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Herd works on rapport between quarterback, receiver

HUNTINGTON - Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato started jumping and celebrating at the 35-yard line. He had just thrown one of his four touchdown tosses to receiver Tommy Shuler, his old high school target, and proceeded to skip and dance his way across midfield.

Shuler found the nearest official and quietly flipped the ball to him.

Cato throws and Shuler catches. Cato is the extrovert and Shuler the introvert.

And when Cato speaks, Shuler listens.

"Sometimes he'll come up to me and say 'Shu, you should have done this and we would've scored,' " Shuler said after last Friday's intrasquad scrimmage at Edwards Stadium.

"And, you know, I'll always end up saying 'You're right.'"

Maybe that's why the pair conjured up images of their Miami Central High School days during the final scrimmage before this Saturday's Green-White spring football game.

Cato completed 17-of-27 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Shuler had 13 receptions for 169 yards and four touchdowns.

Last season, Shuler had 14 catches for 122 yards as a freshman. He caught nine of those passes (for 92 yards) from Cato.

The true sophomores constantly work on that QB-receiver rapport.

"It gets better every single day," Shuler said. "We'll just be sitting around and he'll want to go outside and throw the ball around. We'll throw anytime, anywhere. We try to make it as hard as possible so when we get in the game, it's easy."

Cato started nine games last season - the first six before he was supplanted by A.J. Graham, and then the final three games following Graham's season-ending injury against Tulsa.

Cato led the Herd to wins in his final three starts, and in his combined statistics in a season-ending win over East Carolina and a bowl game win over Florida International were 50-for-68 (73.5 percent) for 567 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

A harbinger for the 2012 season?

"He's even better than that now," Shuler said.

"He knows the defense better, he knows the offense better, he knows where all the players are going to be on every single play.

"He makes it easy on all of us and he's the head of the offense.

"He knows everything now."

But, what about the dancing?

"I leave that to him," Shuler said. "I just laugh."

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  • IN HERD hoops news, the program hosted a pair of prospects over the weekend.
  • Ryan Taylor, a 6-foot-6 forward from Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, and D.D. Scarver, a 6-4 guard from Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, visited Huntington.

    As of Monday afternoon, neither player had verbally committed to Marshall.

    Both players had previously pledged elsewhere.

    Taylor plays for former Marshall basketball player A.W. Hamilton at Hargrave, where Taylor averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds for a team that went 38-1 this season. Five players from Hamilton's team have already signed with ACC or Big Ten schools.

    Taylor averaged 28 points and 14 points as a senior at Louisville Western High School. He was committed to the Cardinals before they backed off because of academic concerns.

    Taylor has visited Seton Hall, Boston College and Dayton. Hamilton told the Dayton Daily News that Taylor had scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Arkansas, Providence and other high majors.

    Scarver committed to Southern Mississippi but is looking around after Coach Larry Eustachy left the Golden Eagles for Colorado State.

    Scarver earned first-team NJCAA All-American honors at Trinity, where he averaged a 24.1 points per game. He was the Region 19 Most Valuable Player.

    Marshall signee Elijah Pittman, a forward who played at Lamar State College, was a second-team pick in Region 19.  

    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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