Your donation will help continue the work of independent student journalism at Marshall University. If you benefit from The Parthenon's free content, please consider making a donation.
A Look at Marshall QB Prospects for 2022
February 2, 2022
Marshall’s signing day is coming up this week. With the recent transfer of Henry Colombi, a standout Florida prospect and former Texas Tech Quarterback, Marshall football head coach Charles Huff has an interesting dilemma at hand: six quarterbacks could realistically fight for the starting spot.
The transfer of Grant Wells has left a hole in the Herd offense, giving Marshall a choice to make: who will be the next face of the Herd? With that in mind, here is a short breakdown of each quarterback likely on Marshall’s radar for the starting position.
Colombi was originally rated as a three-star recruit by 247. When thinking about his journey to Huntington, Colombi’s career began at Utah State. He had C-USA interest when he was in high school, receiving an offer from FIU. In his time with Utah State, the 6-1 Hollywood, Florida native would participate in 13 games in two seasons, but he would never record a start. He was the backup to now NFL backup Jordan Love.
Following his second season, he transferred to Texas Tech. In his time with the Red Raiders, Colombi would participate in 13 games. He now enters what will likely be his final collegiate season with the Thundering Herd.
Colombi’s best games came from his time at Texas Tech. His career high in passing yards came against TCU in October of 2021, a game in which he had 344 total passing yards. Against the Texas longhorns in the same season, Colombi had his career high of three touchdown passes. Colombi enters Huntington with a TD/INT rate of 15-10. He has a career completion percentage of 67.1, including four games in which he threw for 100 percent.
Colombi has some action on the ground as well, averaging roughly five rushing attempts per game and recording 280 yards in 24 games, giving him an average of 2.5 yards per carry.
When considering everything available statistically, Colombi is best described as an accurate passer with the ability to break out for a long run on occasion. He tends to find high percentage looks, never dropping below a 50 percent completion rate in any of his appearances. He tends to gain around 10 yards per throw in terms of pure average, showing 257 completions for 2816 yards.
Colombi is the most “filmed” athlete of all prospects at this point in his career. Texas Tech media regularly does a segment titled “Inside the Play”, a recap in which players break down the film of a game-changing play from the week prior. In a breakdown of a simple one-on-one inside fade route against WVU, Colombi’s first start, Colombi spoke on how he noticed the safety coming down prior to the play, giving him an opportunity to find his fastest receiver in single coverage.
Simple interviews and plays like this showcase his ability to find the best play before the snap. His velocity behind throws is almost comedic when it comes to his highlights. Cameras tend to snap to deep receivers rather than following the flight of the ball. Short passes are darts that find receivers with speed and precision, often faking out the viewer as well as the defense on play action passes.
For Marshall, this could help establish a more developed passing game, something that the Herd has lacked when being compared to the run. Marshall has had a tier-one running game for two consecutive seasons. While this is partly due to the talent of both Brenden Knox and Rasheen Ali, it is also due to Marshall’s struggles to move the ball in the air.
No receiver for Marshall averaged more than 14 yards per catch last season except for Willie Johnson. For Texas Tech, however, four of the six top receivers in 2021 each averaged at least 14 yards per catch. With that in mind, Colombi could bring range and big play ability to the table for Marshall.
Defenders tended to play deeper against the Herd later in drives due to Marshall’s tendency to only go for deep shots or small gains that, to be blunt, equated the production of Rasheen Ali on a below average rushing attempt.
In his final Marshall game against Louisiana, Grant Wells did not complete a pass that was longer than 5 yards until a 12 yard catch deep in the 2nd quarter. In that entire matchup, he never completed a pass that created 20 or more yards. In his final three games, he only threw four passes to gain more than 20 yards on a single throw.
In Colombi’s final Red Raiders game as the leading passer, a matchup with Kansas State, he had two passes for 30 or more yards without touchdowns in a single half. He would finish the game with 3 passes for 20 or more yards in the matchup that ultimately decided he would no longer be the starter. That example shows that even at his absolute floor, Colombi still has the potential to bring more depth to the long passing game than Marshall has had in the past few seasons.
Colombi is also a dual-threat quarterback who has averaged 5 yards per carry in 7 games in his career. In the game against WVU, statistically his worst game on the ground, he found the end zone once and was able to make rushing plays late in the downs to preserve drives. He can make plays in high pressure, often rolling out to a more comfortable position if his offensive lineman loses a battle. His footwork shows great awareness. He constantly keeps his eyes downfield when moving out of the pocket. When it comes to Marshall, a team that allowed nearly half the number of sacks that it dished out last year, Colombi’s comfort outside of the pocket could provide the best opportunities Marshall can get when the rare instance of blown protection takes place.
Luke Zban is one of the two scholarship quarterbacks that will return for Marshall in 2022. In his freshman season, he redshirted. He was a walk-on quarterback who was a star at Huntington High School. The hometown hero was regularly called the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year prior to his sophomore season in 2020. He was then awarded a scholarship, but ultimately lost the starting job to Grant Wells following the departure of Isaiah Green.
Zban is one of the most fun stories on the Herd roster: a hometown player who walked on and developed into a scholarship athlete. His brother, Andrew Zban, played baseball for Marshall. His father Mark Zban was a dual sport athlete at Marshall, playing both football and baseball.
Zban’s best game came against WKU this past season. He came in relief in the 2nd quarter, ultimately carrying Marshall through the eventual blowout loss. For reference, Marshall’s offense was almost constantly on the field in this game. Bailey Zappe, the quarterback for WKU and now all-time leader in NCAA passing yards and touchdowns in a single season, threw for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns in the contest. Luke Zban threw for 123 yards, a touchdown and a long of 41 yards. He was sacked 3 times.
When it comes to being “thrown to the wolves”, Zban has experienced that sort of treatment, particularly in the matchup against WKU. In his career, he has only seen significant time in blowout wins or blowout losses.
In terms of Zban’s individual performance, though, he threw a pair of passes for 20+ yards and had one touchdown pass that went for 41. He was also able to create some separation on the rush, gaining 17 yards and losing 13 to sacks. Zban’s 13-yard rush, his longest of the game, speaks a lot to what his toolkit possesses. While he is able, and has demonstrated the ability, to throw good passes through short and long distances, Zban’s most entertaining drives come when he is running the ball.
Against NC Central, a matchup in which he came in later in the game, Zban ran six times for over 40 yards, good for over seven yards per carry. Zban has had more rushing attempts than passing attempts in three of his seven appearances. He has the playstyle of a high school wildcat formation in which the intended rusher is getting the direct snap. He’s had a 10-yard rush in four of his seven appearances and nine yards in another.
As the longest tenured Herd QB on the roster, Zban brings a level of leadership and locker room presence that none of his peers will be able to possess. Zban is also a hometown quarterback with an exciting, run heavy, playstyle. He would become a quick fan favorite.
Zban is also familiar with the fight for the starting quarterback position, dueling with Grant Wells a pair of seasons ago. It will be exciting to see Zban fight for the chance to go from walk-on to starting quarterback for the Thundering Herd. At the very least, Zban is a great success story for Marshall that proves the often-hidden talent of West Virginia prospects.
Harrison, the final QB on the list, was yet another 3-star recruit for the Herd in 2022. He received a whopping 10 different offers, including Louisville, Penn, and Ohio. While he did not receive an offer from them, he was scouted by Ohio State, Michigan State, Cincinatti, and Indiana. He was considered the number 1 quarterback prospect in the state of Ohio.
Standing at 6-2, he is a pro-style quarterback, making his best plays between tackles. As a senior in high school, Harrison averaged 194 yards per game at a 64% completion rate. He has never been a turnover prone quarterback, only throwing 7 interceptions to go against his 25 touchdown passes. He also averaged 3.3 yards per carry. While his 40-yard dash, verified as a 4.96, is slow when compared to a “mobile” quarterback, many of his greatest plays at Centerville came outside of the pocket. When watching his film, 4.96 feels like someone couldn’t keep up.
Harrison regularly scrambles to the outside, shedding tackles and making throws on the run. He has a style that seems to be inspired by modern, Mahomes-like, quarterbacks: making deep shots on the run and finding receivers in the flat while on the run for smart completions. While designed plays that became highlights often featured Harrison rolling out with a platoon of blockers, he can create space on his own as well. On one play in his junior highlight reel, Harrison can be seen rolling to the near side of the field, seeing full pressure, and finding a receiver that was not originally in the designed play.
Harrison possesses great pocket presence while also having the patience to let a play develop before making a throw. Often, especially in high pressure, Harrison’s receivers were able to make their own space late into a route because they were able to trust Harrison’s ability to make the late throw.
Pro-style does not seem to be a good enough label for Harrison. He has variety in passing velocity, footwork, pocket presence and movement outside. A “complete” prospect does not exist, but Harrison has potential to develop in a variety of ways. It is possible when watching film of the Ohio native to see both a pocket quarterback and a dual threat. This versatility is likely intriguing for the Marshall staff, giving them time to decide between the three prospects after a year of development presuming Colombi’s final year is spent leading the Herd.
In terms of name recognition, Chase Harrison is ironically one of the lower prospects for the Herd despite being heavily recruited. Fans should probably get to know his name. He has elite awareness and could be a great option for the Herd.
Cole Pennington has quite the name to live up to as the son of Marshall legend Chad Pennington. However, he has shown signs to potentially be a star recruit for the Herd. Yet another 3-star recruit, he played football and basketball for Sayre School in Lexington, Kentucky. He is the first athlete to receive a Division I offer for the school. Pennington was another player recruited by former coordinator Tim Cramsey.
He shined as a passer for Sayre, completing 27 touchdown passes as a junior before joining two other quarterbacks in the 2022 cycle. Pennington seems to play best in the pocket or on bootleg plays. His high school highlights tend to find him in the shotgun, willing to wait the maximum amount of time for the best pass.
On one play, the snap was found going over his head. He recovered it, rolled out and threw a perfect shot through contact. He seems ready for the next level, showing the patience of a veteran pocket passer.
Pennington was also a dual-position player, playing safety as well for Sayre. Interestingly, he intercepted six passes and had 70 tackles in two seasons. It speaks to his general measurables as a 6-2 quarterback, but it also showcases his speed and awareness of what is happening on the field.
Pennington’s experience on both sides of the ball, especially as someone who played in pass coverage, showcases the talent he possesses at reading defenses. While it is certainly too early for this type of comparison, it should be noted that Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Trey Lance – three quarterbacks on conference championship teams in the NFL – all played defensive back positions at some point during their developmental cycle. The recent trend of quarterbacks who did not specialize in the position is arguably crucial for the modern prospect.
Scouts have often called Pennington, as well as others on this list, a “pro-style quarterback”. When thinking about what this brings to Marshall, Pennington ideally brings a style of offense that primarily works between the tackles. Accurate passes and well-placed reads outweigh athleticism. The term is often used to make up for athletic measurements.
However, Pennington seems to be described as pro-style likely due to his elite vision. As mentioned, the ability to play both sides of the ball is a dead giveaway for athleticism, especially in a defensive back position.
Pro-style quarterbacks are also typically known for taking snaps under center, but Pennington saw most of his work in gun formations. It showcases his ability to operate in high-pressure. Pennington often dealt with defenders in the pocket more than anywhere else. With the concept of an offensive line that allowed so little sacks last season, Pennington – given the opportunity – could thrive as someone who makes the most patient, accurate, throw.
Pennington will likely be the name that is watched the most by fans due to name association, but he is more than his name. While Colombi is clearly the favorite for the starting position, Pennington, as well as the other incoming freshman quarterbacks, should be watched throughout next season in the moments that players like Luke Zban and Cam Fancher are in currently. Development of Pennington’s game in a few drives next season will be fun to watch, especially for fans of pocket passers.
Peter Zamora enters Huntington as a 3-star quarterback from South Carolina. Some fans may remember Zamora from an article written by Bleacher Report that reported he was working out with Antonio Brown. Yes, that Antonio Brown, prior to his NFL return. He reportedly served as one of AB’s “personal QBs”.
Zamora started with the varsity team all four years of his high school career, nearly totaling 5000 passing yards. He was highly touted as a prospect within Conference USA, receiving a visit and offer from FAU prior to committing to Marshall. He finished his final season averaging more than 200 passing yards per game.
Zamora plays like a technician, picking apart defenses with a wide variety of tools in the pocket. In an optimal setting, Zamora is dropping back, staying patient, and firing missiles at the first opening. Many of his highlights are not deep ball plays. Sure, they exist, and he throws the deep ball very well, but Zamora’s greatest strength is his ability to make the smartest play on the field.
He is willing to pass up a deep chance for a short certainty. His ability to adjust his velocity for each situation as well is likely to be overlooked, but it is a huge part of his game. Deep passes are thrown with a precise touch that skies over defenders while short range passes are darts thrown quickly to position. On the run, he has the ability to throw with the same motion and range of velocity that he possesses inside the pocket.
Zamora is one of the most fun prospects to watch. He rarely makes mistakes, slicing the defense for 10 yards here and there until you’ve blinked and let an entire drive go by. When he comes onto the field in coming seasons, all eyes should be on him.
Cam Fancher, a freshman from Huber Heights, Ohio, was originally rated a three-star prospect by ESPN and 247sports. He was recruited by Tim Cramsey, the former quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for Marshall that now serves at Memphis as the new offensive coordinator.
Fancher was a hidden gem of a prospect, ranked as a three-star but only receiving offers from seven programs. This season at Marshall, he participated in two games, more interestingly against N.C. Central, a game in which he led a near scoring drive with less than one minute remaining in the contest. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, winning the state championship in the triple jump and playing basketball as well. He is the other scholarship quarterback returning in Marshall’s 2022 class to go along with Luke Zban.
Fancher passed for 1,944 yards while also rushing for 602 yards during his time at Wayne. He was also a multi-position player, playing as both quarterback and wide receiver. In his first year at Marshall, he was placed in the game during the final drive vs N.C. Central. He completed 2 of his 3 passes and added a pair of rushes for 15 yards. The game ended shortly after a final shot at the endzone, showing Fancher’s ability to operate in the final minutes of games.
When it comes to the general sense of how Fancher plays, he seems to thrive in the high tempo offense that Marshall was using last season. In that single drive, he had five plays in 53 seconds with only 1 incompletion, a shot at the end zone as time expired. He is extremely accurate and would have likely been the favorite to win the starting job prior to the arrival of Colombi.
Fancher is likely the best pure athlete of Marshall’s quarterback prospects. Fancher had an immediate rush for 10 yards, a pass for 15 and another pass for 15 yards within 40 seconds against N.C. Central. He can work with an extremely high motor and at an extremely fast pace, something that Marshall seemed to be going for in this past season.
In his high school highlights, you can see Fancher regularly dicing through defenses making rushing plays through the defensive line rather than outside of them. It seems rare to see a quarterback be willing to run through the line on a play that was not designed for the run, but Fancher is someone who does this with regularity.
He also regularly made completions on cross-body throws, giving him another weapon to draw from. Fancher is one of the most exciting playmakers that will be showcased this Spring and throughout camp. As a former receiver and triple jumper, the speed and athleticism should be obvious and apparent. Fancher could even be a player who changes positions, something similar to Tyler Brown, a QB turned LB, Xavier Gaines, a QB turned TE, or Garet Morrell, a QB turned TE for the Herd in recent years. While this is unlikely, Fancher’s ability as an athlete would not prevent him from doing so in future years of development.
Marshall’s signing day presentation is on Wednesday in the Memorial Student Center. Harrison, Pennington, Zamora and other prospects will be present along with head coach Charles Huff to showcase the highest-ranking recruiting class for the Group of Five, including the transfer of one five-star prospect.
The Herd’s QB battle will likely last into camp, giving each of these quarterbacks, as well as some who are not mentioned here, the chance to showcase why they should be the next one to lead the Herd.