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Backup QB battle focus of Green-White Game

By Doug Smock, Staff writer

HUNTINGTON — One of the more fun questions surrounding Marshall’s Green-White Game today is this: Will the coaches jump in and take a snap or two at quarterback?

When the coaches are Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, that’s a legitimate question. Marshall coach Doc Holliday thinks he knows the answer.

“They’re both going to take a snap, I guarantee that,” Holliday said with a chuckle. “We’re not going to put red [no contact] jerseys on them, either.”

The annual spring game kicks off at 2 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. All seats are $5 general admission.

While that prospect of the legendary alumni throwing again will entertain the patrons as much as anything, the true focus will be on the three less-accomplished passers, Gunnar Holcombe, Kevin Anderson and Cole Garvin.

The award-winning Rakeem Cato will get his plays behind center. How many may depend on how many plays coaches want that center, Chris Jasperse, to play.

The battle for the No. 2 QB will continue into August and possibly beyond, because none of the three youngsters have emerged. The position won’t be won today, but there is opportunity for someone to make his case.

“Right now, it’s still wide open in my mind,” said offensive coordinator Bill Legg. “I’ve seen bright spots from all of them, but I haven’t seen a constant bright spot from any of them. I don’t expect them to do what Cato does, because Cato’s got three years as a starting quarterback. Cato has more than 3,000 game snaps.

“You can’t reinvent that. These guys have zero game snaps. Sometimes when it happens on the field, it might be the first time it happens in a live situation. How they react to it will be completely different than how Cato reacts, and I understand that.”

For the record, Holcombe and Anderson are playing for Team Leftwich and Garvin is joining Cato on Team Pennington.

Holliday said the sides, drafted by the two MU passing legends, will stay intact as much as possible. The game will consist of two regulation 15-minute quarters, with the second-half format to be determined.

The quarterbacks could have a big day, if they are well protected. The defense is down several cornerbacks, which will cause some shuffling with the safeties. Everybody will get a full load of plays, including walk-ons.

Nobody will be able to hide at any other position. Offensively, Legg will see if his skill positions have advanced as much as he thinks they have over 14 practices.

“We went into spring with a number of things,” Legg said. “Number one was to get our running-back situation back where it was at the end of last season, knowing that [Essray] Taliaferro is gone.

“Create depth at the offensive line was another thing. Get consistent play from our outside receivers. Replace [tight end] Gator Hoskins, whether it’s with one guy or multiple guys.”

But the biggest thing, Legg said is the quarterback play.

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Leftwich is among the speakers at the Spring Awakening ceremony at 11 a.m., when the Memorial Fountain is turned back on. Sam Botek, billed as one of coach Jack Lengyel’s first recruits, will be the featured speaker.

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


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