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Marshall football: Herd tight ends expected to be key

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Eric Frohnapfel admits that when he and fellow tight ends Gator Hoskins and C.J. Crawford walked off the field following Marshall's first two preseason scrimmages, they were a little confused with the few catches they had.

 "The scrimmages, things just kind of didn't go our way," Frohnapfel said. "And we'd walk off the field saying, 'That was weird.' "

Confused, but not concerned.

"We knew the time was coming," Hoskins said.

Their time came last Saturday at West Virginia University and the trio delivered. They combined for 11 of quarterback Rakeem Cato's 38 completions and 132 of his 413 passing yards.

The tight end position was an important one for the Herd's passing game and plans on staying that way as Marshall (0-1) prepares for Football Championship Subdivision member Western Carolina (1-0) in its home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday (Fox College Sports Atlantic telecast).

The three tight ends caught five total passes in the Herd's first two scrimmages of the season, but Frohnapfel said those stats didn't tell the full story. When the offense worked during daily practices, tight ends caught plenty of passes. But when scrimmages came around, the team was trying different things and the balls weren't coming their way.

That changed drastically against the Mountaineers, mainly because WVU's defense tried to clamp down on outside receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson. The two weren't silent against WVU - Dobson caught four passes for 72 yards and Wilson caught three for 40 yards - but they didn't dominate the stat sheet.

It was Frohnapfel who led Marshall with six catches for 60 yards and an 11-yard touchdown catch with 54 seconds left in the game. Crawford caught three passes for 48 yards and Hoskins caught two for 24 yards, though a long touchdown pass was called back on a holding penalty.

"Yeah, that kind of makes you mad, but you can't do anything about the call they made," Hoskins said of the flag that Coach Doc Holliday said shouldn't have been thrown. "You've gotta live with it."

Cato said that once the WVU defense started keying on Wilson and Dobson, he looked across the middle to the tight ends, and they responded.

 "The coaches called the right plays at the right times," he said. "The defense tried to protect the sidelines so the outside receivers didn't get really too much action as far as deep balls. But the tight ends were there. It opened up for them and I just kept hitting them. They did a great job after the catch."

For Marshall, all three tight ends offer a different look to opposing defenses.

Frohnapfel stands 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, while Hoskins is a bruising 6-2 and 240 pounds and Crawford is a speedier 6-2 and 229 pounds.

 "I think we all bring different things," Hoskins said. "I'm a bigger tight end. In the run game I can block, maybe, a little bit better than those guys. Frohnapfel is tall, long and a big target. It's easy to get him the ball throwing high over the defenders. C.J. has speed and can run past the guy."

The three know they might not always be such popular targets. Cato found 13 different receivers against the Mountaineers. And with athletes like Dobson and Wilson on the outside and Tommy Shuler and Andre Snipes-Booker in the slot, there are plenty of potential game breakers. But with those performances, Frohnapfel, Crawford and Hoskins can add to a Marshall tight end lineage that includes stars like Sean Doctor, Mike Bartrum and Cody Slate.

"Obviously, it's going to depend week to week on what the offense is running, the type of plays we're running and what the defense is giving us," Frohnapfel said. "It's good. Being there's three of us and we all have different skill sets, we can be effective receivers for this offense."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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