HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– For anyone who watched the final few spring practices, it was clear who had emerged as Marshall’s No. 1 quarterback. Doc Holliday made it official on Monday and by doing so may have solidified the position for the next five years.
Holliday announced junior Michael Birdsong won the top spot coming out of spring drills and when preseason camp begins in August, it will be the No. 11 running with the first-team offense.
“Now, it’s up to him to keep the job through the summer conditioning and August camp, but he’s shown us he can do what we want and what we need,” Holliday said on the university’s official athletic website.
Whether they admit it publically or not, Marshall’s coaching staff needed Birdsong to emerge as the Herd’s starter heading into fall camp, not only to put the team in the best position to win this season but also to set it up to be a Conference USA contender for the next several years.
In a perfect world, the 6-foot-5, 242-pound, Birdsong is the Herd’s starter for the next two years giving the 6-foot-6, 207-pound, true freshman Chase Litton time to development physically and mentally. Holliday would be delighted if Litton never sets foot on the field in 2015. Unless, Litton were to completely blow away the coaches with his performance in preseason camp, it will not be good news for the Herd if the true-freshman is pressed into action.
Offensive coordinator Legg stated in an appearance on The Stampede Podcast last week, that all four quarterbacks competing this spring possessed the physical skills to play the position, but Birdsong had been more consistent running the offense.
“At the start, you could tell Mike[Birdsong] and Chase [Litton] had not taken the same reps as Gunnar, but as the spring went along, they kind of caught Gunnar at the midpoint and then it kind of became a true race. It was closely, tightly bunched until the end, but we needed to make a call, and it’s Mike.”
The former starting quarterback at James Madison University threw for 3,206 yards during two seasons with Dukes. He completed 26 touchdown passes and actually ran for 489 yards on 155 carries and was the only one of Marshall’s four quarterbacks who had experience as a starter any college level coming into spring ball.
Birdsong has two years of eligibility left after sitting out the 2014 season, which gives Holliday the luxury of redshirting Litton, who impressed the coaches in his own right.
“There’s still work to be done,” Offensive Coordinator Bill Legg said. “I still think there and things we can do to improve. We’re in a very unique situation here in that we have a lot of talent at the position, and it’s still a tightly bunched pack.”
“They’re going to keep competing, and we’ll go through the first two weeks of (August) camp and the scrimmages,” emphasized Legg. “Then we’ll have to have a final, final decision. But right now, Mike is in the lead because of his consistency.”
Quarterback was the biggest question mark for the Herd when Doc Holliday arrived on campus in 2010. Rakeem Cato stabilized the position and rewrote Marshall’s record books.
Not since Marshall Kresser, Pennington and Leftwich has the future looked as bright for the quarterback position.