Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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College Sports

August 6, 2012

Marshall football opens camp today

HUNTINGTON — Marshall coach Doc Holliday has little use for preseason predictions.

Most college football experts agree that Marshall will finish in the middle of the Conference USA East Division standings this fall. That would require a loss or two by the Thundering Herd.

That’s where Holliday stops paying attention.

“We don’t go into any year without thinking we can win the conference championship,” Holliday said recently at C-USA’s media day. “People say we will be 8-4. Which four are we going to lose?

“Sitting here right now, we expect to win every game, and that will never change.”

Holliday concedes there is work to be done and questions to be answered. Two big ones are: 1) How will quarterback Rakeem Cato perform in his second season as the starter?; and 2) Will the defense be able to move past the loss of Vinny Curry, the league player of the year and second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles?

The first step toward finding out comes today, when Marshall opens preseason practice. Camp will start with two sessions, at 9:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.

Marshall closed 2011 strong for the second straight year under Holliday. The Herd won five of their last seven games, including a 20-10 win over Florida International in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl.

The Herd also went 5-3 in the conference for their first-ever winning record since joining the league in 2005.

The trick now is to build on that success.

“We’re ready,” declared senior receiver Aaron Dobson. “As a team, we’ve got a lot of momentum.”

Much will depend on the play of Cato, who started as a true freshman last season. The Miami native completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,059 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

He will begin this season in the same place as he did 2011 — Morgantown. The Friends of Coal Bowl will kick off the season Sept. 1 with a start time of noon.

Cato had the summer to develop chemistry with his receivers. Chief among them is Dobson, a Biletnikoff Award candidate who had 49 catches for 668 yards and 12 TDs a year ago.

There are others around him, including Tommy Shuler, Cato’s high school teammate.

“I think we all have a good relationship,” Dobson said.

Preseason camp will run through Aug. 25. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 27, at which time the Herd will get into their regular weekly routine.

“This is a tough league and we have some great games that we have to go into,” Holliday said. “You don’t win a championship by starting in September. You start in January and work hard to win those. We’ve got a lot of work to do in order to be talking about those.

“We will take them one at a time, then look up and see where we are.”

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