Frankie Hernandez arrived at Marshall with all the attributes.
The Largo, Florida, native possessed speed, quickness, athleticism, toughness, aggressiveness and a highly competitive attitude.
Hernandez was everything a football coach looks for in a linebacker.
There was only one element he needed to work on and improve.
It’s called finishing.
And, no, not the kind Homer Formby does.
During Hernandez’s breakout season in 2016, the redshirt sophomore was rushing the quarterback and getting in the backfield on a regular basis.
But he wasn’t finishing.
He wasn’t putting the quarterback on the ground. He wasn’t getting sacks.
That’s when former defensive coordinator Chuck Heater began emphasizing the importance of finishing to Hernandez.
“Yep, he did,” said Hernandez. “Coach Heater really talked to me a lot about that. And I’ve turned it around.”
So, how did he correct the problem?
“I mean, I was lighter back then,” said Hernandez, who was 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds in those days.
“I was still learning the game. It’s growth. You learn from mistakes and you grow. Finishing is a big deal. For sure. You have to finish in everything you do.”
That’s very true.
Besides, the last thing a blitzing linebacker wants to have happen is for the quarterback to escape when he should have been sacked.
“Oh, for sure,” said Hernandez with a big smile. “It feels good when you get a sack ... real good, real good.”
Yet, nobody will catch Hernandez celebrating after a sack. He doesn’t believe in that.
“Nah, I don’t celebrate,” he said. “I want to act like I’ve done it before. I want to show poise.”
Another reason Hernandez encountered problems with finishing was his size, as in, lack thereof. He needed to get bigger and stronger.
Now, he is.
“I’m 6-1, 230 pounds,” said Hernandez.
“I was lighter than that when I first got here. I gained about 30 pounds. I was a little undersized when I got here.”
But, now, he’s a muscular, physical specimen.
“I tried,” said Hernandez. “The strength coaches have us working hard here every day.”
Yet, although he is 30 pounds heavier, Hernandez is still playing the same outside linebacker position he started out at as a redshirt freshman.
So, obviously, he hasn’t lost any of his quickness or athleticism despite packing 30 pounds of muscle on his physique.
“I’m still the same,” said Hernandez. “Quickness always has been one of my biggest strengths. It still is.”
Another one of his resources is the fact that Hernandez didn’t just play linebacker at Largo High School. He also was a running back. So, that gives Hernandez insight into what a ball carrier is liable to do.
“Oh, yeah, for sure it does,” he said. “I mean, the second cuts, the second holes the running backs hit ... when I played running back, I knew the linebackers would be there some days or wouldn’t be there.”
Count Hernandez in the former category.
The redshirt senior is going to be there - every day.
After making 128 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss, during his previous three seasons, the word “finishing” is creeping back into Hernandez’ s vocabulary.
“I want to win and have a good year,” he said. “I want to go out undefeated and win a championship here. That’s it, no individual goals. But I want to win that championship for sure.”
That would be the ultimate finish for Hernandez.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.