— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As Marshall prepares for its fifth spring practice at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, coaches are monitoring the battle between a young group of Thundering Herd quarterbacks.
Head coach Charles Huff acknowledged last week that sophomore Cam Fancher, who helped lead the Herd to a 6-1 record as a starter last season, was the frontrunner to retain his job. Still, there were opportunities for others to improve their standing on the depth chart, which is of extreme importance at a position often requiring multiple players to see action over the course of a season.
“We’re starting to see guys that can play the game have more consistency,” Huff said. “They’re taking that next step, communicating and reacting better. They’re adjustments on the fly are smoother.”
Fancher led Marshall on a five-game win streak to end the 2022 season, culminating in a 28-14 victory over Connecticut in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. He threw for 1,558 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions while playing in all 13 games.
Fancher was also a weapon with his legs as the team’s second-leading rusher with 466 yards and one touchdown on 107 carries.
Marshall offensive coordinator Clint Trickett believes Fancher’s progress in 2022 spring practice paid off with his fall performances and that’s the goal this spring for the other quarterbacks.
“Last three games last season, we really got some comfort with Cam and the offense,” Trickett said. “Cam and the others have to get better developed. Open competition is what spring football is all about. It helped Cam that we played him in every game, even the ones that he didn’t start. He was ready to perform when Henry [Colombi] went down. You could clearly see him get better week after week. Now we have to get the other quarterbacks ready as we did with Cam a year ago.”
Spring football is of particular importance to players such as redshirt freshman Cole Pennington and Chase Harrison. Pennington is the son of Marshall all-time great Chad Pennington, himself a quarterback who went on to a solid NFL career. Pennington was on the scout team last fall.
Harrison is a Centerville, Ohio product who was an All-Ohio pick by the Associated Press. Both are getting first-team reps with Fancher this spring as Huff, Trickett and other members of the coaching staff evaluate.
“You’re always one play away from being forced into a game and they realize now how real it is that they could be called on,” Trickett said.
Other quarterbacks involved in spring drills are strong sophomore Cade Cunningham and two true freshmen — Matthew McMillen from Chapel Hill, N.C., and Colin Parachek from Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Marshall will practice Friday and Saturday later this week.
Saturday’s practice is open to Big Green members and season ticket holders.