Chuck Heater, hired as Marshall's defensive coordinator in January 2013, has significantly fortified that side of the ball for the Thundering Herd.
Heater, who also serves as Marshall’s secondary coach, is a four-decade veteran of the sidelines. Marshall is his 12th coaching stop, and the former Michigan running back has made a tremendous difference in Coach Doc Holliday’s program.
"He's one of the best teachers. I used to just sit in his meetings and watch him coach," said Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer, who had Heater and Holliday on his Florida staffs. “Coach Heater has a tendency of making some players out of non-players."
The 2015 season marked Heater’s 40th as a college assistant coach. In those years, he’s coached three national championship teams (Notre Dame, 1988; Florida, 2006 and ’08) and has been part of 28 bowl games (22-6). Those 40 years have included only seven losing seasons, with a combined record of 333-150-4 (.686).
He’s been on staffs for 14 seasons of 10 or more victories, including a Group of Five-leading three in a row at Marshall. He’s coached in 17 different bowl games, plus the BCS National Championship Game.
Holliday hired Heater from Temple following a 2012 season in which the Herd ranked 123rd (second last in the FBS) in scoring defense (43.1 ppg). Heater’s arrival provided immediate dividends, as Marshall slashed its points allowed per game to 22.9. The 20.1-point improvement was the best by a major college team since Central Michigan improved 20.5 points from 1997 to ’98.
In three seasons with Marshall, Heater’s defenses have lowered their points-against ranking from 31st (22.9) in 2013, to No. 18 (21.0 ppg) in 2014 to No. 10 (17.8 ppg) in 2015. And in 2014 and ’15, the Herd had back-to-back Conference USA Defensive Players of the Year in linebackers Neville Hewitt (2014) and Evan McKelvey (2015).Hewitt made the Miami Dolphins’ roster as a free agent rookie in 2015 and played in all 16 games.
Over those three Herd seasons – 10-4, 13-1, 10-3, with three bowl wins and a final national ranking in 2014 –Heater’s defense has had five All-C-USA first team picks, with four second team selections and 14 honorable mentions. There have also been six C-USA All-Freshman choices.
Heaterserved as the co-defensive coordinator at Florida in 2010 and assistant defensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009. He helped win two national titles during his six-year stint in Gainesville (where he coached alongside Holliday from 2005-07) and another in 1988 while serving as the secondary coach at Notre Dame.
In 2012 at Temple, Heater's unit produced the Big East Rookie of the Year in linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who became the first freshman in school history to record at least 100 tackles (101). The Owls ranked third in the league in sacks with 2.27 per contest. In 2011 in the Mid-American Conference, Temple dominated the league, ranking No. 3 nationally in scoring defense behind national champion Alabama and LSU. The Owls recorded two shutouts.
Heater's other coaching stops have come at Florida, Colorado, Colorado State, Northern Arizona, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Temple, Toledo, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. He has twice been nominated for the Frank Broyles Award (2006, 2011) as the nation's top assistant coach.
Heater, 63, has been associated with six National Coaches of the Year in his playing and coaching career (Barry Alvarez, Earle Bruce, Lou Holtz, Meyer, Bill McCartney and Bo Schembechler) while mentoring 21 NFL Draft selections and 25 NFL players as well as numerous all-conference picks, including Jim Thorpe Award winner Chris Hudson (Colorado).
Under his guidance, the Gators recorded 116 interceptions, the most in the SEC and the second-best total in the nation during that time frame. In 2010, Heater led the Gator secondary to a No. 3 ranking in SEC pass defense and SEC pass defense efficiency, while ranking second in the conference with 17 interceptions. Safety Ahmad Black was named a second team All-American in 2010.
In 2009, Heater helped guide a Florida secondary that ranked first in the SEC, the first time since 1988, and second in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 152.8 yards per game. Four opponents failed to crack the 100-yard mark in passing offense against the Gators and six completed fewer than 50 percent of their pass attempts. Heater helped turn around a defensive secondary that was one of the nation's worst in 2007 to rank among the best in 2008.
Heater served as the recruiting coordinator for the 2006 and 2007 Florida classes that ranked among the top two nationally, including No. 1 by several services. The 2008 class was ranked in the top five by several services.
Heater worked alongside Meyer at four different major college programs. In 1986, Heater coached the secondary at Ohio State when Meyer was a graduate assistant. They coached together again at Colorado State from 1991-92, where Heater was the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach and Meyer as the receivers coach. Heater was also a member of the Utah coaching staff in 2004, when the Utes went 12-0.
He spent five years at Washington (1999-2003), and during his first season at Notre Dame (1988), Heater was a member of the coaching staff that led the Irish to a 12-0 record and the 1988 national championship. He also served as the secondary coach at Notre Dame (1988-90), Ohio State (1985-87) and Wisconsin (1982-84). Heater coached the running backs from 1977-78 and the secondary at Toledo from 1979-81. He began his collegiate coaching career in 1976 at Northern Arizona, coaching running backs.
Heater was born Oct. 10, 1952 in Weston, W.Va. He grew up in Tiffin, Ohio, and received his bachelor's degree in education from Michigan in 1975. A three-year letter winner at running back, Heater earned All-Big Ten second team honors as a junior and was named honorable mention as a senior. Finishing his playing career as UM's No. 5 career rusher, with 1,981 yards on 406 carries (4.9-yard average), and he won the school's Fielding Yost Award for the most outstanding academic and athletic performance by a senior (1975).
During his three varsity seasons at Michigan, the Wolverines went 30-2-1 and won outright Big Ten championships or shared the league title every season.
Heater was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the 10th round with the 241st overall selection in the 1975 NFL Draft.
Heater and his wife, Deborah, have three children: Emily, Andy, and Adam. Emily is married to Herd defensive ends coach Sean Cronin and the couple has two daughters, Caitlin and Grace, and a son, Joseph. Andy was a defensive tackle at Washington in 2005 and is now an Airborne Army Ranger. He and his wife, Lauren, have two daughters, Sloan and Quinn. Adam also played tight end at UCLA.