HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall defensive end Gary Thompson doesn’t pay too much attention to spring practice depth charts, even if they place him among the first string.
With a resume that boasts a selection to the Conference USA all-freshman team, one might think Thompson would feel comfortable that he’s claimed the starting spot vacated by the graduated Alex Bazzie. Yet the sophomore said there’s never a time to rest.
“I’m always fighting for a spot,” Thompson said. “The position never stays the same. I can mess up one play. Next thing you know, my backup does better than me, and I’m second string. We’re always fighting for a spot. It’s never final.”
The La Mesa, Calif., product came on in the second half of 2013 to become a valuable backup at defensive end. He totaled 30 tackles, five for a loss, with three sacks, plus a pair of interceptions, four pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries. With Bazzie’s departure, Thompson said he’s trying to keep his starting spot by fine-tuning himself, making sure his technique helps his athleticism.
“Everything I’m doing is working on the little things,” Thompson said. “My technique, reading my keys, trying not to think too much as I go, to slow me down from my playing ability.”
That ability was evident last season versus East Carolina, when he recorded both of his interceptions, returning one for a touchdown and winning C-USA defensive player of the week honors as a result. Thompson wants to be as effective in Marshall’s run defense as his is in its pass defense, so he said he’s added about 15 pounds a 6-foot-1 frame that now carries 241 pounds.
“Now I don’t have to use my speed to get away because I’m so small,” he said. “Now I can sit there and take on more responsibility. It helps me where I lacked last season in the run game, when the tackles came to get me. I was getting pushed around. Now I can stand my ground and stay in my gap.”
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DEFENSIVE END Ra’Shawde Myers spent Tuesday in pads, yet also with a brace on his left leg, so he remained an observer at practice rather than a participant.
Holliday said Myers would be fine and should be ready in a couple of weeks. Myers — who started 11 of 14 games in 2013 and finished second on the team with 4.5 sacks — has proven his worth. But Holliday said that doesn’t mean he should shut down the fifth-year senior, or any player, if he’s able to return.
“You don’t run scared with them,” Holliday said. “You go get them back if he can get back and do individuals. If he’s 100 percent, he goes and practices. That’s just the way it is.
“There’s a lot of guys that played a lot of football that, towards the end of spring, you get into certain situations and you get them out anyway, whether they’re injured or not injured,” he continued. “We’re not at that point yet with a lot of guys.”
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AT SOME POINT, tight end Eric Frohnapfel will find out what life is like without twin brother Blake in the same town. Blake, Marshall’s backup quarterback in 2012 and 2013, decided earlier this year to transfer to the University of Massachusetts. Yet Eric Frohnapfel is learning about his Blake-less future on the football field.
Once he gets past starting quarterback Rakeem Cato, he’s lining up with three signal-callers — Gunnar Holcombe, Kevin Anderson and Cole Garvin – none of whom have taken a snap in a college game.
“It’s weird not having two quarterbacks and not having so much familiarity with them now,” he said. “Now it’s the younger guys and we’re trying to build chemistry. So it’s definitely different.
“We have to get the timing down with all of them,” he added. “It’s not like I’m out there with my brother and we’ve been doing it for years. That’s what the spring’s for, to get the timing and familiarity down with the new guys.”
Eric Frohnapfel admits that not sharing the Joan C. Edwards Stadium field still takes some getting used to, even in the trip between the field and his apartment.
“When I go back home now to my apartment, I’m not bringing football with me because he’s not out here with me now,” he said.
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RUNNING BACK Remi Watson, absent from the last three practices, will be back for Thursday’s, Holliday said, after tending to a “personal issue.”
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.