HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—There are brotherhoods within football lockerrooms but at Marshall there is a ‘backerhood’ among The Herd’s linebackers.
“We’re all brothers in there,” said Cortez Carter. “Coach Fuller came up with a saying ‘brotherhood in the backerhood.’ We know there are only three linebacker spots out there at the same time we’re pushing each other and we’re going to compete.”
With just three linebacker spots available on any given play, defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has the luxury of keeping fresh legs on the field at all times. In fact, Doc Holldiay said he does not want any of his defenders playing more than 35 snaps a game. If that’s the case when offenses are wearing down in the second half, Marshall’s defense should fresh and fast late in the ballgame.
That also means the competition for playing time is fierce.
“I think we’ve got a few more players in there but it’s a great group of guys and you’re going to see them out there playing hard,” commented Raheem Waiters. “Anybody can come in and have fresh legs and keep everybody moving fast.”
This “backerhood” goes hard on the field and while Waiters says nobody takes anything that happens during practice personally, the competition can often continue long after the players leave Edwards Stadium.
“Even video games we take it seriously, like it’s a real game,” said Carter. “It’s third and long, what kind of a defense are we going to run here?”
And when they are not breaking down offensive schemes on video games the “backerhood” is breaking down NFL defenses and trying to figure out ways to incorporate what they learn from the professionals into their game.
“We’ve got all this NFL film in here, the Seahawks linebackers go after the linemen and we’re trying to fit that into our game,” said Carter.
A Super Bowl champion defense is a pretty good unit to mimic.
The depth chart at linebacker is more a formality than players being promoted or demoted between the first and second teams. D.J. Hunter, Jermaine Holmes and Evan McKelvey were listed as the starting linebackers going into preseason camp with Stefan Houston, Raheem Waiters and Neville Hewitt close on their heels. And there is still Kent Turene and Cortez Carter who are expected to contribute this year as well.
Depth was an issue for the Thundering Herd when Doc Holliday first arrived as head coach in 2010. The drop off between the starters and the second string was obvious and was exposed late in games throughout the season. Marshall could not keep up with opponents in Conference USA.
Fast-forward to 2014 and depth is still an issue for The Herd, but now Holliday’s problem is finding a spot on the field for all the players that deserve playing time. Marshall’s linebacker corps best exemplifies this “problem” that so many coaches wish they had.
“It’s good since we have so much depth at linebacker,” said Stefan Houston. “We just go out there and give it all and when we have to come out let someone else go out there and give it their all.”
Marshall’s offense will get much of the attention this season but if The Herd is to achieve the lofty goals placed before it this year, much of the credit will have to go to the defense and the “backerhood.”