Defense Looks To Be Top Dogs

Marshall’s defense in 2011 has been compared to a new puppy. Certainly doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of opposing offenses, does it? I’ve heard defenses compared to tigers, bears, and monsters, but never a puppy.
The individual who drew that comparison might be as surprising as the metaphor itself. It was Marshall’s Defensive Coordinator, Chris Rippon.
"When you bring a puppy home they’re sleeping a little bit and they’re cute," Rippon explains. "Then they get to that stage where they’re all over the place and having a lot of fun. That’s where we are with those kids right now."
Oh, now it makes sense. Last year’s defense was young and trying to learn a new system which meant often times players would get caught thinking about their assignments instead of simply reacting to the situations in front of them.
"Players want to make plays and do the right thing," Rippon continues. "When they’re confident in their alignments and assignments they play faster and can use their abilities."
That’s what coaches and fans alike are expecting from a defense that is returning nine starters from last year, seven of its top ten tacklers, and the entire secondary.
While there have been a few changes in Morgantown (where Marshall will open the season with the Mountaineers on Sept. 4th), one aspect of the program that hasn’t changed over the last month is that WVU will feature a new look offense, the creation of Dana Holgorsen. Even though we didn’t know who WVU’s Head Coach would be until early this summer, we’ve known Holgorsen would head up the offense and the Marshall defensive staff has been doing its homework.
"Go all the way back to the Hal Mummy and Mike Leach concepts of passing. It’s not so much a vertical, but a horizontal passing game," anaylzes Rippon.
The basics of Holgerson’s offense sends four receivers out, the quarterback in the shotgun, and the quarterback reads the safety to figure out where the parameter coverage will be. Rippon says it can almost be compared to a west coast offense.
"They can exploit zones, get one-on-one coverages, they talk to the kids about finding the open area. It’s a frustration for a defense, because you’re limited by how many times you can put your hat on the quarterback," Rippon says.
With the limited amount of shots on the quarterback, defenses must play solid in the secondary and tackle well in the open field. 
"If you’re not a very solid tackling football team you’re going to get exploited," emphasizes Rippon.
For now, all Rippon can do is watch and analyze film ahead of fall camp to prepare his defense for the task at hand. Then we’ll see if Rippon’s hyper, puppy-like defense can make the transition to the mean junk yard dog that nobody wants to mess with.

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