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Daniel, QBs and D’Antoni

Doug Smock

THE MOST ASKED questions about Marshall’s spring football season concern the battle of the backup quarterbacks.

Not far behind is this: Is that really Armonze Daniel on the first team, making all those stops? Is he a legitimate factor at defensive end, or is he one of those “spring stars” who vanish in August?

“Don’t even go there,” joked MU coach Doc Holliday. “I’m not going to compliment him because he’ll stick it right in my tail.”

I’m not sure what to think. Seven or eight months ago, I was leaning toward writing him off as one of those Internet sensations who hit the brick wall of major-college reality and collapse.

He even looked slow in individual drills, for Vinny Curry’s sake!

Daniel may simply have been unsure of himself after moving down from linebacker last summer. We have seen some late bloomers in the Thundering Herd program over the years and, remember, Daniel has two years left.

Holliday provided an interesting parallel.

“I’ve been around this a long time. Players develop at different times,” Holliday said. “Swede [left tackle Sebastian Johansson], for the first two years couldn’t play, and all of a sudden in the third year, it starts to [click], and he’s become a really good player.

“The same thing with Armonze. Sometimes those offensive and defensive linemen take longer to develop. Once that light goes on, then he’s feeling comfortable, he’s playing fast and he’s looking like we thought when we recruited him.”

Something else to remember: Daniel played meaningful snaps in the Military Bowl against Maryland.

“He started making a turn, I thought, during bowl practice,” said defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. “To his credit, he’s trying to be a better player, and we need all of them.”

Daniel’s development would be such a bonus for the MU defense, much like that of Ra’Shawde Myers last year. Myers now needs a quality complement on the other end, be it Daniel, Arnold Blackmon or the potential-loaded Gary Thompson. And Daniel needs to fish his MU career out of the waters of uncertainly.

The junior-to-be confirmed that, yes, coaches made clear the do-or-else nature of his spring.

“I guess you can say that,” Daniel said. “I just kind of put the pressure on myself to get better, try to be a playmaker this year.”

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Today is Day 38 of the long, strange MU basketball coaching search, which will stretch to Day 39 on Tuesday. That afternoon, the immediate suspense will play out at the football stadium, where we see which quarterbacks (after Rakeem Cato) will get how many snaps, and in which order.

Gunnar Holcombe has been the No. 2 man through Friday, on which the second officiated scrimmage was held. In those two scrimmages, Holcombe did not perform well.

Stat-wise, he was 10 of 35 for 151 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, and the problems seem to go further than that. He has wasted several plays with off-target throws, and is prone to short-hop open receivers on certain routes.

And he surely is no threat to run.

Holliday expressed his disappointment that Holcombe hasn’t separated from the pack, though he did qualify that by saying, “It’s never as bad as you think it is and it’s never as good, so we’ll have to see the tape and see how it goes Monday.”

So does redshirt freshman Kevin Anderson, who threw for two touchdowns Friday, rise from the obscure No. 4 spot when the Herd has its 13th practice Tuesday?

And does just-arrived freshman Cole Garvin show up as the man behind Cato?

Whatever you do, do not assume coaches will do everything to keep Garvin’s redshirt intact. Theoretically, that’s the ideal situation, but if Garvin legitimately seizes that No. 2 spot, there will be no hesitation to use him if needed.

Not for mop-up duty, but if the Herd is a touchdown ahead of Akron and Cato goes down, Garvin would go in. If it’s Game 12 and the Herd is tied in a winner-take-all battle with Western Kentucky, same thing.

At this point, I advise Herd fans not to get too nervous. Kickoff at Miami (not Florida) is 131 days away.

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This is the Monday throwdown, and I’m throwing this down: Mike D’Antoni will not be the next Marshall basketball coach. I dare MU athletic director Mike Hamrick, who wants him BADLY, to prove otherwise.

I’m not sure if, deep down, D’Antoni wants the job. He shouldn’t.

I think he would be able to recruit to a respectable level, and hire assistants who would, as well. He has dealt with NBA egos, so he can navigate the moodiness of today’s “entitled” college athletes.

But after years of comfy NBA charter travel, does he have the patience to put up with a winter of headache-inducing commercial flights? Is he prepared to cope with NCAA compliance demands?

And finally, does he know how badly the MU fan base can chew up its own heroes? Shoot, those fans would expect D’Antoni to overtake Conference USA right off the bat, which is as realistic as football kicker Justin Haig dunking on 7-foot-2 Yous Mbao.

So D’Antoni is still under a Lakers contract, you say? My cynical streak says he will remain with the Lakers until about six days after Hamrick gives up and hires Jeff Neubauer, Ron Everhart or whoever.

It all makes me want to eat black and red jellybeans until I explode.

Contact Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, or follow him at

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