HUNTINGTON — Marshall football coach Doc Holliday has spoken at length in the last few weeks about getting many players ready at multiple positions, simply because the landscape of the season is a bit unknown with the COVID-19 pandemic.
That has now extended to his coaching staff as well.
In the early portion of this week, Marshall’s staff spent time coaching up positions outside of their norm to get comfortable for what may happen in a fluid setting this fall.
With the season opener on Sept. 5 against Eastern Kentucky, Holliday is making sure his team is as prepared as possible for anything that may come up.
“I don’t know if you noticed today (Tuesday) or not, but we had a lot of coaches coaching different positions,” Holliday said following Tuesday’s practice.
Indeed, Marshall defensive coordinator Brad Lambert was not on the field during drills Tuesday — instead, observing from up in the box as other coaches took over the defense for the day. The goal was to simulate what happens within the staff if a coach ends up unable to be with the team on a college football Saturday.
There’s so much spoken about players contracting COVID-19 and their potential to miss games during the season, but the position coaches they are with are also at risk, given the close proximity of daily work in preparation for the season.
Coaches have been wearing protective equipment — Holliday dons a face shield while also wearing one, if not two masks, underneath — on the field during practice. However, the bottom line with this virus is that if there is a coach at risk due to contact tracing from one of their players, that coach is not likely to be available for teams on college football Saturdays.
It is a very real situation that will also play heavily into the 2020 season.
“We had everything switched up because that may be a situation we get into during the season,” Holliday said. “If something happens to a coach to where he can’t coach for a numbered period of days, then we’ve got a guy that already understands where to go.”
Holliday said the scenario is no different than the players’ mentality of ‘next man up’, meaning that if a staff member’s number is called on, that coach has to be able to seamlessly guide the team.
Other scenarios had offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey off the field with Greg Adkins shifting to offensive coordinator and Kyle Segler shifting to coach the tight ends and the offensive line.
“Greg might have to call plays and you may have to coach quarterbacks and Kyle might have to go coach the offensive line,” Holliday said to reporters, semi-joking about the fluid landscape of the season.
The good news for the Thundering Herd staff is that, in that particular scenario, Adkins and Segler each have experience doing just that.
With Marshall undergoing mandatory COVID-19 testing two to three times a week as outlined by the NCAA and Conference USA, Holliday could find out on a Friday that one or multiple coaches might not be able to travel with the team for a game scheduled the next day.
Coaches become creatures of habit and any disruption to that is a source of frustration. Holliday said it’s the first time in 40 years of coaching that he’s ever been in that situation, but it’s par for the course in a year that’s been unlike any he — or anyone else — have ever experienced.
“We’re just trying to prepare as a staff for everything that could possibly happen for us,” Holliday said.
As game preparation for Eastern Kentucky continues, Holliday will continue working to get both players and assistant coaches in as many different situations as possible.