The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 24, 2013

Marshall defense will get plenty of attention

A number of topics were thrown at Marshall coach Doc Holliday at Conference USA Media Day on Wednesday. One of them, of course, was the defense and how much it needs to improve.

Unfortunately for Holliday, that will likely be a recurring theme, from his first press conference after the first practice on Aug. 5 until the season opener Saturday, Aug. 31, at home against old Mid-American Conference rival Miami (Ohio).

That comes with the territory when your defense is among the worst in the nation. Marshall had one of the most productive offenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but the defense could not keep up — with the Herd’s offensive production or the opponent’s.

Marshall was 101st in the nation with 456.6 yards allowed per game and 119th out of 120 teams with 43.1 points allowed per game.

“It’s frustrating,” Holliday said. “You’ve got to play defense at some point to get yourself in position to play for championships.”

The Herd, 5-7 in Holliday’s third season, lost its top two tacklers in safeties Dominick Legrande (132 tackles) and Okechukwu Okoroha (108), but seven of the top 10 return to give Marshall at least a nucleus of experience.

“We’ve all got to step up and do our jobs,” said senior defensive lineman Jeremiah Taylor, sixth last season with 54 stops.

Marshall gave up 253.5 passing yards last year, which is something that will definitely be addressed in the preseason.

“The defense has to put more pressure on the quarterback,” Holliday said. Marshall had just 19 sacks in 12 games. “You look around the country at all the spread offenses that put up big numbers.”

Holliday is confident in his secondary, particularly with the move of D.J. Hunter from linebacker back to safety. Hunter was third on the team last year with 102 tackles.

“He got back to his natural position,” Holliday said. “We expect big things from him.”

Taylor said the defense is excited to play under new defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, who was hired before the start of spring practice.

“He has pretty much changed the attitude of the defense,” Taylor said. “He’s got a go-get-it attitude.”

“The defense showed great improvement in the spring,” Holliday said. “To get to where we need to be, we’ve got to have a great preseason camp.”

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com

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