The Five Spot: No. 4 — Michael Birdsong

August 5, 2015 by Derek Redd

The passing highlights in that James Madison University video? They come courtesy of Marshall’s new starting quarterback, Michael Birdsong. He started 14 games over two seasons for the Dukes, and threw for 2,728 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore.

When Birdsong showed up, it kind of gave us an idea of what Marshall coaches thought of their QB corps. After all, why sign a former starter if he won’t be the frontrunner to start? And he earned the job during the 2015 spring season. He’s a big guy — 6-foot-5 and 242 pounds — who can make all the throws and really launch it down field. If there was anything Marshall’s passing game could improve on, the long ball would be it.

The toughest part of Birdsong’s ascension to the starting job is that he’s the guy replacing The Guy. Rakeem Cato finished his Herd career as the all-team leader in nearly every major passing category and the holder of three bowl wins in three tries, plus a C-USA championship ring. Many of the components to last season’s offense return this season, and the Herd faithful would like to see a second straight title.

Birdsong’s most important task won’t be any specific throw, but his ability to understand and run the Marshall offense as close to Cato’s level of efficiency as he can. That was Cato’s greatest trait, that Marshall’s offense was almost instinct to him.

Birdsong will get a lot of help. Opposing defenses likely will stack the box to stop human wrecking ball Devon Johnson. If those teams load up for the run, receivers like Davonte Allen and Deon-Tay McManus should see a lot of favorable single coverage. It shouldn’t take long to see if he’s up to the task.

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