MCGILL: Holliday On Social Media, Listening and Other Spring Topics
The Word on the Herd -- March 27, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Doc Holliday has always coveted speed, but the world of Instagram and instant gratification creates a challenge for him.
The Marshall football coach, who begins his eighth spring football drills Tuesday afternoon with the first of 15 practices over the next five weeks, has found that attention spans are about as long as a 140-character tweet. Chats are, well, as lengthy as a snap.
There has been an unintended consequence of the social media revolution, according to Holliday, who will celebrate his 60th birthday April 21, the day before the Green-White spring scrimmage.
“I never felt as a coach that you had to teach kids to listen,” he told the media Monday at the pre-spring news conference. “But you know what’s happened? We spent time this winter, honest to goodness, in our strength program at the end of every session where we taught kids to learn how to listen to get through the task.
“Kids today, they’re so busy on these phones and computers, they don’t know how to listen. As the winter went on, we got better.”
A positive for this Thundering Herd team, then, would be if listening went viral.
“We started this deal at the end of every session where they’ve got to listen to commands as a team and follow those commands,” Holliday said. “Right now we’re pretty doggone good at it. It’s a skill you wouldn’t think you had to teach kids growing up.”
Holliday is convinced he and his coaching staff have the attention of the 2017 football team. He echoed sentiments made recently by South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin, who said coaches demand less and expect less from kids these days. Holliday said if the demands are made, student-athletes will respond.
A problem with conveying that message, Holliday said, is the increasing dependence on technology.
“People don’t communicate by talking anymore,” Holliday said. “It’s texting and all of that. I never thought you had to teach kids how to listen, but I’ve changed. You have to.”
Holliday said he was pleased by the progression since the end of the 2016 season.
“I thought we have had a tremendous winter,” he said. “It’s the toughest winter we’ve had since I’ve been here. I thought our kids responded well. I’m anxious to see now the gains we’ve made from a strength standpoint and an agility standpoint. Everything that’s happened in the weight room needs to transition to the field. That’s where it’s important.”
The team will practice every Tuesday (2:45 p.m.), Thursday (2:45 p.m.) and Saturday (9:30 a.m.) for the next five weeks. The lone exception to that schedule is the spring scrimmage, which will be held Saturday, April 22 at 3 p.m.
“We’re going to see a lot of newcomers,” Holliday said.
In addition to the physical gains made in the past four months, Holliday pointed to the intangibles each player needs to possess.
“I’m seeing some young guys that have started to grow up and provide the leadership and things that are necessary, taking ownership of the team, things that are important in being a great team,” he said.
Starters, Holliday said, do not exist this spring. That includes at quarterback, which has junior Chase Litton returning. Litton has passed for 5,217 yards and 47 touchdowns in 21 games through two seasons. Sophomore Garet Morrell and redshirt freshmen Xavier Gaines and Jackson White are also among the quarterbacks who will see plenty of practice repetitions this spring.
“We’ve told everybody it doesn’t matter where you line up … we’re going to line up and everybody is going have the opportunity to compete for that position and the quarterbacks will be no different,” Holliday said. “Those guys will get an equal number of reps and we’ll see how it goes.”
Another interesting group will be the pass catchers. Five of the top six players in terms of receptions are gone from the program, and the top returnee in receptions is senior tight end Ryan Yurachek. The wide receiver room, with newly announced position coach Dallas Baker making his debut Tuesday, is full of new faces.
“They’re a group from what I’ve seen in skill development, they’re a talented a group,” Holliday said. “Now, they’ve got to become players.
“Tyre Brady, you all saw a lot of him. Willie Johnson, we saw spurts of him prior to breaking his fibula. He’s back healthy ready to go. Darian Owens, you’re going to like what you see. We took Hyleck Foster and put him back out there. Marcel Williams is another JUCO kid … he’s done everything right since he’s been here. I like him a lot and I think you’re going to like watching him practice.
“The one thing we didn’t have – we weren’t very explosive. I think you’ll see probably more speed out there at that wide receiver position than you’ve seen in a long time. We’ll have wide receivers who can stretch the field.”