Rebuilding the Thundering Herd defense is a process based on learning new concepts and conditioning players to react to situations rather than think about them then try to determine how to defend them. With two weeks left in spring drills new defensive coordinator Chuck Heater believes his defenders are coming along nicely and grasping the lessons he’s teaching.
“We want them to understand the concepts and what’s going on here so you can be a smarter football player,” said Heater.
Being a smarter football player has multiple benefits and at the top of the list is allowing players to play faster.
By understanding the concepts of the overall defensive scheme as well as coverages, blitz packages and stunts along the defensive front allows defenders to anticipate where offensive players will be. That gives the defense the extra step needed to keep up with the wide-open offenses in Conference USA.
“Look around our league and with exception of two or three teams, they’re all similar to us,” said Head Coach Doc Holliday. “You’ve got to match up and play those guys in space and for the most part I think our guys have done that.”
One of the ways Marshall’s defense is trying to play “faster” is by installing a nickel package that includes Corey Tindal working was an extra defensive back. Tindal is itching to get out on the field after sitting out last season. In Saturday’s scrimmage the defensive back broke up three passes and was credited with four tackles.
“I just want to be on the field and make plays, that’s it,” Tindal said. “Put me on the field and make plays, that’s all I told Coach Heater to do. It doesn’t matter whether I’m at nickel, linebacker or safety.”
“He’s a high tempo guy; there aren’t enough of those guys,” praised Heater. “He goes hard, goes fast, he loves it, thinks about it, it’s on his mind all the time, he asks questions and it tells you this guy is thinking long. We’re excited about him because he loves football.”
While the progress is promising and there is excellent raw talent on the field, there are still miles to go before Marshall lines up for real at the end of August against Miami University.
“We haven’t even put in our third down package defense yet,” Heater said. “The coverages are there, but not the structure of it, so we’ll do that this week and that will be a big thing.”
Heater has less than two weeks to install the concepts and packages that will be the foundation of what needs to be a much improved defense is Marshall wants to contend for postseason play in 2013.