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Marshall football: Spring football drills begin today

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- The third installment of spring drills under Coach Doc Holliday begins in earnest at Marshall today.

But what will football-starved Thundering Herd fans see at 3:30 p.m. today when the team takes the field for the first of 15 practices that will be spread neatly across a five-week period?  

Well, although there is a dearth of scholarship quarterbacks at the ready, freshman Blake Frohnapfel will participate in practice from today until the Green-White game on April 28.

What Frohnapfel can and cannot do following offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder remains to be seen.

"Blake won't be able to make every throw," Holliday said Monday. "It's huge whether he can throw it (in practice) or not. He is throwing and the trainers are working with him and making sure he doesn't overdo it.

"At this point, it is all about him being able to be out there and take snaps."

The 6-foot-6, 229-pound signal caller from Colonial Forge, Va., sat out last season as a redshirt. Frohnapfel had surgery on his shoulder following the conclusion of the regular season and missed the team's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl victory over Florida International.

Frohnapfel and incumbent starter Rakeem Cato, a rising sophomore, are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster following the dismissal of part-time starter A.J. Graham (violation of team rules) three weeks ago.  

The shortage of able throwers can put an inordinate amount of stress on Cato's trusty right arm, so don't be surprised when his position coach, Tony Petersen, is chucking the ball around the Edwards Stadium turf a little bit this spring.

Cato and Frohnapfel will be joined by incoming true freshman Gunnar Holcombe this summer.

Here are other team and personnel items to monitor this spring:

 

  • Holliday declared his Herd football team "mostly healthy" for the spring.
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    Two exceptions are running backs Travon Van and Tron Martinez.

    Van, a rising sophomore, and Martinez, a rising junior, each had multiple offseason surgeries and will be relegated to merely spectating the next five weeks.

    "They'll be out for the spring," Holliday said. "They had to get some things cleaned up."

    Van made his collegiate debut last season and rushed for 551 yards and three touchdowns. His yardage total trailed only Martinez, who gained 649 yards on the ground with three touchdowns.

    Van and Martinez combined to account for 77 percent of the Herd's rushing yards in 2011.

    Last spring, Van sat out as an academic non-qualifier and Martinez simply sat out the spring game because Holliday felt he had nothing more to prove.

    In those players' absence this spring, senior Martin Ward, junior Essray Taliaferro and redshirt freshman Remi Watson will carry the load.   

     

  • Marshall has one senior returning on the defensive side of the ball: Devin Arrington.
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    And he is changing positions ... again.

    The 6-2, 209-pounder is shifting from safety to linebacker this spring. The coaching staff moved him to the back of the defense in August after the safety position was decimated by injuries and attrition.

    Arrington finished fourth on the team in tackles (92) and had four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles playing alongside Omar Brown.

    But with safeties D.J. Hunter and Donald Brown back (Brown tentatively), as well as the influx of newcomers arriving this fall, Arrington is being pushed back to his more natural position.  

    Former Riverside High School multi-sport star Raheem Waiters will join Arrington in the shift from safety to linebacker. Waiters, who was recruited to Marshall as a wide receiver, was shifted to safety last August and blossomed into one of the team's most productive special teams players as a true freshman.

    He had six tackles and played in 11 games.

    "I thought he became a real good football player for us," Holliday said of Waiters.

     

  • The players aren't alone in getting used to new surroundings.
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    At the positions of center, guard, tight end, defensive line and cornerback, players will have a new assistant coach to learn from this spring.

    One third of Holliday's football staff had to be replaced since the end of the season, with Phil Ratliff (tight ends), Fred Tate (defensive line) and Mike Cassity (cornerbacks) moving on.

    The tight ends will now be coached by Bill Legg, who will hand his duties as an interior line coach to a newcomer on the staff, Geep Wade. Legg will keep his duties as the offensive coordinator and continue to coach the tackles.

    J.C. Price is the successor for Tate and Lytrell Pollard takes over for Cassity.

    "A lot of people get bent out of shape with the numbers of coaches we've lost," Holliday said. "It just means we've hired great people, great teachers and relentless workers."   

     

  • Holliday categorized Donald Brown's situation as day to day.
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    The 6-foot, 182-pounder from Frostproof, Fla., was booted from the team last July for a violation of team rules. Although Holliday never discussed the details of Brown's departure, the talented safety was booked in Western Regional Jail for a misdemeanor domestic battery charge an hour after the coach released him from the football program on July 11.

    Holliday said Brown is working his way back on the team.

    "He is not officially back," the Herd coach said. "We are evaluating him from now until August. He has to meet the standards and expectations of the program."

    Brown started 12 games in 2010 and finished fourth on the team in tackles with 75. He tied for the team lead that season in interceptions with three.

    If Holliday green lights Brown's return, he will have two years of eligibility remaining.  

    Contact sportswriter Chuck McGill at chuck.mcgill@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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