Doc Holliday sees a different Chase Litton around the Marshall football offices these days. That, the Thundering Herd head coach said, is easy to see, since Litton has grown from 205 pounds last season to around 230 pounds as the Herd opens preseason camp Thursday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
There also are differences that aren’t visible to the naked eye, and Holliday hopes that combination will lead to a better season under center and in the record books for the rising junior as Marshall embarks on the 2017 season.
“He has done a tremendous job since January taking care of himself, taking care of his body and leading the football team,” Holliday said of Litton during his Monday preseason press conference.
Litton’s passing numbers didn’t suffer in 2016. His yards per game were up (261.2 per game in 2016, compared to 236.8 in 2015) and his touchdown and interception totals were stable. He threw 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season, compared to 23 touchdowns and eight picks as a true freshman. He completed 62.3 percent of his passes as a sophomore, compared to his freshman output of 60.1 percent.
Other numbers, though, weren’t so fortunate. Litton was the quarterback of a 10-win, St. Petersburg Bowl-winning squad in 2015. Last season, the Herd went just 3-9, its worst record since 2007. Litton had his struggles, too. He had to sit out the Louisville game due to injury and, while an injury would have kept him out of the season finale versus Western Kentucky anyway, he was not on the sideline for that game due to a violation of team rules.
Litton himself understood he had to again earn the trust of his teammates as the quarterback of the team. Holliday said, from what he has seen, Litton is on the right track, especially in terms of his leadership.
“The most important things at that position, and we talk about it all the time, are the intangibles,” Holliday said. “I think him getting the chance to go down to that Manning camp has all been part of the growing process.”
Litton was invited to be a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy this past June. The camp is overseen by Archie Manning and sons Peyton, Eli and Cooper, and Litton joined a counselor list that included TCU’s Kenny Hill, Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold and Louisville’s Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.
He also has been under the tutelage of a new quarterback coach, co-offensive coordinator Todd Goebbel. Goebbel switched position duties with offensive coordinator Bill Legg, with Legg now overseeing the tight ends. Holliday was quick to point out the job Legg did with Rakeem Cato, who sits atop most of the Marshall career passing statistics over legends like Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington. But Goebbel’s prior experience — he was a starting quarterback at both Kent State and Northern Iowa — brings an extra wrinkle to that spot.
“Todd’s had the opportunity to play that position, coach that position,” Holliday said. “Sometimes it’s good to change some things up. I think it’s been good.”
Goebbel can help guide Litton through the ups and downs of being a quarterback, the ones he already has experienced and the ones that likely will come. He was called into action as a true freshman to help Marshall to a third straight bowl win, then dealt with the hurdles of his sophomore season. Holliday feels both have helped him entering his junior year.
“I think he’s grown from it and learned from it,” Holliday said. “I see a different guy out there right now. I’m anxious to see how that carries over and I know it will on the field.”