HUNTINGTON — Anyone who has ever been a competitor knows there is no trust like that within yourself to get a job done.
The beauty of team sports is that, just like a player trusts in his or her own abilities, he or she also must build that same trust level within their teammates to see success.
For Marshall’s 2019 football season, there is no better example of this than the Thundering Herd defensive line, led by defensive ends coach Cornell Brown and defensive tackles coach J.C. Price.
Marshall rotates as many as 11 or 12 players — six defensive ends and five or six defensive linemen — to apply constant pressure within a game. The result of that rotation is a Marshall defense that is tied for sixth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 32 sacks and a team that is finishing games strong in the fourth quarter.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said that unselfish nature among those players is one way that he knows he has a special team.
“I’m sure all of these guys would like to play more, but they also like that feeling in the locker room after they’ve won the game,” Holliday said. “They’re an unselfish bunch and they’re playing well.”
Channing Hames, a senior defensive tackle who has been in the program for five years now, said that building that trust level starts in the offseason when guys are working in the weight room and in individual drills. Hames can see those guys who are working hard beside him and going through every repetition at full speed, giving their all for the team, which helps create that bond between teammates.
One such player whom Hames has worked closely with is sophomore Jamare Edwards, who is Hames’ backup. Whereas at one time Hames would have wanted every rep, now he can see the benefit of shared time.
“I think Jamare has done an outstanding job coming in and executing his job — what he’s supposed to do and even doing a little more just showing extra effort on plays and showing up when a play comes toward him,” Hames said. “I feel like when opportunities came, he’s definitely (taken) advantage of that.
“Things like that help me and the starters out to know that we can trust him to do what he’s supposed to do when we’re not in there.”
The defensive end rotation is even more impressive with Marquis Couch and Darius Hodge starting the games, but a six-man wave that includes names such as Koby Cumberlander, Sam Burton, Fermin Silva and Owen Porter, who all get action during a contest.
On average, Marshall’s defense is only seeing around 66 plays per game with snaps being divided.
“If Hodge played the number of snaps a lot of people in this league play, he may be leading our league in sacks,” Holliday said. “Gosh, he plays 30 plays a game. Then, you roll Koby Cumberlander and Sam Burton goes in there and plays well…and you have Couch and Silva. We have about six defensive ends who are rolling in there to help us, and that’s a good thing.”
In the shorter picture of one week, Marshall’s defensive linemen are at their best when the game is on the line.
“I think we do a good job subbing in and out so by the time the fourth quarter comes, either me or one of us is ready to go in and cause havoc,” Hames said.
In the longer scope of an entire season, that depth has been pivotal for the Herd in terms of injuries, which have been limited along the defensive line because players aren’t seeing the field as much. With the Herd in control of its destiny in Conference USA’s East Division, it is now preparing for its final stretch run of the regular season — a pivotal three-game race to the finish that starts with a Nov. 15 matchup against Louisiana Tech.
If things go as they have to this point in the season, Marshall’s defensive line is going to be a key cog in seeing that success continue.
That entire unit is focused on quality — not quantity — as it moves toward its goals of a Conference USA championship.