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Marshall football: Contract approved for indoor facility

HUNTINGTON - The Marshall football team enjoyed warm, partly cloudy conditions for Thursday's spring practice.

Sooner than later, the weather won't matter.

Marshall's Board of Governors on Thursday approved the contract to build the new indoor practice facility, the university announced. The contract was awarded to Portsmouth, Ohio-based J&H Erectors for $16,350,000.

"We're really excited," Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick said. "It's a great day. A lot of people have worked hard to make this happen. I appreciate the support of our Board of Governors. Our bids came in underneath budget, which is good. It'll be a quality, first-class facility."

Construction is set to begin in 30 to 60 days. The facility will include a 120-yard turf field, a 300-meter track and space for a Hall of Fame. It also will house a student-athlete academic center and a sports medicine translational research center.

The benefits go beyond the simple ability to practice indoors when the weather gets bad, football Coach Doc Holliday said. That still is a major benefit, as anyone who remembers the Thundering Herd's spring-practice-opening sleet storm can attest. It gives other university sports like track and baseball an indoor home. It's also a huge carrot for recruiting.

"Recruiting's the name of the game," Holliday said. "We talk about how it's a personnel-driven game. Kids buy with their eyes. When they walk on campus and see the nicest indoor facility in the state and the nicest facilities in our conference - not only the indoor field, but academics and the training room - it's going to be tremendous."

A ground-breaking for the new facility will be held Friday, April 26, the day before Marshall's Green and White spring football game.

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ERIC FROHNAPFEL and the rest of Marshall's tight ends are seeing the field from a few new perspectives this spring. Not only have they been seen flanked in four-receiver sets, but they've also found themselves in the backfield as well, taking more of an H-back role.

"We're trying to do it now where we can just keep the tight end on the field all the time," Frohnapfel said. "So they're putting us at the fullback position. The first few days was definitely a lot to handle, seeing from the backfield and trying to get to the right guy. But as I've gone throughout the spring, it's definitely slowed down for me."

"With the playcalling, it definitely seems like we're trying to throw the ball more, get the ball out in space more, rather than just run the ball straight downhill. "

And Frohnapfel is getting plenty of opportunities to get comfortable in those roles. With Gator Hoskins out with an injury this spring, it's Frohnapfel who is running with the first-string offense. In 2012, the 6-foot-6, 227-pounder served as Hoskins' understudy, playing in all 12 games and catching 13 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns.

Frohnapfel said what the extra work shows him is that he's capable of playing with the Herd's starters.

"I'm out here with the ones and there isn't a drop-off between me and Gator," he said. "We can both play at the same level. I just like the fact that when I come out here I'm the starting tight end. I like the extra pressure it puts on me, kind of the mindset I have to have knowing I'm the one. I really like that edge that it gives me."

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FORMER HERD and South Charleston High School receiver Aaron Dobson will hold an autograph session from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Collectibles Etc. in the Nitro Marketplace in Cross Lanes.

Dobson, who finished his Marshall career tied with Troy Brown for fourth on the school's career touchdown receptions list, is expected to be drafted in the first three rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Tickets can be bought in advance via the Collectibles Etc. website at shop.collectiblesincwv.com or by calling (304) 776-0020.

During a Thursday conference call, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said that scouts at the West Virginia University's pro day were still buzzing about Dobson's pro day workout the day before. They especially appreciated how effective he was in catching the ball in the frigid conditions that March afternoon presented.

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


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