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Chuck Landon: Cushions get 86'd by MU's Heater

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 11:35 PM

The cushions are gone.

And, no, I'm not referring to the outdoor furniture on my deck.

Not those kinds of cushions.

These cushions were the seven to nine yards Marshall's cornerbacks habitually gave to wide receivers the last three seasons by lining up that far away.

Did anyone like this strategy?

Other than opposing wideouts, I mean.

No.

It was widely criticized by the media and Marshall's fans alike -- and justifiably so. Everyone grew very weary of watching Marshall's cornerbacks playing way off the ball and allowing wide receivers to catch uncontested passes.

The very word "cushion" became a profanity for Herd fans.

That's why I am happy to report new defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has allowed us to clean up our language.

Cushion is no longer an obscenity.

And that's because those damnable cushions (oops, I slipped) finally are gone.

Yes, gone.

Now, Marshall's secondary contests every pass. And I do indeed mean every single pass. Whether it's the cornerbacks, safeties or nickelbacks, the defenders are all over the wide receivers when the pass arrives.

Talk about refreshing.

After three seasons of those dreaded cushions, it is an extremely welcome sight to watch Marshall's secondary play so aggressively during spring practice at Edwards Stadium.

"I think they've come on tremendously," said head coach Doc Holliday, after watching the secondary turn in four interceptions and four pass breakups during an officiated scrimmage Saturday.

"I saw (Keith) Baxter make a couple plays. You could see A.J. Leggett can play. Swag, Darryl Roberts, is starting to get back to where he was (after missing last season with a broken ankle).

"And of course 'Pac' (Monterius Lovett). Derrick (Thomas) had a minor thing with his finger and couldn't play. But as a group ... "

Holliday paused realizing he was forgetting to mention someone.

"I saw Taj Letman make a couple of plays in space," added Holliday, "which was good to see."

The secondary's aggressive pass coverage has been good to see all spring. And the credit goes to Heater, who coaches the secondary besides coordinating the defense.

"Chuck is as good of a coach as there is coaching the secondary," said Holliday. "He'll get the most out of them. He's done that everywhere he's ever been. Chuck deserves a lot of credit.

"I had the opportunity to coach with him for those years at the University of Florida (on Urban Meyer's staff 2005-07). That first year we won the national title, we had guys playing that one of them was a receiver the year before. He did a tremendous job of getting him ready to go play.

"Chuck finds a way to get the most out of those kids and he's doing the same thing with these guys right now."

The aforementioned Meyer echoes those sentiments.

"He's one of the best teachers," commented the Ohio State head coach on Heater's bio. "I used to just sit in his meetings and watch him coach. Coach Heater has a tendency of making some players out of non-players."

So just imagine what Heater can do with such talented defensive backs as Roberts, Baxter, Thomas, Lovett, Letman and D.J. Hunter. That's what everyone attending spring practice is witnessing.

And the very best part?

The only cushions are the ones we're sitting on in the stands.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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