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Chuck Landon: MU must hire right man for defense

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 12:26 AM

Hire Kevin Kelly.

Can I be more succinct or direct than that?

If Marshall's football program really wants to salvage its Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck of a defense, that is who the Herd needs to hire as its new defensive coordinator.

Who else is in the running?

There are rumors Marshall head coach Doc Holliday is looking at a field of six candidates. There are reports former Penn State interim head coach and long-time defensive coordinator Tom Bradley turned down the Marshall job.

Maybe that information is true. Maybe it isn't.

Who knows or cares?

The bottom line is Kelly brings something to the position no other candidate has on his resume. Namely, he already has been a successful defensive coordinator as well as position coach at Marshall back during the glory days of Herd football.

I don't know about you, but that certainly sounds good to me.

If a football team ever needed to return to its triumphant roots, it is Marshall.

Remember when the Herd was a perennial Top 25 program, was winning conference championships left and right and was a force to reckon with?

That's what was happening when Kelly was a member of Marshall's coaching staff. Now, compare that to the six losing seasons and pair of 7-6 records Marshall has mustered in the last eight years.

Sounds to me like a blast from the glorious past would be the perfect move.

That is what Kelly offers.

He is the current head coach of the Georgetown Hoyas in NCAA Division III, but since Kelly already has coached at Marshall on two separate occasions it seems reasonable he might consider signing on for a third tour of duty.

Speaking of Georgetown, Kelly turned the long-dormant program around in Washington, D.C. His 2011 squad was 8-3 on the strength of a defense that was tied for fifth in the nation with a 1.6 turnover margin per game, while featuring the nation's seventh best run defense (96.1 yards per game).

Those Hoyas also boasted the Patriot League's best scoring defense, allowing a league-low 19.3 points per game.

Georgetown dropped to 5-6 in 2012, but not because of Kelly's defense. The culprit was an injury-devastated quarterback corps, which finished the season with a fourth-string true freshman under center.

Enough about the present.

Let's concentrate on Kelly's past and how it could affect Marshall's football future.

During his five seasons at Marshall, the Herd posted an overall record of 56-11 including a conference mark of 38-6. Marshall also captured an NCAA Division I-AA national championship and posted bowl game wins over Louisville, Cincinnati and East Carolina during Kelly's tenure.

First, Kelly was Marshall's linebacker coach during 1996-98. Besides the Herd winning the national championship and, then, back-to-back Mid-American Conference crowns during those three years, the '98 defense was ranked No. 23 in the country. It was No. 16 in scoring defense, No. 14 in pass defense and No. 25 in run defense.

Next, Kelly returned to Marshall in 2000-01 as defensive coordinator. In 2000, the Herd won the MAC championship and, then, defeated Cincinnati, 25-14, in the Motor City Bowl. Then, in 2001, Marshall went 11-2 despite losing to Toledo in the MAC championship game.

The Herd erased that defeat, however, by defeating East Carolina, 63-61 in double overtime, in that memorable GMAC Bowl victory.

The gist of the matter?

Kelly's defenses played well enough for Marshall to win 83.6 percent of its games.

What more does anybody need to know?

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

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