BOGACZYK: Maybe They Should Be Called the `Hurryin' Herd'
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 27, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- As a "Michigan Man" -- 1972-74 running back, 1,995 career yards, 4.9 per carry -- Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater certainly can appreciate the work of fellow West Virginia native and UM coaching legend Fielding Yost.
And while Yost acquired the nickname "Hurry Up" because he constantly told his "Point-a-Minute" Wolverines to do everything in a hurry, the veteran Herd coordinator might soon be known as Chuck "Hurry `Em" Heater.
That's because Heater's defense -- in what many thought would be a rebuilding year on that side of the ball -- has used quarterback pressure to create havoc and turnovers, especially this month in four Conference USA victories.
With a deep rotation up front -- coached by J.C. Price (tackles) and Sean Cronin (ends) and led by senior tackles Jarquez Samuel and Steve Dillon -- the Herd (7-1, 4-0) makes its first football trip to Charlotte (2-5, 0-4) on Saturday. Coach Doc Holliday's team has been feasting on quarterback hurries.
"Sacks are great, but I think the biggest thing is pressure, getting hurries, getting after the quarterback," said Samuel, who will make his 27th MU career start against the 49ers. "Having the quarterback get rid of the ball because he's feeling pressure, that's the biggest thing for us.
"When we played Southern Miss (on Oct. ), we had how many sacks (4), but we were in (QB Nick Mullens') face a whole lot and I think he started looking at the pass rush instead of down the field. So, sacks are big, but getting that pass rush and stopping the run are key for us ... Just get off the field."
After 17 quarterback hurries in that win over Southern Miss, the Herd topped that with 20 last Saturday -- to go with two sacks -- in a Homecoming triumph over North Texas.
That kind of play has allowed Heater's secondary -- he's the position coach there -- to record a nation-leading 51 pass breakups in his aggressive man coverage scheme. The Herd shares the FBS lead in passes defended (PBUs plus 11 interceptions) with Alabama, at 62.
In eight games, Marshall has only 16 sacks, but it has posted 75 hurries. In a 13-1 season a year ago, the QB hurries total was 63, to go with 38 sacks. That team lost three starters up front -- star tackle James Rouse and ends Arnold Blackmon and Ra'Shawde Myers.
"I didn't think we were going to miss a beat this season, to be honest," Samuel said. "The biggest thing, during summer, you'd hear stuff like, `I don't think the defense is going to be as good.' But we took that into spring ball and then (August) camp and we had an edge and wanted to prove we could be as good as or better than last year and I think we've done that so far. We've just got to keep going and growing, taking coaching, and we'll be fine."
The Herd has QB hurries from 15 players. And although the personnel losses on defense were significant, Marshall had the return of injured linebacker Evan McKelvey and rush end Gary Thompson, and has gotten significant impact from backup senior tackle Ricardo "Rico" Williams and new faces like ends Ryan Bee and Blake Keller and linebackers Shawn Petty and Devontre'a Tyler.
Heater's unit uses a consistent rotation up front that regularly employs five ends and five or six tackles. "We've just got a lot of depth now, a lot of guys who can play," Samuel said. "The rotation keeps our bodies fresh and we can go 100 miles per hour because we're fresh. I think that's helped us a lot.
"Young guys have stepped up and are playing a big role in our defense, and it just makes you happy to see guys like Blake Keller, Ryan Bee, (redshirt freshman tackles) Jason Smith, Nyquan Harris ... they're going in and playing really good football.
"We're playing together as a team, even though there are a bunch of new guys out there. So, I think the communication we have -- the bond -- it's big. The defensive line ... We did a lot of stuff together away from football over the summer. We had cookout at Blake Keller's house. The whole defensive line came over to my house and played video games.
"We just hang out. One night, we went bowling. I think Blake beat everybody. We have a lot of chemistry. As far as what we need to improve, it's everything. You always have to improve, technique, get off, everything."
Thompson leads the Herd in sacks (5) and hurries (13), with Bee, who has made only three starts, with 3 sacks and 9 hurries. Williams is next in QB pressures at 7.
"I think the biggest thing is we've got a lot of bodies that are playing up there, and some young freshmen coming along in Nyquan Harris at tackle and Ryan Bee, a Jason Smith, doing a great job inside," Holliday said. "We've got a lot of depth starting to happen in there.
"We lost Rouse and he was a tremendous player, but I think we have more depth up there now than we had a year ago. We're able to roll more people in and out of there. We've gotten Blake Keller back in there at end and a lot of guys have provided some depth. They don't need to play so many snaps. So, they just have to go play hard.
"Of course, Jarquez and Dillon are playing their best football as seniors -- and that has to happen for us to be good. You look at the end position and Gary Thompson is playing his best to this point. There's no question the two guys who provide the leadership in that defensive line room are Jarquez and Steve and they hold all those guys accountable to be great, and they expect those guys to go play extremely hard, and they've done that."
One result of that play is the 19 turnovers gained by the Herd. That number ranks tied for No. 2 nationally with fellow C-USA East Division co-leader Western Kentucky, as well as once-beaten No. 13-ranked Utah. Cal leads the FBS with 22 -- the number of turnover gains Marshall had in 14 games a year ago.
Samuel said he and Dillon are pushing teammates to continue the kind of defensive play the Herd has seen in October. After all, the days in their collegiate careers are in that same "hurry" mode as the pass rush.
"Steve and I were talking about this a few days ago," Samuel said. "This season is going by so fast and we're just trying to take it all in, appreciate everything, and just win -- win a conference championship again like last season. All the seniors are like that.
"Steve and I are the ones who have played the most football on this line, so we tell the young guys, `We've been here; we've done that.' You build on something. We struggled for a while as freshmen, as young players. It's just something where you're got to learn, get better, take coaching.
"That's the biggest thing -- taking coaching because it ain't easy taking coaching. I was in their shoes plenty of times, having Coach Price down your neck and Coach Cronin on you. Just take coaching, accept the challenge and they're doing fine with that.
"That's why we've been able to do what we've done. We've got a lot of people who can play on our side of the ball."
|Gary Thompson, DE||5||13|
|Ryan Bee, DE||3||9|
|D.J. Hunter, LB||1.5||4|
|Ricardo Williams, DT||1||7|
|Armonze Daniel, DE||1||2|
|Devontre'a Tyler, LB||1||2|
|Nyquan Harris, DT||1||0|
|Tomell One, DT||1||0|
|Corey Tindal, CB||1||0|
|Blake Keller, DE||0.5||5|
|Joe Massaquoi, DE||0||6|
|Evan McKelvey, LB||0||6|
|Shawn Petty, LB||0||6|
|Jarquez Samuel, DT||0||5|
|Steve Dillon, DT||0||4|
|Antavis Rowe, CB||0||4|
|Chase Hancock, LB||0||1|
|Tiquan Lang, S||0||1|