Defense comes together
HUNTINGTON -- Technically, the offense (Green team), beat the defense (White team) Saturday in Marshall football's annual Green and White Game to close out spring practice, 55-38.
But there wasn't much to tell from a game where some of the Thundering Herd's best players were held out so they wouldn't get hurt, and the team as a whole didn't want to show too much that the opposition awaiting in fall can study.
In fact, many coaches will say there's not much to be learned from a spring game.
But for Marshall's defense, which had a target on its back all last season and was the focus of the offseason with defensive coordinator Chris Rippon resigning, the spring session was a time to come together and gain some much-needed confidence, self-respect and more than a little motivation.
A lot of that came from the players themselves, but just in case they needed an extra push, there was the new, fiery defensive coordinator Chuck Heater in their collective ears.
"I'm very encouraged," Heater said after Saturday's scrimmage. "We had a lot of questions at certain positions like linebacker and safety, and we've had some guys come along that we think we can work with there. The kids were great, they responded to hard coaching and the system and we can live with that and continue to get better at it."
The theme among defensive players after spring ball came to a close seemed to be one of unity.
"We've become family, that's something that was really lacking from last year," said sophomore safety Chris Yamoah. "If one person's struggling, we all pick him up. We're a team. It's going to take all of us (to succeed), not one of us or two of us."
A walk-on, Yamoah had two pass break-ups, five tackles and a fumble recovery in the scrimmage.
"Coming in, I don't think coach Heater thought about me much because I was a walk-on, but I've been able to do some things in spring and hopefully show him what I can do," he said. "But you've got to love coach Heater, he brings so much energy."
Sophomore D.J. Hunter, who was moved from safety to linebacker last year and now back to safety, offered up some praise for his defensive teammates and Heater.
"I think we took some steps forward this spring, we've got some good defensive players and a good defensive coach," he said. "I think this year will be a good year for us. I think we got a little bit better at everything. Like I've said over and over, we've got a good coach, and if you don't listen to him, that's dumb on your part."
Heater said providing motivation is just part of his job.
"There's a core group of senior players who aren't happy with what happened last year," Heater said. "I listened to all of them when I got here, and I knew we had to get a system in place that they could feel comfortable with.
"And college football is a hard game. I was a pretty motivated football player but there were some days when I didn't want to come out and run my chest through a wall. You get guys to do things they have to do on the days they don't want to do it. You can't take a day off. And that's what coaches do, they hopefully inspire you to not give in to those natural tendencies to give up. It's a constant grind."
As for the time between now and fall camp, Heater said he and his players need to keep working to develop depth so the defense can keep the throttle up for an entire game.
"The guys who are coming on need to keep coming on and the guys who aren't need to get on board," he said. "What happens in football is you get a guy out there you can't trust, and there's a defensive breakdown. Depth is always an issue. We have to keep growing."