HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - In his first practice on Marshall's offensive line, Blake Brooks had to listen to more than the sleet bouncing off his shoulder pads.
A defensive lineman wearing No. 90 his first two years with the Thundering Herd, Blake is learning the intricacies of playing on the other side. The South Charleston High graduate now sports No. 52.
"Offensively, you've got to think a little bit more," Brooks said Tuesday after the Herd's first winter, er, spring practice. "Defense, you just crank the engine and go. Offense, you've got have your ears open, got to listen a lot more, got to pay attention.
"Playing offense, you've got to listen to the center, listen to the cadence, you've got to listen to all these things. I think it's pretty much opening my ears and listening."
Originally a Fairmont State signee, Brooks walked on at Marshall and eventually played in 2012, picking up one tackle in four games. He earned his scholarship by then and made a brief appearance on the two-deep chart, but was eventually nudged into the third unit.
He even played on the offensive scout team as the year wore on, giving his defensive mates the best possible look in preparing for that week's opponent. Before the end of the 2012 season, he was offered the chance to hop across the ball, to his current spot at right guard.
"It was a coaches' move, just as much as my move," said Brooks, who'll be a junior this fall. "I think I should have been over there from the get-go, but things happen, just got to live with that."
He begins the spring playing right guard on the second unit. At 6-foot-1 or maybe 6-2, he says his weight is in the "teens" - or 310s. "I've lost a lot of weight and been lifting a little harder, and I think I'm more muscularly solid than I have been."
The big news in the opening practice, or so it seems, was the weather. A considerable sleet shower fell early, with a dose of cold rain late in the workout.
Keep in mind that MU students spent last week on spring break, with roughly 27 Floridians on the Herd's spring roster. But they all survived, with good spirit.
"It wasn't doing anything to the balls," said quarterback Rakeem Cato. "It's wasn't that cold, either. We were moving."
"It's amazing. It may be our first spring practice ever [under such conditions]," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "We had a little bit of everything - snow, sleet, hail, and there was a little bit of rain out there. I thought we were able to get through it OK."
Perhaps by this time next March, the Herd can start a chilly spring in the new indoor practice building.
Yes, it really could happen. In fact, athletic director Mike Hamrick announced an April 26 groundbreaking for that project, along with a new hall of fame, academic support center and sports medicine translational research center.
The $8 million soccer complex has long been underway on the site of the old Veterans Memorial Field House.