Grant Traylor: Herd gets ready for ECU's three-man front
When Marshall's football team lines up Friday they will be staring at an East Carolina defense that is undoubtedly going to present a look the Thundering Herd has grown familiar with over the past couple of weeks.
The Pirates bring a three-man defensive front look to the table -- the same look UAB presented which gave the Herd problems and also the same look Houston gave at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday.
"They are a three-down front to begin with, so they have that ability," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "We got some of that last week. Houston did some of that, too, so I'm sure we'll see it again this week."
Marshall's offensive line has become well-versed in the three-man front as of late.
UAB surprised Marshall by going to it from the game's onset and masking a look of eight players in coverage until the Herd checked to a run. The Blazers then sent several players forward to stuff the run.
Houston switched up its alignments throughout the game, but showed the three-man front on many occasions and Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and his offensive line did a much better job of picking up the right read and getting the ball into open areas of the field.
The end result was a 665-yard outing for the Herd.
East Carolina is sure to do much of the same, especially because their base package is built on a three-man front.
The difference with East Carolina is that outside linebacker Derell Johnson is 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, and can roll up as a stand-up end if need be to present an even front (four-man front) package despite his being up on the edge.
It'll be up to Cato to recognize the various coverage packages coming his way and identify where the ball needs to go.
After watching tape, the sophomore quarterback said he's ready for whatever is thrown at him.
But he fully expects to see eight guys dropping into coverage Friday afternoon.
"Every time they play a passing team, they like to drop eight, so you never know. ..." Cato said. "We're used to it. They (Houston) did it last game and I had a trick for them that game. We have a couple tricks up our sleeve that we've got planned if a team wants to drop eight."
ECU O-LINE CONSISTENT: While Marshall has featured six different offensive line combinations through 11 games this season, the Pirates have maintained cohesion along the offensive front.
Through 11 games this year, East Carolina has featured just two different offensive line combinations for the entire season.
Left tackle Adhem Elsawi, left guard Jordan Davis, right guard Will Simmons and right tackles Robert Jones have all have started every game this season.
The only change had been at center where Josh Clark took over for Taylor Hudson in the UAB game in week eight. Clark is listed as questionable for the contest with a concussion, according to East Carolina's game notes.
The only Marshall lineman to start all 11 games this season is left tackle Jordan Jeffries.
BIG PLAY VS. CONSISTENCY: Friday's matchup will feature a dynamic battle of philosophies between Marshall's offense and East Carolina's defense.
The Herd ranks second nationally in plays from scrimmage of 10 yards or more with 223, which is one behind Texas Tech in that category.
Meanwhile, East Carolina's defense has surrendered just 66 plays of 11 yards or more for the entire season.
Marshall has nearly equaled that total with plays that have gone for 20 yards or more (57).
Something has to give.
Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).