Rakeem Cato

Herd decides its best to ‘part ways’ with WR Angelo Jean-Louis

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Shortly after adding a controversial transfer, Marshall has decided to distance itself, permanently, from a former transfer who became one of its most talented players on the offensive side of the ball.

In a press release, the Herd announced that “head coach Doc Holliday… has determined it best that the program and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis part ways.” The release further stated that “[t]he program wishes him the best in his future endeavors.”

The parting of ways is the latest speed bump in Jean-Louis’ checkered college football career.

A Rivals.com four-star recruit, Jean-Louis was one of the highest-rated members of the Miami’s 2012 class. Jean-Louis was the No. 8 athlete in the country according to that recruiting service, and was rated as the No. 22 player at any position in the state of Florida.

He was an academic non-qualifier and never played a down for the Hurricanes, instead enrolling at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia before signing with Marshall in December of 2012. In April of 2013, Jean-Louis was charged with two felony counts of fraudulent use of an access device.  Specifically, it was alleged that Jean-Louis used a stolen credit card twice — one purchase for $14 and one for $11, both occurring at a local 7-Eleven.

Jean-Louis bounced back from that ignominious start to his career in Huntington to, after sitting out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, start eight of 14 games in 2014. He was tied for the second on the team in receiving touchdowns (six); second in yards per reception (23.3); third in receiving yards (490); and fifth in receptions (21). Following that performance, he was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman squad.

With Tommy Shuler and Eric Frohnapfel having departed, Jean-Louis was, along with Davonte Allen, the most talented and productive returning receiver for a Herd offense that also must replace All-Everything quarterback Rakeem Cato.

Transfer pares down Herd’s QB depth chart

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Late last month, Marshall confirmed that Michael Birdsong is its choice to replace Rakeem Cato at quarterback exiting spring.  Nearly two weeks, one of those on the outside of the starting job is now on the outside of the Herd football program.

Late this past week, Cole Garvin confirmed to multiple media outlets that he has decided to transfer from the Herd and continue his playing career at an undetermined location.  No specific reason was given for his decision, although positioning in the quarterback pecking order would be a good place to start if you were looking for one.

If Garvin were to transfer to an FBS program he’d be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA bylaws, although the Huntington Herald-Dispatch wrote that “[t]he likelihood is that Garvin will move down to the FCS level where he would be immediately eligible to play.”  If dropping down a rung on the college football ladder is his ultimate next step, he’d have four years of eligibility remaining. If he stays at the FBS level, he’d have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out 2015.

It appears, though, that he’s intent on being eligible to play in 2015 as his list of prospective schools includes FCS programs Mercer, Samford, Furman, Chattanooga and UT-Martin, the Herald-Dispatch reports.

Garvin was a three-star member of the Herd’s 2014 recruiting class coming out of high school in Tyrone, Georgia.  In addition to Marshall, Garvin held offers from UAB, Arkansas State, Charlotte, FIU, Georgia State, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Southern Miss and Western Kentucky.

He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

With Garvin’s departure, that leaves the Herd with Birdsong, junior Gunnar Holcombe and freshmen Chase Litton currently on the depth chart.

(Photo credit: Marshall athletics)

Herd names Birdsong as Cato’s successor at QB

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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)

Small school stars take center stage in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

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Division 2 standout running back Terrell Watson, representing Azusa Pacific, won NFLPA Collegiate Bowl MVP honors on Saturday. Watson led the National team of college all-stars with 55 yards and a touchdown in leading his National team to a 17-0 victory on Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl is down the ladder in terms of star power in the college all-star circuit, but it is a terrific opportunity for some players from smaller schools to compete and catch the eye of an NFL coach or scout. Watson had his chance to do just that, as did Southern Illinois Malcolm Agnew, who complimented Watson’s production with 53 rushing yards for the National team. Eastern Kentucky running back Channing Fugate got one rushing attempt, and he made the most of it with a short touchdown run in the third quarter.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl did have some names most college football fans might be more familiar with though.

South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge led the National passers with 51 yards and Miami Ohio quarterback Andrew Hendrix added 47 yards. Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley had the most efficient day at receiver, leading the National team with 45 receiving yards on two catches.

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt was the leading passer for the losing American squad, completing seven of eight passes for 48 yards. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato finished the game with 31 passing yards with a 50 percent completion percentage. Cato was also second on the American team in rushing with 15 yards. Prairie View A&M quarterback Jerry Lovelocke mixed in 40 passing yards. Missouri running back Marcus Murphy led the American team in rushing with 47 yards, and West Texas A&M wide receiver Anthony Johnson led the team with 40 receiving yards.

Marshall’s Rakeem Cato, Tommy Shuler storm past NIU in first Boca Raton Bowl

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Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and wide receiver Tommy Shuler played their last game together as a record-setting duo for the Thundering Herd at the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl, and the childhood friends had a blast at the expense of the Northern Illinois Huskies.

Marshall claimed an impressive 52-23 victory over North Illinois. With the win, Doc Holliday‘s program finished 13-1 this season, while the Huskies have now lost three straight bowl games.

Cato and Shuler essentially played a simple game of pitch and catch during the contest as the Huskies helplessly failed to stop either.

The quarterback finished the contest 25-of-37 passing for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Shuler, meanwhile, caught 18 of those passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.

Both performances set new records.

First, Cato broke his own school record with a new season high in touchdown passes.

Shuler’s aspirations were a little higher than simply setting a new program record. The wide receiver broke a Conference USA career record during his unbelievable performance.

Northern Illinois simply couldn’t match Marshall’s explosive offense, particularly in the second half. While 425 yards of total offense is generally considered an impressive output, it was still 80 yards less than Marshall accumulated. And Marshall could have made it even worse late in the game before pulling back the reins.

As talented as Cato and Shuler are, running back Devon Johnson can’t be overlooked. The 243-pound running back set the tone early with his physical running style. He ended the contest with 131 rushing yards on only 15 carries.

A win in the Boca Raton Bowl may be a bit of a disappointment for the Thundering Herd, who entered the season with bigger aspirations, but Marshall once again proved its one of the finest programs not located in a Power Five conference.