MU football: Starting or not, former Herd QB helps Western Carolina
HUNTINGTON - Western Carolina quarterback Eddie Sullivan can't say what it will feel like when he walks into Joan C. Edwards Stadium and heads toward the visitors' locker room rather than the home locker room. He's never done it.
He knows the home locker room well. He spent most of two seasons as a Thundering Herd quarterback, leaving in November 2011 before Marshall's game at Memphis. The visitors' locker room, however, remains a mystery.
"I'll be able to say after the game Saturday," he said, "but not now."
Sullivan is part of another Catamounts mystery. He might be the starter Saturday versus Marshall (7 p.m., Fox College Sports). He might be the understudy to true freshman Troy Mitchell. WCU Coach Mark Speir said that wouldn't be decided until Friday.
"We're going to see who's most productive," he said. "We think this competition is only going to make them better. With this offense, as much as we do with our quarterbacks, you've got to have two really good quarterbacks."
Sullivan had the inside track on the starting job heading into the 2012 season, but was suspended for the Catamounts opener versus Mars Hill for violating a team rule. He had to watch as Mitchell led WCU to a 42-14 win, completing 20 of 29 passes, gaining 189 total yards and rushing for two touchdowns.
"It's always tough when you could be playing and you should be playing and you're not," he said. "You've got to stay positive, and I'm grateful for our win. I was just as jacked up on the sideline as everybody else."
He's even more excited to take the field again. He played seven games at Marshall as a true freshman in 2010, completing six of 24 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. He was sitting out 2011 as a redshirt, but after A.J. Graham was went down with a shoulder injury, that would have pushed Sullivan to No. 2.
Playing one snap in the season's last two games would have burned Sullivan's redshirt. Leaving when he did kept it intact.
"It's an odd time to leave, but the kids understand that quarterback's a different position than what it is to be at another position," Marshall Head Coach Doc Holliday said. "There's only one of them. If you're not going to play, that's going to happen all around the country."
Now Sullivan gets to line up against his old team, a situation the Catamounts are trying to exploit.
Speir said the background Sullivan has with the Herd offers a perspective that transcends game film.
"Film doesn't always do justice to a team," Speir said. "He's got a great feel of the players, who's faster than they look on film and who's really strong, who are the sharp guys who aren't going to make mistakes and who might make mistakes. It gives you a comfort level of what you're jumping into the ring with."
Mitchell agreed that Sullivan's Herd experience will be essential, and he'll be picking the redshirt sophomore's brain throughout the week.
"Eddie's very helpful," he said. "He has a feel for the game with them. When I go out, he tells me where they go and what they do, so I just take note of that and I can look forward to seeing it in a game. It's helpful because it won't be unexpected when I see it in the game."
Yet Sullivan doesn't believe Marshall players are too worried about what the tendencies and strategies he knows.
"Marshall's going to play their game regardless of who's on the sidelines," he said. "That's basically all they're worried about and that's all they should be worried about. They have to worry about their focus. They can't worry about one other person on the opposite team who played for them at a point."
It won't be Sullivan's first trip back since leaving. His girlfriend still goes to Marshall and he said he's been back to Huntington about five times. He's seen old friends and old teammates each time and they've picked up where they've left off.
That, he said, will make it easier keep from getting psyched out over Saturday's game.
"Obviously, there's things I miss about Marshall and the area and things like that," he said, "but you just have to treat it as if it's another game, that's all."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.