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Marshall football: Holliday sees progression as pads come on

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - One of Marshall football Coach Doc Holliday's favorite phrases in the first two days of practice was, "They all look good in shorts."

On Wednesday, the Thundering Herd added shoulder pads to the practice attire and ratcheted up the contact a little bit. With a little more thumping going on, Holliday said the team still looked good.

"I think the encouraging thing was there wasn't much difference," he said. "You worry about, at times, that once you put the pads on, you slow down a little bit, but I thought they still played fast."

Linebacker Devin Arrington said it just felt more like football to don some pads and put a lick on someone.

"You hear that click-clack and you can see things better, I know that much," he said. "When it comes to linebacker reads, everything opens up and people are actually hitting."

More pads meant more fire at some points during Wednesday's practices. During the morning session, safety Zach Dunston and receiver Demetrius Evans squared off enough times in seven-on-seven drills that coaches lined up the two in an impromptu blocking drill.

Holliday said that intensity wasn't always there when he arrived in Huntington. That isn't much of a problem anymore.

"I like our kids because we pride ourselves in being extremely tough," he said. "We talk about how there's nowhere to hide in our program, if you're not tough, you can't survive."

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HOLLIDAY SAID a few players looked better in shoulder pads Wednesday than they did in the days previous.

One was freshman running back Kevin Grooms, who showed off his speed during team drills at the end of the morning session. Grooms, a 5-foot-10, 165-pounder from Hollywood, Fla., took a hand-off, made a couple of quick cuts and zoomed into the end zone.

Sophomore defensive back Ardy Holmes had back-to-back solid plays in the morning team drills, nearly coming up with an interception, then coming back for another pass break-up.

In the afternoon team portion, wide receiver Aaron Dobson snatched a bubble screen, found a hole and raced toward the end zone for what likely would have been a touchdown if the whistle hadn't blown. After having fumbling the ball earlier, freshman running back Steward Butler was able to get to the second level of the defense.

And while Holliday said it was still early, he liked what he saw from the entire defense.

"That defense looks like they're running around pretty well," he said. "I hope the defense ... if they don't go down there and kick the crap out of the offense, we have issues. And they did that for the most part and that's a good thing."

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TRUE FRESHMAN quarterback Gunnar Holcombe looked good in the morning, completing several nice passes. Holliday said Holcombe's arm wasn't the only thing that has impressed him at the start of camp. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound newcomer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has shown a good mental make-up and a capacity to learn.

"We knew when we got him he could throw it, that he had all the intangibles, and he hasn't disappointed us at all," Holliday said. "Unless they have the great intangibles and work ethic and leadership skills and all those things, they're pretty average. I know the three guys we have here on campus have all those things."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at



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