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Herd freshman QB Garvin got a jump on learning offense

By Doug Smock, Staff writer

HUNTINGTON — One difference between young Marshall quarterbacks Cole Garvin from Kevin Anderson is this: Garvin didn’t have to miss a Saturday practice to attend his senior prom.

Garvin’s prom came before the Thundering Herd’s spring season began.

Other than that, the native of Tyrone, Ga., is in the same boat Anderson was in when the latter arrived in Huntington in the spring of 2013. They were early high school graduates able to enter the Herd program in the spring semester, thus getting a 15-practice head start.

Rakeem Cato, the senior and undisputed starter, is a little envious. His first practices came in August 2011, and he had to digest a college playbook in a shorter time frame.

“It wasn’t easy,” Cato said Tuesday. “It wasn’t easy learning a whole new system, a whole new terminology. Not just learning a new offense, but learning [to play against] a new defense. The whole thing changed.

“I try to tell those guys all the time, coming from high school and used to seeing ‘cover-1,’ ‘cover-3,’ then you see defenses in the college and the NFL. There’s so much to learn.”

And just think: Cato had the “luxury” of learning a scaled-back offense. Offensive coordinator Bill Legg didn’t install his no-huddle, crazy-tempo attack until the spring of 2012, when Cato was ready.

As a redshirt freshman, Anderson is still learning that system, with its updates. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Garvin hasn’t gotten in over his head, but is bobbing up and down in the proverbial water.

The baptism came early.

“In high school, you had plays, you had routes, run plays, pass plays,” he said. “But now I’m learning protections, I’m learning slides with the offensive line, I’m learning different defenses; I’m hearing and seeing coverages I’ve never seen before in high school.

“So getting used to all that and understanding what I have to do and understand what somebody else is supposed to do at the same time I’m trying to handle it. I’m struggling a little bit, but I’m getting better at it.”

Garvin was a three-year starter at Sandy Creek, where he was 39-2-1 with two state championships. In those three years, he went 417 of 639 for 7,004 yards and 63 touchdowns.

Now, he’s in a battle for the No. 2 spot with Anderson and third-year sophomore Gunnar Holcombe. Holcombe took most of the second-string snaps for the first four weeks, but that doesn’t appear to be the case after two tough scrimmages.

For what it’s worth, Anderson came out first in 11-on-11 scrimmaging to work with the second string. That evened out, though, as the afternoon wore on.

“There were 32 plays there at the end that we felt we wanted to get some of the young offensive linemen in, and also to let the quarterbacks play,” said MU coach Doc Holliday. “They need to go play.”

And play, and play, and play. And, as Garvin notes, listen to elders such as Cato.

“Something I wasn’t very happy with myself in high school, my freshman year I didn’t pay attention to my starters,” Garvin said. “And now, I’m trying to learn from that, try to absorb that, doing everything [Cato] is seeing and saying.”

Cato’s advice? Much unlike the Herd’s offense, it’s simple: “I tell those guys, ‘You’ve got to be patient. You’ve got to take your steps slowly and just learn.’ ”

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Cornerback Corey Tindal, the Herd’s starting nickel back last year, was injured during Tuesday’s practice. He stayed down on the field for quite a while, though he was able to move his arms and legs well. He went off the field on a backboard, which Holliday called a precaution.

As it pertains to the Green-White Game, both sides are going to be short on corners. Team Leftwich had drafted Keith Baxter, who has been held out of contact all spring and will not play, and Donaldven Manning. Team Pennington has Darryl Roberts and Michael Johnson, who is out for the spring with a staph infection in his knee.

With a relative surplus in safeties, position changes are likely. For instance, walk-on Mark Shaver finished the practice at corner.

The Herd finished its 13th spring practice Tuesday, with No. 14 coming at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The spring season wraps up with the Green-White Game at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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