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Marshall football: QBs won't be too green this season

HUNTINGTON - If Marshall's quarterbacks stay healthy this season, the Thundering Herd can say something they haven't been able to since Doc Holliday arrived as their head coach.

Full seasons out of sophomore Rakeem Cato and redshirt freshman Blake Frohnapfel mean the Herd won't put a true freshman under center at any point for the first time in Holliday's tenure. A season on the field for Cato and a redshirt season observing for Frohnapfel don't make them grizzled veterans, but it does give them an experience boost that will definitely help this season.

Sometimes Marshall has needed a true freshman quarterback a little bit. Sometimes they needed one a lot. In 2010, the Herd played Boca Raton product Eddie Sullivan in seven games. He completed six of 24 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown.

That's nothing compared to Cato's true freshman season last year, where he started nine of 13 games, including Marshall's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl win over Florida International.

He threw for 2,059 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen said that one season has meant a lot for Cato's growth at the position.

"Cato was the guy who went in and played on the road against West Virginia last year," Petersen said. "We're not sending him in there like we did last year. That's not what you want, but that's what we had last year.

"He's a lot older," he added. "He has a year under his belt. He's easier to coach and making better decisions. He's moving up the scale as far as what he's doing there."

Frohnapfel didn't see playing time last year - he sat behind Cato and the departed A.J. Graham before season-ending shoulder injury in November - but he was on the sidelines for every game. Petersen said that gave him an up-close lesson on what the college game was like.

"We wanted to put him in a position where he knew what was going on and how we did things," Petersen said. "He's as ready as he can be for not taking any snaps."

Cato said he's breathing easy with Frohnapfel backing him up. He's dealt with some rougher backup situations in the past. At the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, with Frohnapfel and Graham both sidelined with injuries, Cato's backup was receiver Jermaine Kelson.  

"Blake is a great quarterback," Cato said. "If, God forbid, something happens, I know I don't have anything to worry about. Blake would step in and do great. He knows the system and he's a great runner."

That running ability is something the Herd would like to use.

They removed his red no-contact jersey at last Saturday's scrimmage, and he responded with 48 yards on five carries.

"It's the first time I've been hit since high school," Frohnapfel said.

"The first time you run, there's a little bit of nerves in you. Obviously, you get hit a little harder in college, but it felt good."

Holliday said Frohnapfel's legs could give Marshall's offense a different look if he has to come in.

"He's an athletic guy, a little different than what Cato is," Holliday said. "He brings something else to the table where if we get into a situation where he's going to play, which could happen, then we'll have our offense conducive to what he can do.

"At some point, he's going to be asked to play," he added. "And when he does, he'll get it done. I have confidence in what he can do."

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


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