Defensive lineman Joe Massaquoi (73) tries to bring down running back Remi Watson (35) during Saturday's Green-White game.
HUNTINGTON - After spring practice concluded Saturday, Doc Holliday singled out three positions that enjoyed the most improvement in Marshall's spring practice - wide receivers, linebackers and offensive line.
And what do you know? Some of the best flashes of brilliance seen in the Green-White game came from those three units.
A crowd of 4,543 gathered at Joan C. Edwards Stadium to watch video-board highlights, applaud Thundering Herd alums in the NFL, and see a little football. The game served as a ones-vs.-twos scrimmage, with "Team Cato" outscoring "Team Frohnapfel" 21-7.
Certainly, it was not a full picture of the state of the Marshall program. For one thing, several veterans watched by design - Aaron Dobson, Andre Booker, Antavious Wilson and Jeremiah Taylor, among others. And there was the usual assortment of players recuperating from injury or held to limited duty.
And minor injuries during the game shaped things even more. Marshall's two healthy tight ends, Eric Frohnapfel and Gator Hoskins, suffered minor injuries on consecutive plays, forcing the Herd offense into four-wide sets the rest of the day.
The wide receivers enjoyed the work, helping quarterbacks Rakeem Cato and Blake Frohnapfel go a combined 28-of-45 for 265 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Three receivers shined in one particular four-play sequence with Cato and the first offense.
First, Demetrius Evans showed some post-catch moves to gain 14 yards, then Tommy Shuler survived a big Evan McKelvey hit to hold on to the ball for 12. Jermaine Kelson caught a 15-yard pass, and then Shuler finished the drive with a 14-yard touchdown, juking linebacker Raheem Waiters at the goal line.
But Waiters did have six tackles to lead a second-string linebacking corps in a pretty good game. Cortez Carter scored the only points for "Team Frohnapfel," picking up a fumble after the ball slipped from a throwing Cato and returning it 58 yards.
Carter had five tackles, two sacks and that defensive touchdown. "I don't know what happened. I just saw the ball [and thought] 'scoop and score,'" Carter said.
The Herd's starting offensive line allowed Cato to get "sacked" four times, but was at times dominant in run-blocking. The unit's last possession showed that in its last four plays, as Remi Watson rushed for 47 yards and Kevin Rodriguez covering the final 15 on three attempts, the last a 1-yard touchdown.
"I don't know if I've got a one-two-three [most improved players of spring]," Holliday said. "But those receivers, linebackers and a couple of offensive linemen have made great strides."
Cato accounted for the game's first touchdown, augmenting passes of 15 and 27 yards with shifty runs of 18 and 13 yards. He sprinted around end to cover the last two.
He went 15-of-29 for 169 yards, but was just as proud of his mobility.
"I've been working hard on my legs, trying to get faster," Cato said. "I tried to show that today, when I got a chance to."
Blake Frohnapfel was 10-of-19 for 96 yards, taking just a few shots downfield with his healing shoulder. His longest pass play was a 25-yarder to Chris Alston, the freshman who bounced off a tackler.
"Frohnapfel, that's tough on him," Holliday said. "He hadn't had the opportunity to get any individual [drills] all spring. He comes out and throws one day a week, and he's got a couple of 'ducks' in there.
"The one thing about Frohnapfel, he's got great intangibles. He's going to do anything this summer to get ready for August, and I'm not worried about him."
Some depth-chart items of note: At safety, Zach Dunston and D.J. Hunter manned the first unit, with McKelvey on the second unit. McKelvey led all tacklers with seven.
The starting linebackers were Billy Mitchell between Jermaine Holmes and Devin Arrington, with Carter, Deon Meadows and Waiters on the second unit. Jordan Jeffries started at left tackle, but split first-team duties with Gage Niemeyer, as they have much of the spring. With Taylor watching, Alex Bazzie and Malcolm Strong were the first-string defensive ends.
Looking well into the future, Marshall has offered St. Clairsville (Ohio) linebacker Michael Ferns, still just a sophomore. But the line will get long for the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Ferns - Notre Dame just offered him, and so has Virginia. With a 4.0 grade-point average, he will not be a "prop."
The Big Green Coaches Tour starts soon, May 7 in Ashland, Ky. State stops on the 17-stop tour include Putnam County, Beckley, Lincoln County, Logan, Mingo County, Point Pleasant, Princeton and The Greenbrier. A full schedule has not been released.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org
, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.