HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—It’s hard to believe but what happens in fall camp starting next week could have an impact on 2015 season. Heisman Trophy hopeful Rakeem Cato is the undisputed leader of The Herd entering his fourth season as the starting quarterback. Behind him, though, is very uncertain.
While redshirt-sophomore Gunnar Holcombe and true freshman Cole Garvin showed improvement throughout spring drills, neither was able to establish himself as the backup quarterback. That leaves the battle to be the guy off the bench if the unthinkable happens wide open.
“It’s going to continue for a while but it can’t continue after the first couple of weeks, we’ve got to settle on who that guy is because we’ve got to get him prepared,” Holliday said about the competition for the backup quarterback spot. “It’ll continue through the first couple of weeks then we’ll make a decision.”
Holliday was hoping either Holcombe or Garvin would separate himself from the other back in spring practice but the fact of the matter is neither has a single snap in a college football game to his credit. The only quarterback other than Cato on the roster that has game experience is James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong, and due to NCAA transfer rules, he’s not eligible until next season.
For the last three seasons, Holliday had been spoiled with the luxury of having talented backup Blake Frohnapfel on the sidelines. Frohnapfel had tools necessary to be a starter and when Cato was injured against East Carolina in 2012, nearly led The Herd to a comeback win that to clinch bowl eligibility. After earning his degree, Frohnapfel wanted the chance to compete for a starting job and decided to transfer, leaving the number two job up for grabs.
“The good thing is we think they both can play,” Holliday commented about Garvin and Holcombe. “Both of them can throw the ball, have the arm strength, seem to have the intangibles, seem to have the leadership skills, seem to do all that. When you think you have two you don’t have any at that position. Somebody needs to separate themselves pretty quick.”
Both quarterbacks will start the fall ahead of where they began the spring, especially Garvin. He enrolled at Marshall in January had a lot of concepts thrown at him right away. He handled the onslaught of information and by the end of spring started to look comfortable in the offense. In the Green/White game Garvin completed 10-of-17 pass attempts for 109 yards and a touchdown. Holcombe went 11-for-18 for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
“Having an opportunity to be here all summer and get that under his belt, hopefully they’re more advanced when we start on Sunday.”
The best-case scenario for The Herd would be for Holcombe or Garvin get some game reps if the opportunity to pull the starters presents itself. The worst-case scenario is the one of the two young quarterbacks is pressed into duty.
That could send Marshall’s season in a drastically different direction that it is currently in.
The quarterback who is able to establish himself as the No. 2 signal caller will also have a leg up come April when Marshall begins the process of finding a new starting quarterback for the first time in four years.