HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — If you want to know if Marshall’s defense has improved, just ask the guys on offense that must face Chuck Heater’s revamped unit every day in practice.
“Our defense definitely makes it harder on us as quarterbacks and an offense as whole,” says quarterback Blake Frohnapfel. “They put pressure on receivers in man to man and makes our job as quarterbacks a lot harder.”
The defense has been on a mission since Heater’s arrival to make the same jump the offense made between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The Herd’ offense ranked 102nd in the country in total offense and 72nd in passing offense. Fast-forward a year later and Marshall’s rankings jumped to 6th and 1st respectively. Last season’s defense was 101st in total defense and 119th in scoring defense. Going from worst to first, statically, may be a tall order in the pass happy Conference USA but having top 50 defense would be a major improvement.
While the real test won’t come for anothera week when Miami (OH) comes to Joan C. Edwards Stadium for the season opener, defenders have been earning high praise from their offensive counterparts.
“Every day they’re always bringing enthusiasm and energy and they’re making it hard on the quarterbacks,” says Frohnapfel. “Last year, we could throw the five-yard outs pretty much every play but now you have to earn every pass you complete. We’re not just completing passes every time, you really have to work for your completions.”
Two factors have played into the stiffer defense through the preseason. The secondary has shown the ability to play more man-press coverage and have taken away the outside receivers in both scrimmages. Throw in a more athletic linebacking corps and six defensive tackles all within shouting distance of each other and Marshall has talent and depth on the defensive side of the ball.
“It’s good against good and we’re being challenged every single day and hopefully we’re challenging them,” says offensive coordinator Bill Legg. “It only makes you better. We know kind of what they’re doing and they kind of know what we’re doing and that makes it even tougher on both sides. From that standpoint that’s always a positive.”
Legg is right. A tougher more athletic defense not only makes life more difficult for opposing offenses but it makes The Herd’s offense work hard. That could make the league’s top offense even better than last year.
A scary thought for opponents facing the kelly green in 2013.