobson said he, Arrington and Booker [as a kick returner] could make the grade next year. ("I just want to go out and have fun next season," Dobson said. "Just put up some numbers, make some big plays. I'm a big-play receiver and I want to do what I do best.")Down the road, those within the program have high hopes for sophomore defensive back Keith Baxter, junior DB Darryl Roberts, redshirt freshman linebacker Armonze Daniels and junior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor, among others.Holliday knows more talent means more goals reached by this time every year.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.