Now we officially know who’ll be charged with the unenviable task of replacing Rakeem Cato under center for Marshall.
Herd head coach Doc Holliday announced Monday that Michael Birdsong has been named as his starting quarterback exiting spring practice. Birdsong, who sat out the 2014 season after transferring from James Madison of the FCS, had been engaged in a spring-long battle with three other players: junior Gunnar Holcombe and freshmen Chase Litton and Cole Garvin.
While Birdsong was named the starter in April, it appears his name was written in pencil and not pen on the team’s depth chart, and he’ll have to keep fighting to hold the same title in September.
“Michael Birdsong is our No. 1 quarterback,” Holliday said. “Now, it’s up to him to keep the job through the summer conditioning and August camp, but he’s shown us he can do what we want and what we need.”
If Birdsong is indeed the man who’ll replace Cato, he’ll have tremendously big shoes to fill.
Cato was a four-year starter for the Herd and left Huntington with most of the school’s passing records, including career yards (14,079), completions (1,153), attempts (1,838), touchdowns (131) and total offense (14,918). He also holds the FBS record for most consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass (46), breaking the record last season that was previously set by Russell Wilson (38, 2009-2011).
One advantage Birdsong will have, especially over the other three, is game experience, even as Holcombe served as Cato’s primary backup last season and attempted 21 passes in mop-up duty. In two seasons at James Madison, Birdsong started 14 games, including 12 in his final season with the FCS program in 2013.
Still, living up to the legacy left by Cato on and off the field will be a tall order for anyone, including the current front-runner.
“Birdsong (6-5, 242 pounds) is different than Cato (6-0, 176), because of his height, and his size and his physical presence,” Holliday explained. “Cato could beat people with his feet. His escapability was there; he always had his eyes down the field. I think Birdsong is very similar.
“Cato had that ‘it’ factor. Cato had a knack about him to make plays when things went bad, and we’re hoping Birdsong can do the same thing.”
(Photo credit: Marshall athletics)