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Grant Traylor: Herd gets situational

Aug. 25, 2013 @ 12:09 AM

On Saturday afternoon in front of Marshall's new incoming freshmen, the football team worked on an important aspect of any football game.

It's something that gets overlooked very often, but is critical once in-game situations arise.

And, especially with Marshall's fast offensive tempo, it takes on greater importance.

The Thundering Herd was working on its substitutions and, more to the point, trying to get players on and off the field smoothly to ensure no confusion or disruption, head coach Doc Holliday said.

"Today was a little bit different," he said. "It was more of a situational deal and trying to substitute. We were going against scouts the entire time, but we had to get those situations in as far as people coming in and out from the benches, so it wasn't quite what we'd had the rest of camp but it was something we had to do."

The Herd's tempo allowed the team to be the 2012 national leader in plays per game (1,087 plays in 12 games) and much of that was predicated on the knowledge of packages and the ability to seamlessly make transitions into sets.

Much of that is expected to be continued -- especially with many of the offensive players returning to the mix -- but with the outside receiver positions featuring new starting player such practice is vital for them to get on the same page and learn what quarterbacks Rakeem Cato and Blake Frohnapfel are doing on the fly.

On the flip side, the speed of Marshall's offense in practice also allows the defense to get its feet wet in the hyper-tempo style that some teams on the schedule will incorporate.

With defensive coordinator Chuck Heater installing several different looks and personnel packages, the practice was just as imperative for those guys to all get on the same page as well.

"I thought they executed, for the most part, pretty well," Holliday said. "We have to clean up a couple substitution issues, but we can fix that."

SPECIAL TEAMS FARE WELL: With both the offense and defense going against scout team units, Holliday said there was not much to take from the practice.

However, Holliday did say he was pleased with the special teams effort as a whole. The special teams group has been a group of four with kicker Justin Haig and punter Tyler Williams returning while freshmen Nick Smith and Amoreto Curraj are new to the mix.

"I thought the kickers and punters did well today," Holliday said. "Both punters -- the freshman punter (Smith) and Tyler -- punted extremely well and it looks like our kickoff guy (Curraj) can at least get it down to the goal line with some hang time, so that will help us a little bit.

"I thought Haig went in there and he didn't miss one, so I thought for most part, the kicking game was good. I thought we protected well on extra points and field goals and the punt team looked solid and coverage looked solid."

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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