HUNTINGTON — Marshall offensive lineman Will Ulmer sat down for player interviews on Tuesday, donning a shirt that had #5Men1Mind on the front and '2019' on the right sleeve.
For Marshall's offensive line, the concept of 'Five men, one mind' dates back to former offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, who is now with the Oregon Ducks, however, the embodiment of that concept continues with Marshall's veteran offensive linemen, who has essentially grown up together. Among those upperclassmen along the front are Ulmer, Alex Mollette, Levi Brown, Cain Madden, Tarik Adams and backup center Alex Salguero.
"As a group, we're really cohesive and we've had a lot of time and experience playing next to each other," Ulmer said. "It's almost second-nature. Like, I know how Mollette is going to react at guard as opposed to how Cain is going to react at guard. Neither one are necessarily wrong or right, it's just different from person to person."
As a unit, Marshall's returnees have 103 combined collegiate starts between them. However, that number jumps to 115 if you factor in Class of 2019 junior college signee Josh Ball, who started 12 games as a tackle at Florida State during his freshman season.
That equals a six-man rotation that rivals any in college football, in terms of experience.
"I like this offensive line," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "These guys have been together and Levi is the only senior, so they'll all be back next year. There is a lot of experience in there and this should be the strength of our team."
Part of building that chemistry among the offensive line has been the off-field bond, which has grown since the bevy of juniors joined with Brown and started hanging out upon arrival in Huntington.
"There was no pecking order, there was no politics you had to go through in our room at (that) point," Brown said. "It was just a bunch of guys coming in ready to play ball that had similar personalities. Me and Will, me and Mollette, our whole friend group at this point is our O-line. It's one of those things you genuinely love to see and you don't realize has happened until it's this late in your career where you realize your best friends are the ones you are beside."
With the bond between Marshall's returnees, bringing in a talented piece with Power 5 experience, such as Ball brings, could have thrown a wrench in the chemistry of the entire unit - a risky proposition for Holliday and his staff.
Brown admitted that, at first, he and the fellow offensive linemen wondered how the dynamic would be with bringing in an older lineman to a room of veterans, as well. However, it only took Ball's official visit - which Brown and Ulmer hosted - to realize the symmetry between the Herd's newest addition and the nucleus of the offensive line.
"We realized immediately that he's similar," Brown said. "He has fun. He's not sitting here and it's all football, football, football. No, there's a life other than football. ... If you're not enjoying it, there's no point in doing it. Josh has bought in quick to that (idea) of have fun while you can because this might not last forever."
Brown serves as one of Marshall's offensive captains this Saturday, but said that within the room, everyone is a captain and leader.
"Everyone is bought in to the process," Brown said. "I feel like there's no need in pointing out a leader within the group when it can be done by the whole group because the standard has been set and that standard stays the same every day. With a tight-knit group like that, leadership is easy because we're all accountable to the same idea."