By GARY FAUBER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It has shaped up to be quite an eventful weekend in Huntington.
A day after Mullens native Danny D’Antoni was introduced as Marshall’s head men’s basketball coach, and after ESPN analyst and former NFL head coach Herm Edwards spoke at the Big Green Dinner, the football team will wrap up spring ball with the annual Green and White Spring Game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Kickoff will be 2 p.m.
The 2014 season, which opens Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio), will be the Thundering Herd’s most anticipated since quarterback Byron Leftwich’s senior season in 2002. That was the last time Marshall won 10 games before last season, which was capped by a 31-20 win over Maryland in the Military Bowl.
Before the start of the game, the annual turning on of the Memorial Fountain will start at 11 a.m. Guest speakers will be Leftwich and Sam Botek, who was a member of the Young Thundering Herd in 1971.
Here are five things to watch for in today’s game:
1. Quarterback. No, not Rakeem Cato. He’s fine. But the battle for the No. 2 spot has been a point of emphasis this spring. Gunnar Holcombe, Kevin Anderson and Cole Garvin have waged the battle, and no one has separated himself. That probably won’t change today, but the three stand to see a fair share of snaps.
2. Kevin Grooms. The 2012 Conference USA Freshman of the Year, Grooms had a dreadful sophomore season. An ankle injury suffered in the preseason limited his availability throughout the year, and he was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules the morning after the Herd beat East Carolina for the C-USA East Division title. Grooms reportedly has had a good spring.
3. Offensive line. Other than Cato’s backup, the left tackle spot was considered a serious question mark that was addressed with February’s recruiting class. Offensive line play has been spotty, but coach Alex Mirabal attributes that to younger, inexperienced guys getting more reps that experienced players such as Beckley native Clint Van Horn and center Chris Jasperse.
4. Outside receivers. The one knock on Marshall’s high-octane offense was the lack of a true deep threat. Devon Smith came the closest, but Cato relied on slot receiver Tommy Shuler and tight end/slot Gator Hoskins in most situations. Sophomore Justin Hunt and senior Davonte Allen are two candidates to step up.
5. Team Pennington vs. Team Leftwich.
What’s a spring game without a little fun to break up the monotony of 15 largely uneventful days? Leftwich and Chad Pennington, Marshall’s two legendary quarterbacks who will see their records eclipsed by Cato in the fall, will serve as honorary coaches.
The two even drafted players for their teams last week.
A number of other Herd alumni who played in the NFL could also be there.
— Contact Gary Fauber at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.