HUNTINGTON — Marshall head coach Doc Holliday sat down for his 10th pre-season press conference on Monday afternoon when he met with media members in the pressbox of Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
And while he's not a huge press conference guy, there is one thing that makes Holliday happier than anything: the start of a football season.
"I'm just excited to get going," Holliday said. "I know our kids are looking forward to it, as well. They've had a great summer. We've got a challenging schedule, as you all know, and a lot of expectations. Fans' (expectations) are extremely high, which is a good thing. That's the way it's supposed to be here at Marshall."
For Holliday, there is extra reason to be excited for the 2019 campaign. Marshall was chosen as the favorite to win the East Division title, which would put them in the conference championship game at season's end.
Marshall has several pieces back on both sides of the football, plus a wealth of younger players who are looking to make an impact as preseason camp opens. Herd players will report on Thursday before starting practice on Friday.
"Our kids understand that along with those expectations comes a responsibility to go to work every day," Holliday said.
The last time that Marshall went into a season favored to win the East Division title was 2014 — the same year Marshall collected its lone Conference USA Championship.
Holliday went into detail about what made that 2014 team so special and the similarities that he sees in the 2019 team that takes the field later this week.
"You had a quarterback that was extremely competitive, and I think that is where it all starts," Holliday said. "Fortunately for us, I think Isaiah has got the same type of competitiveness and intangibles that (Rakeem) Cato had. That's where it starts. I think you've got a lot of guys that love to compete and they embraced that expectation and they did a great job understanding you have to go to work."
With a grinding 12-game regular season, Holliday said it is incumbent on players to understand that, if they aren't mentally prepared in any game on the schedule, they can and will get beat.
"You have to take that potential and turn it into production," Holliday said. "There's just such a fine line between winning and losing. Our conference is so competitive from top to bottom. You look at FIU and Butch (Davis) has done a great job there, FAU with Lane and Southern Miss has done a great job. Just right on down the line, if you don't show up and play every week, you'll get beat."
The formula for winning starts with the talent level on the field, which appears to be a strong point as 2019 gets underway.
Marshall returns eight full-time starters on offense and five full-time starters on defense with another two players who have seen starting experience as part of a rotation (defensive tackle Channing Hames and safety Brandon Drayton).
Furthermore, four of those seven other starting positions vacated due to graduation are expected to be rooms that feature players who have started games elsewhere in their career: wide receivers Tavin Richardson (Kentucky) and Joey Fields (Central Connecticut State), offensive tackle Josh Ball (Florida State) and defensive end/linebacker Fermin Silva (FIU).
Holliday said the talent in Marshall's locker room is a big reason why the Herd is expected to have success in 2019.
"No. 1, I see some good players out there," Holliday said. "I said from the day I took the job that it's a personnel-driven game, and I think we have good players."
Holliday's 10th anniversary with the Herd is expected to get plenty of notice nationally with Marshall being selected as a Conference USA favorite and the Herd's schedule featuring three fellow Group of Five teams who are also expected to win their conference.
For the now-veteran head coach from Hurricane, there's only one way that he'd like to celebrate the milestone coaching year - that being with a trophy.
Marshall players report on Thursday and preseason practice starts on Friday. Times have not yet been released for the practices.