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ColePen

Cole Pennington sits on the turf following a workout at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Friday afternoon. Pennington, the son of former Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington, is one of thousands of Class of 2022 prospects nationally who have seen their recruitment hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the NCAA’s recruiting dead period now lifted, those prospects are taking full advantage of every opportunity to get on campuses and work out for coaches under modified rules put forth by the NCAA for this summer in regard to unofficial visits.

HUNTINGTON — No matter where Sayre (Ky.) High School quarterback Cole Pennington decides to go to college, the early-level communication classes will be no problem for him.

The ultimate test, however, has become trying to decide a school for Pennington, who is one of thousands of Class of 2022 prospects who saw COVID-19 take away a majority of their recruitable time as prospective student-athletes.

Cramming all of their research in recruiting into just a few months is the ultimate test and not one that is easy to navigate.

It is the ultimate two-minute drill that will impact the futures of many lives, as Pennington pointed out on Friday during his unofficial visit to Marshall.

“The past year and a half, not being able to get out and see places and just get the feel has been tough,” Pennington said. “The most important thing in recruiting and deciding where to go is to get that feel.

“It’s not seeing the picture of the stadium. It’s being on campus and seeing yourself — could you go there if you didn’t play football? Could you see yourself there as a student? So that’s the most important thing, just getting that feel.”

On Friday, Pennington’s recruiting journey took him to a place with which he’s familiar — Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards Stadium, where his father, Chad Pennington, starred as a quarterback. It’s a place Cole Pennington has visited numerous games with his family.

In 2021, however, Pennington’s viewpoint is different — one as a recruitable athlete.

One of the rules changes granted by the NCAA to help offset the lost recruiting time was the ability for coaches to conduct on-campus evaluations during unofficial visits on the days football camps and clinics are allowed in June and July 2021.

Therefore, Pennington’s unofficial visit to Huntington included a workout for Marshall’s coaching staff, which watched intently with each movement as Pennington threw an array of passes and showcased footwork and agility.

Upon completion of the session, Pennington smiled at the newfound viewpoint from which he just worked. He had dreamed about it as a young player.

“I walked out of the field when I was coming out for the workout, and I was like, ‘This is a lot bigger that what I thought it was in the stands,’” Pennington said. “It’s just really cool to come out here and be able to play on the field.”

Pennington was offered a scholarship by Marshall in Sept. 2020 — his first offer — but Friday was his first opportunity to get on the field in front of the Thundering Herd coaching staff with first-year head coach Charles Huff at the helm.

Other offers are there from Eastern Kentucky, which came in January, and UT-Martin, which came last week.

The 15 months taken from Pennington and other 2022 recruits due to COVID-19 has hindered the ability to get in front of other teams, making the recruiting process reliant on highlight clips, Zoom calls and virtual tours of campus — not exactly an ideal scenario.

It left many prospects like Pennington wondering when would be their chance to shine.

That time — albeit in a smaller window — is now, and Pennington doesn’t plan on letting any day slip by his grasp.

Just as Pennington saw the stadium in a new light on Friday, those affiliated with Marshall’s program also saw Pennington received in a different light, which has been a quiet inner drive motivating him.

“It’s important to the coaches, too,” Pennington said. “Coach [Tim] Cramsey [offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach] and Coach Huff, for example, have been telling me they are recruiting me because of who I am as a person and who I am as a player.

“I can take what my dad did and watch his game, but also make myself my own player and my own person in this game.”

After 15 grueling months of wondering when he’d finally get a chance to do so, Friday provided the opportunity to do just that.

On Friday, the curly-haired quarterback may have walked in as Chad Pennington’s son, but he made sure he was known as “Cole Pennington, Class of 2022 quarterback prospect” as he left.