Part of that is transforming his body from wiry to strong and durable. Cato's coaches all talk about how he attacked his offseason weight training, soaking in the advice of new strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair. Offensive coordinator Bill Legg said Cato squats up to 425 pounds and bench-pressed 285 pounds twice with ease. If a quarterback's bench total mattered, Legg said, they might have let him go for 300 pounds.
Not only has that added bulk to better absorb hits, it's made a difference in his throwing velocity. Cato said he could feel it when he tossed the ball to receivers on the opposite side of the field. It didn't sail. It darted. Legg could see the difference, too.
"His arm's stronger without having to throw the ball any differently than what he did the day he walked in the door," Legg said. "The ball jumps out of his hands with a few more mph's than in the spring. And in the spring it was a few more mph's than it was in the previous fall. That's going to make his arm last longer."
Cato had a stronger scrimmage this past Saturday than he did in the Thundering Herd's first scrimmage of the preseason, something the entire offense could say. He completed 13-of-21 passes for 141 yards and a 27-yard touchdown to Devon Smith. He also scored the offense's only rushing touchdown, a 6-yard scramble that showed off a side to his repertoire that has grown since the start of spring.
Throughout the preseason, Legg said Cato has been showing the veteran traits necessary of an upperclassman quarterback, both through his play and through his interaction with his teammates.
"From a maturity standpoint, from a comfortability standpoint, he knows his teammates without reservation now," Legg said. "He knows the offense without having to think. Now he can just go out and play and react. Now when he says something to somebody, he knows where they're coming from and they know where he's coming from."
Cato knows much is being expected from the Herd this season. Some pundits are calling for at least 10 wins, a level Marshall hasn't reached since 2002 when Byron Leftwich led the Herd to an 11-2 record, a Mid-American Conference title and a GMAC Bowl win.
"That's their job," Cato said. "They get paid for that. We get a scholarship to play football. We have to go out there and play football for all of that to come true. We just have to play good football like I know we can. That'll take care of itself."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.