Marshall wide receiver Alston making strides
HUNTINGTON - Chris Alston last played in an official football game on Nov. 19, 2010.
He was a senior at Fairfield Central High in Winnsboro, S.C., and a teammate and two opposing players barreled into his left knee in a third-round playoff game.
"I heard a pop," Alston said.
Today, Alston will participate in his 10th practice as a member of the Marshall football program. Last Saturday he starred in the first intrasquad scrimmage of spring drills, making 12 catches and turning them into 103 yards.
The slot receiver had a toothy grin as he stood on the Edwards Stadium turf after the 111-play scrimmage. All was perfect, except for that cumbersome protective knee brace that hugs his left knee.
"They said I could take it off after the spring game," said Alston, referring to the annual Green-White game on April 28. "Hang it up."
Alston figured he'd be eased into action in his first officiated action in 17 months, but with two slot receivers (Tommy Shuler and Jermaine Kelson) not participating, Alston was elevated to the second unit and targeted often by backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel.
"He had, what, 20 catches?" Frohnapfel said.
Alston showed no lingering hindrances from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament he tore in what turned out to be his final high school football game.
Most of his catches in the scrimmage came on screen passes, and Alston routinely stopped, caught the ball and turned upfield with ease.
He didn't shy from contact, either.
"I told him he made good strides today," Marshall wide receiver coach Gerad Parker said. "He's showing up in his third week of the spring and he's coming off a knee injury.
"He's learning how to do it and learning our lingo. That showed (in the scrimmage), what he's going to do here in the future."
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Alston had Parker as his lead recruiter. Alston was originally slated to be on the Class of 2011 list of Signing Day additions, but the knee injury gave Coach Doc Holliday the idea of the receiver grayshirting - a term that means a student-athlete delays enrollment.
Alston had emerged as a possible target for ACC and SEC teams prior to the torn ACL, but interested schools backed away from the speedster with a bum wheel.
"I was already in the process of being recruited, but when I tore my ACL, Marshall stuck with me," said Alston, a 3A Offensive Back of the Year and Shrine Bowl selection at Fairfield Central. "They came and checked on me, so I leaned toward them.
"They explained the grayshirt to me and I knew my leg wasn't 100 percent, so I was good with it."
Alston spent 2011 rehabilitating the injury.
He enrolled at Marshall University in January and was announced with the Class of 2012 signees.
Now, if he could just shaky that pesky knee brace.
"It will come off in the fall," Holliday said. "He was a dynamic player on film in high school.
"I probably haven't seen that speed out of him yet."
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IN SATURDAY'S scrimmage, freshman linebacker Armonze Daniel led the defense with 13 tackles.
Daniel, a 6-4, 232-pounder from Avon, Ind., redshirted last season at MU. His size at linebacker could portend a move to the defensive line in the future, but Herd defensive coordinator Chris Rippon likes Daniel at his current position.
Daniel is behind senior Devin Arrington at strongside linebacker, or "Sam."
"His size and speed and strength ratios are pretty darn good," Rippon said. "I like to expose them in different positions, but with being as young as we are, to say this week you're a "Will" (weakside linebacker) and this day you're a "Sam" and this day you're a "Mike" (middle linebacker), I don't know if I can do that.
"I don't think he'll move. I think he could be a guy, down the road, like Mario Harvey or George Carpenter where you can play him at linebacker and make him a rush end. That gives you flexibility.
"He's got enough on his plate just learning the "Will" position that if I suggested adding anything he'd knock me down."
Contact sportswriter Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712.