Sept. 25, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Harold Hoskins Jr. threw and ran with the football in high school as a quarterback at Eastside High in Gainesville, Fla. He played defensive back, too. And when he signed with Marshall in February 2010, he said he thought he was going to be a wide receiver.
Coach Doc Holliday had other ideas, however, and Hoskins – the nickname is “Gator” -- has settled in at tight end, where his numbers this season are a lot like the Thundering Herd offense … on a faster pace.
Headed on a first visit to Purdue (2-1) this Saturday afternoon, the Herd (2-2) tight end has gotten a touchdown reception in each of the last three games from quarterback Rakeem Cato. That matches the three scoring catches Hoskins had in 13 games in 2011.
A year ago, in a tight end triumvirate with C.J. Crawford and Eric Frohnapfel that the Herd still employs, Hoskins had 14 receptions for 123 yards. He already has 10 catches for 76 yards in four games this season.
The Herd still leads major college football with 371 offensive plays run, a dizzying pace that has produced 561 yards per game (No. 7 nationally).
“It actually has surprised me,” Hoskins said of the Herd’s offensive pace. “I knew we were going to go fast, but we’re going even faster than I thought. It helps us; it keeps the defense from making changes.
“You do have to get lined up pretty fast, and you’ve really got to know what you’re supposed to do. There’s a lot less time to process the play, so you need to know what the call is.
“Sometimes we slow down a bit, and if we’re not going fast enough, Coach (Bill Legg, offensive coordinator) lets us know and picks it up.”
Hoskins said he, Crawford and Frohnapfel “know who’s supposed to go in” depending on the down and distance, and Legg, the Herd tight ends coach, isn’t there to tell them who, what, when, where, how. Legg is upstairs calling plays this season, as opposed to his sideline perch in years past.
“He can see a lot more from above, too, put us in better position, see the defense better. He still coaches us (tight ends) from up there. He sends messages down on what he wants from us if he needs to.”
Hoskins says the rotation works because the three tight ends “are all different, and bring different things.”
He’s 6 feet 2, 240 pounds. Crawford is 6-2, 229, and Frohnapfel is 6-6, 227.
“I’m a bigger guy than them,” said the junior who once thought he’d be a Herd wideout. “In the run game I might be able to take on bigger people, block a little better. Froh is a big target because he’s so tall. C.J. just runs past guys, like a wide receiver does.
“None of our roles have changed, we’re just doing them better. We all have a better understanding of the game. All summer we worked hard, worked on footwork in blocking, on getting physical. It’s easier to block now because we know more.”
In four games, the three have combined for 26 receptions for 267 yards and five scores.
“With three of us, someone is always fresh, ready to go,” Hoskins said. “It’s no different at tight end than it is at running back and receiver. We have a lot of people who can make plays (16 Herd players have caught passes).
“It hasn’t surprised me that we’ve spread the ball around. That’s what we said we wanted to do. We knew in (preseason) practice we had playmakers, from receivers to tight end to running back. Cato is in his second year and knows what needs to be done. We’re still a young team, but there’s a lot of experience.”
Tight end is one of those spots, as Hoskins is primed for his 14th career start on Saturday in Big Ten Country. His college debut came there, in 2010 at Ohio State.
“I’m excited about it, but I’m excited about every game, the chance to play,” Hoskins said. “We need to continue to go out and concentrate and do what we need to do, what we’ve been trying to do. A win there would be big, but for us, getting a conference championship is most important. That goal is there for us.”