CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato gained national renown last season with his arm, and for good reason. Conference USA's reigning MVP led the Football Bowl Subdivision in both completions and passing yards per game.
Ehh, not so much.
Cato never considered himself a running quarterback. He said so - emphatically - more than once last season and the numbers back it up. In 12 games, Cato carried the ball 57 times. To compare, Essray Taliaferro, Marshall's fourth-leading rusher last season, had 58 carries, including 27 against East Carolina alone. The Herd ran for 2,030 yards last season. Cato accounted for a whopping 31 of them.
It's nothing new. Cato threw for a Dade County-record 9,412 yards and 103 touchdowns in his high school career. He's from Miami for Pete's sake, a city that Bob Griese, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Vinny Testaverde helped make famous. Quarterbacks throw in that town, my friends.
Watch him this spring, though, and the scrambles up the field that once happened at about the same frequency as Bigfoot sightings are becoming more commonplace. Cato said he's started tucking and running a little more in part because the opportunities are just there.
"I'm so used to throwing the ball and throwing the ball," Cato said. "I'd come back and watch film and see a big lane and just say, 'Wow, I could have gotten maybe 15 yards right there.' "
He's not the only one used to him throwing the ball. Opponents are, too. His 584 pass attempts in 2012 were the most of any quarterback in the FBS. He completed a ton of them - 69.52 percent to be exact, and he connected on nearly four more passes per game than his next closest challenger - but he started to see defenses drop back into pass coverage and dare him to run the ball himself.
So Cato is making sure that, this spring, he's working on his personal running game. If opponents want to challenge his legs, he wants to make them regret it.
"I've got to force myself to do that, but I also have to be patient with it. I can't just catch the ball, look one way and just start running. I have to go through my progressions and if the read isn't open and they force me to run, I have to run. I'm not just going to go bananas and just run."
One catalyst in Cato's increased scrambling is the Herd defense's reliance on man-to-man coverage this spring.
New defensive coordinator Chuck Heater wants more man coverage out of his unit, so they focus on it every practice. Offensive coordinator Bill Legg said that gives his players plenty of practice in attacking it, and that strategy includes Cato turning upfield.