All eyes on defense
HUNTINGTON -- After a 2012 season when the defense for Marshall University football struggled in nearly every category, it's no surprise that all eyes are on that unit this spring.
That includes those of Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, who has been watching intently through the first five spring practice sessions.
Thus far, Holliday is happy with what he's seen.
"I see the defense doing some things that I'm excited about," Holliday said. "I see a bunch of guys who are playing extremely hard and some guys are making plays."
In 2012, Marshall's defensive unit gave up 43 points per game, which led to a 5-7 finish and a missed bowl game.
The Herd players have put last season's struggles behind them and are eager to step back on the field to make things right in 2013.
For new defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, one of the best parts of spring is that his team gets to go up against an offense that was tops in Conference USA and sixth nationally.
"It has value," Heater said. "It's been good to go against such a strong offense. Obviously, they were the best in our league last year. We've got good skill players (offensively), so that puts stress on us and they use fast-tempo sets, which a lot of teams are, so it's good to go through the mechanics of that. It's been good for us."
The spring is a trial-by-fire period for several players looking to make their first impacts defensively -- guys such as linebackers Stefon Houston and Kent Turene, cornerback Corey Tindal or safety Taj Letman.
They have had to catch up to an offense that returns its entire backfield, many wide receivers, several members of the offensive front and C-USA Player of the Year Rakeem Cato at quarterback.
While the offense has shown its carryover from the success of 2012, there hasn't been a shortage of plays being made by the defense as well.
Letman has impressed with his coverage, hauling in three interceptions during the first few days and breaking up several other passes.
Turene certainly looks the part at linebacker and he was starting to get his feet under him after two years away from the field when a foot injury removed him from the end of Thursday's practice and left his status for the weekend in question.
And Tindal and Houston have also drawn praise from Heater and the position coaches as they continue to grow within the scheme.
"Those are all good, young guys and our job is to make them better," Heater said.
Holliday has taken notice as well.
"They're getting their feet in the ground, playing with great technique and fundamentals and they're making plays," Holliday said. "It's good to see."
The defense will no doubt be under a microscope when the Herd takes part in its first spring situational scrimmage at 9:15 a.m., Saturday.
Fans attending the scrimmage need to enter Joan C. Edwards Stadium through Gate D (northeast concourse gate) and sit on the East side of the stadium.
Ongoing construction on the west side (20th Street side) has it closed during the spring sessions.
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