HUNTINGTON — Marshall freshman quarterback Cole Garvin is in a spot he hasn’t seen in more than three years — backup.
Garvin arrived for the spring semester from Sandy Creek High in Georgia, following a three-year stint as that team’s starting quarterback. He threw for more than 7,000 yards, 63 touchdowns and won 39 games in his high school career, but knew he’d spend his first spring as an understudy to reigning Conference USA offensive player of the year Rakeem Cato.
As much as he’s enjoyed the race for the Thundering Herd’s No. 2 spot with redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holcombe and redshirt freshman Kevin Anderson, he’s also enjoyed the opportunity to learn under a starter the caliber of Cato.
“Something I wasn’t happy with myself in high school was, my freshman year, I didn’t pay attention to the starter,” he said. “Right now, I’m trying to learn from that and trying to absorb everything he’s doing and everything he’s seeing.
“He’s probably the most competitive person I’ve seen on a football field, but he’s also a great teacher,” he said of his senior teammate. “When he’s not in, he’ll come over and point out everything he’s seeing. I’ve already learned so much from him in 12 practices.”
The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Garvin echoed what so many other first-year players have said during their maiden voyage in college football, that the first few weeks of practice are an eye-opening experience. He realizes now how crucial enrolling early has become. It didn’t take long for him to understand everything would move at a quicker pace.
“The first day,” he said with a laugh. “We probably put in 20 percent of (the playbook) the first day. Coming out here, the speed is so much faster. I’m seeing and hearing things I never saw before in high school. It’s different, but I think I’m gradually getting used to it.”
Marshall coach Doc Holliday said Garvin has performed admirably in his first few weeks, especially with everything that’s been thrown at him in a short time. He added that these spring practices really should help in the long run.
“I think when you’ll really notice a difference is when he comes back after going through all the summer,” Holliday said, “and he comes back to camp already with 15 practices under his belt. I think you’ll see a bigger jump at that point than you do now.”
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CONSIDERING THE WAY Marshall’s offensive tackle situation ended up last season, developing younger members of that unit have been an important part of the spring.
The 2013 season started with Gage Niemeyer starting at left tackle and Garrett Scott at right tackle. Halfway through the season, Scott moved to left tackle and Clint Van Horn became the starter on the right.
Backups were essential last season, and offensive line coach Alex Mirabal said three young tackles — redshirt freshmen Sandley Jean-Felix and Chris Huhn and freshman A.J. Addison — have developed well.
“Tremendous,” Mirabal said of the trio. “I think Sandley Jean-Felix, the light’s gone on. Everything’s kind of clicked. A.J. Addison is getting better and Chris Huhn is getting better. Those three young tackles are doing a great job. Two of them, Addison and Huhn, they just need strength. They just need to get into that weight program with Coach (Scott) Sinclair.”
Addison, a 6-6, 274-pounder who enrolled early after spending last semester at Fork Union Military Academy, said these last few weeks have been great in allowing him to build his strength and refine his technique. He knows there’s always a chance a backup lineman can be called into action, so he wants to be ready.
“It’s next man up,” he said. “That’s why Coach Mirabal tells me to work every day. That’s why I’m trying to get stronger every day, so that I can be that next man up and I can be ready for that.”
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CORNER COREY TINDAL left Tuesday’s practice on a backboard after being injured on a play, but Holliday said that was more of a precautionary measure. The 2013 C-USA co-freshman of the year was moving his arms and legs while on the Joan C. Edwards Stadium turf.
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.