Herd coaching staff goes to work
HUNTINGTON -- While Marshall University football practice doesn't officially begin until next week, the season got underway Monday in an unofficial capacity for the coaching staff.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday and all of the Thundering Herd assistant coaches were in the office Monday getting started with plans for the season.
On Tuesday morning, Holliday takes his staff on a coaches' retreat at an undisclosed location.
It will be anything but a vacation, however, as the crash course on expectations and how the program will be run gets laid out.
Everything from staff responsibilities to game plans for the first two games to the kicking game and even academics will be discussed in the three-day, two-night cram session.
For Holliday, this year's retreat takes a greater importance with all the new faces on staff.
"We've got six new coaches who have not heard what they are going to hear before, and we have to make sure we are on the same page, which I'm sure we are," Holliday said. "It's kind of a getaway from the telephones and the Internet and the distractions and get away for a couple of days with each other."
Outsiders might think the coaches were able to build that bond over the summer, but truth be told, this week will likely signify the first time since spring that all the coaches are in the same location at the same time.
Following the retreat, the coaches will return to meet with their wives and kids for a picnic that brings the entire Marshall coaching family together.
"It will be the first time that they've all been together to be honest because with summer and guys being out on summer vacation and moving," Holliday said. "Starting Thursday, they'll all be here as far as wives and kids and all that, so it's exciting to get a chance to get everyone together.
"It also gives the coaches a chance to say good-bye to their wives and families because they won't see them for a while."
While the final statement was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there was also a hint of focus in Holliday's voice.
Expectations for Marshall are extremely high, given that the sixth-ranked offense in the nation from 2012 returns virtually in tact sans wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson who graduated. Dobson is now with the New England Patriots after being selected in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato returns to the fold after a 2012 season when he threw for 4,201 yards with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The stellar season earned him the 2012 Conference USA Most Outstanding Player -- the first time an underclassmen had ever won the honor.
Fast forward to this season and Cato is the preseason Offensive Player of the Year in C-USA while also being named as a candidate for the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award (given to nation's collegiate player of the year) and the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award (given to the nation's top QB).
Holliday said the accolades are nice, but Cato's focus is on the team's success -- not his individual accolades. Such was reflected last year when Cato won the awards, but Marshall missed the postseason after finishing 5-7.
There's a bit of unfinished business for Cato and crew heading into 2013.
"He'd trade all that in to go win a championship and win a game," Holliday said. "At the end of the day, when you win and do all of those things, those stats take care of themselves...
"He's a very competitive guy at whatever he does and I think (the awards are) important to him, but I also think it's more important to him that as a football team, we go win. I think what he's concerned about."
Holliday was gracious for all the accolades -- both team and individual -- that had been thrust upon his team in the weeks leading up to the start of the season.
He said the ceiling for his team is very high, given what he has been able to see in spring practice and after speaking with his staff.
"From a personnel standpoint, I feel better going into this year than I ever have," Holliday said. ". ... I think we've got some pieces in place that we've got a shot -- if we take care of business and prepare -- we've got a shot to have a pretty good football team.
"I don't look around right now and see a lot of holes like I've seen in the past. For the most part, on both sides of the ball, we've got a chance to have some good players in place. As a head coach, that's a good thing."
Still, he tempered his own expectations and the expectations of prognosticators by speaking on how much weight that words hold on the field.
"Expectations and potential mean absolutely nothing," Holliday said. "You have to produce on the field. It's all about production and getting it done."
Marshall's players will report to camp Sunday morning and practice will get underway on Monday, Aug. 5.
Fall camp will be open to the public for the first two weeks before things shift as the team gets into more game preparation for the Aug. 31 season opener against Miami (Ohio).
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