BOGACZYK: Myers Builds from Opportunity a Year Ago
The Word on the Herd-September 12, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – While Marshall hopes Saturday’s "Battle for the Bell" football game is the end of an Ohio winning streak in the series, something good did happen to at least one Herd player last season during a third straight loss to the Bobcats.
When two-year starting defensive end and senior Jeremiah Taylor suffered a back injury in the first quarter at Peden Stadium 52 weeks ago, it was an opportunity for Ra’Shawde Myers … and he made the most of it.
Myers, of Cocoa, Fla., replaced Taylor in the Herd lineup. He’s been the starter since, and is expected to make his 14th consecutive start when the Bobcats visit Edwards Stadium for a noon kickoff Saturday in the 58th meeting between the regional rivals.
Prior to Week 4 last season – a triple-overtime Herd loss at Virginia Tech – Myers’ only previous start had occurred in the opening game of his redshirt sophomore season, at West Virginia.
Now, he’s progressed to the point that based on his performance last season, Myers was named to the 2014 Preseason All-Conference USA team by league coaches. Then, he was challenged in August camp to keep his starting job on a deep defensive line.
"We became more sound," Myers said when asked about the Herd defensive front’s improvement from Week 1 to 2 – which Coach Doc Holliday says is the time a football team makes its most improvement. "Week 1 against Miami, we had a couple of gaps, a couple of adjustments when they ran empty (sets) and the quarterback would take off with the ball.
"Our defensive line has got to counter back faster and our linebackers have to close faster, and those things were much better (in last Saturday’s win over Rhode Island)."
A member of Holliday’s first recruiting class, the 6-foot-5, 252-pound Myers was an academic redshirt in 2010, but has played 40 games in a Herd uniform since then.
In that first start against the Hokies, Myers impressed with six tackles and a half-sack. He then had four tackles, a sack and another tackle for loss in his second 2013 start … and something more -- a diving interception of Roadrunners quarterback Eric Soza off a tipped ball by fellow end Gary Thompson.
It was the first pick by a Herd D-lineman since 2007, when end Ryland Wilson made interceptions in November games against UCF and Houston.
Thompson later made two – including one for a touchdown – last November in the Herd’s C-USA East Division-clinching win over East Carolina.
"Another interception would be nice, but that’s not why I’m out there," Myers said, grinning, when asked about his pick. "I’m more interested in the pass rush. We definitely need a better pass rush. We definitely want to and need to get to the quarterback much more than we have these first two games (six sacks).
"That’s the main thing with us, get to the quarterback. If you can’t throw the ball, you can’t win the game."
In wins over Miami (Ohio) and Rhode Island, Herd defensive line coaches Sean Cronin and J.C. Price have kept their charges fresh by constantly rolling personnel in and out. Marshall’s defense has played 152 opposing snaps, and the most any of the Herd front four has been on the field is Myers’ 86 snaps. Next is star defensive tackle James Rouse, with 80.
Among the top nine Herd defensive linemen (Myers, Rouse, Thompson, Arnold Blackmon, Jarquez Samuel, Steve Dillon, Armonze Daniel, Ricardo Williams and Joe Massaquoi), all have gotten between 41 and 86 snaps.
"Rolling in and out helps," Myers said. "We play better with fewer reps. That’s how our coaches think, and that’s fine. Four or five reps out there, middle of a drive … if you go three-and-out, that’s great, but four or five reps at the most otherwise.
"If you get tired, get gassed, Coach says to hold up one finger, meaning you’ve got one more good play in you and then they’ll get you out."
Myers missed most of spring practice due to a right knee injury, but was ready by August camp. And although Marshall lost 2013 starters Alex Bazzie and Brandon Sparrow up front (besides Taylor, who returned to play his final Herd game in a backup role for a Military Bowl victory over Maryland), MU is deeper in the trenches.
"It’s not tough, guys rolling in and out, always playing with somebody different," Myers said. "We do it in practice all of the time, and you might not be playing the same position or with the same few players every time, but it’s enough you know (tendencies). So, you get an idea of how that person plays, what he’ll do in certain situations and we all play off that."
He said the philosophy in Year 2 under defensive coordinator Chuck Heater hasn’t changed from 2013.
"We’re doing the same thing we did last year," Myers said. "The biggest thing we did last year was stay focused, run to the ball … consistent, be consistent with it.
"The biggest thing with Coach Heater is he’s a very intense individual. Everything is full-go with him, no letting off, no matter who we’re playing, no matter where, he doesn’t care. We could be drinking water, and Coach Heater is going to be intense with us. That’s what it is with him."
Myers finished last season with 51 tackles, including 4 1/2 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries. One thing Cronin, Price and Heater want for the 2014 defense is a double-digit sack man. Rouse’s six sacks led the 2013 Herd, which posted.
Perhaps Myers can get some practice in his quarterback chasing, since he and his wife, Queen, have twin boys Jaylin and Jahlil, who turn 14 months old Saturday. Myers does know the Herd won’t have to try and stop the playmaking skills of graduated Ohio QB Tyler Tettleton, who made life difficult for Marshall in recent years.
"They do anything different," Myers said of the Bobcats post-Tettleton. "They’ve got the same offense, they run the same plays. It’s just that it’s a different quarterback (Darius Vick). He has the same mentality as Tettleton. They’re doing the same things (in a 1-1 start) they ran against us last year. Nothing changes, and that’s what we expect – same thing.
"They will not beat themselves. Everything is plain and simple, toss right, toss left. ‘Stop us,’ is basically what they’re saying."
And with the other Herd seniors, Myers will try for a first – a chance to ring that riverboat bell.
"Absolutely, honestly, this game is no different than any other game," the Herd defensive end said. "I’ve never beaten them; I want to beat them but this game is no different than others.
"Every game is a big game for us. So, we’ve just got to go out and play the game the way we can, the best we can."