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Herd's Butler gets the job done

MU football
Sep. 09, 2013 @ 11:45 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Midway through preseason camp, Marshall running back Steward Butler was upset that he was running with the third-team offense.

Near the end of one late-week practice, those frustrations boiled over following a run as he slammed his helmet down and went off to the side by himself to cool off.

Teammates came to offer him encouragement and, at the post-practice speech that congregates near midfield, Butler listened as Marshall head coach Doc Holliday uttered words that the sophomore won't soon forget.

"If you don't like where you're at, change it," Holliday said.

It's a simple statement, but one which proved to be a difference-maker for Butler.

Since then, Butler's practices have been crisp, his mind had been focused and the results have spoken for themselves.

Butler broke out for his second-consecutive 100-yard game on Saturday, rushing for 151 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries in the 55-0 win over Gardner-Webb.

Currently, Butler is second in Conference USA with 258 yards and he has the three rushing touchdowns to his credit.

Butler offered a bit of insight as to the changes in his game and many were simply his approach in the days leading up to gameday.

"I'm a goofy guy. And last season, I used to play around a lot, but now I'm trying to mature and make sure I work hard at practice so I can read defenses," Butler said.

Holliday also took note of the all-around transformation of Butler, who jump-started Saturday's win with a 45-yard kickoff return that set the Herd up near midfield for their first score -- a 9-yard touchdown run by Butler.

"Stew, for the last two weeks, has practiced extremely well," Holliday said. "He's living right and making good decisions, and it's great to see him get rewarded for that."

For Butler, he didn't really have a choice but to make the mental change if he wanted to log carries for new running backs coach Thomas Brown, who has the luxury of coaching Marshall's deepest skill position.

Brown, who was an NFL running back after a solid career at the University of Georgia, has said on several occasions that even though he has four backs, the process usually weeds itself out based on the demeanor of the players during the week.

It's part of a no-nonsense approach that Brown has brought to the position room.

"You can tell that, huh," Butler said. "He knows he's got four good backs, and if you're not going to do your job and go about it the right way, he's going to put another back in."

While the mental approach has certainly changed Butler's production in a positive way, he's also learning a more physical approach to being a running back.

The change in demeanor has led to many of his yards coming after contact.

"Coach Brown is a great coach and teaches us to be decisive when we make cuts and accelerate on contact," Butler said. "Last year, I'm not going to say that we balled up on contact, but we didn't accelerate. Now, when we see contact, we run through them, no matter how big or how small they are."

That new physicality will be tested this week when the Herd travels to Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio for an 8 p.m. matchup against Ohio University.

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