Nov. 28, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Doc Holliday said if you’re a football coach, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a glass half-full or glass half-empty guy.
The third-year Marshall coach said it’s more about if you have a half-glass football team, you’re not going to “get where you want to go.” He said the Thundering Herd’s “disappointing” 5-7 season that ended last weekend was just that.
“I don’t think there’s any question that there were positives, but ultimately the way you’re judged as a football team is the number of wins, and competing for a conference championship,” Holliday said. “That’s our goal and unfortunately, we didn’t do that, so it’s disappointing.”
Holliday was headed out of town today to recruit and to talk to coaches. He needs a defensive coordinator after Chris Rippon resigned Saturday after the Herd finished the season with one of the nation’s top offenses but one of the nation’s most-giving defenses.
“From a defensive standpoint, we’re nowhere near even close to where we’ve got to be, and that’s very, very disappointing,” Holliday said. “If you take a look, and I think it proves true the three years I’ve been in this conference (USA), the teams that play for the championship most often are the best defensively, and so it is this go-round, Tulsa and Central Florida playing Saturday.
“So for us to ultimately get where we have to go, we have to play great defense. That’s going to happen, I promise you. We’ve got some players and, without a doubt, we’ve got to get better in that area.
“Special teams is another. That’s kind of a reflection on our defense. You don’t play good defense, you don’t tackle very well on defense, chances are you don’t tackle very well in the kicking game and that happened this year.
“Our punter (Tyler Williams) our long snapper (Matt Cincotta), are both true freshmen. We’re solid there for years to come, and I think (place-kicker) Justin Haig is now a proven guy you’d like in clutch situations as far as field goals and extra points are concerned.
“We have to do a better job getting the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, and if Trent Martin is capable of doing that, fine, and, if not, we’ve got to go out and find somebody who can. But as our defense gets better, which it will, our special teams coverage units will improve. That has to be a priority.
“But the top priority is getting way better on defense by No. 1, recruiting, and No. 2, developing kids we already have on campus, which will happen.”
Holliday had plenty of praise for the Herd offense’s “tremendous strides, where we went from No. 102 (total offense) to No. 6 (and from No. 99 to 9 in scoring offense).”
“You saw a quarterback (Rakeem Cato) starting to grow up a little bit, young receivers really starting to play well,” Holliday said. “We had an offensive line that continues to develop, and three freshmen running backs making good strides.
“From an offensive standpoint, there’s no question we were a lot better, and it’s important through the offseason, the recruiting process and spring ball that we continue to get better still.”
Holliday wasn’t going to play the name game, and he isn’t quite sure who he wants just yet in that very important defensive coordinator’s job, but he knows what he wants.
“The thing I want to be defensively? I want a very sound fundamental defense,” the Herd coach said. “I want guys who are going get lined up correctly, want guys who will tackle extremely well, want guys who are very aggressive.
“As you see what’s happening around the country and in our conference, you’d better have a good front four or three -- whatever you’re lining up in – that can put pressure on the quarterback. You have to be able to get there with three or four to be able to match up everywhere else.
“I think the second thing that has to happen is you’ve got to be athletic at the linebacker and safety positions, where you can match up in space and make plays in space, and we have to continue to work on that. You’ve got to have corners that can cover, that can play, and I think we’ve got some guys there now who can maximize and develop, so I feel pretty good about that.”
Holliday said several new faces who sat out 2012 figure prominently into his 2013 thinking on defense, joining a unit with eight returning starters.
“Our defensive line, with another year in the weight room, and then you add a few guys to the mix, like a Josh Brown (one-time Clemson signee), a Larry Jefferson (Louisville signee), linebackers and safeties like Kent Turene (former Georgia commit) and Corey Tindal, and I think we’re going to be OK. And in recruiting we’re kind of pinpointing.
“We’re working very hard to get about five linebacker/safety-type bodies in here, and without a doubt we’ve got to come up with a pass-rushing end to get some pressure on the quarterback. And one thing we’re definitely trying to do is get two or three midterm guys (January enrollees) in here that can help that defense now.
“Offensively, we’ve got to find three outside receivers, have to sign two more offensive linemen, and a couple may be JUCO guys who are here in January. That’s about the extent of it. We can add 21, including the guys already on campus, so that means 15 or 16 new ones.”
Holliday said that in spring practice starting in late March, the Herd offense “will put that defense in every situation it needs to see to make sure we’re good, whether that’s two-back, five wides. The offense is going to service the defense with what they need.”
Holliday called the 2012 offensive performance “kind of amazing, how Cato grew up, what we had to accomplish often (to overcome defensive issues). We were No. 2 in the country in third-down conversions, the improvement from last year in scoring offense, completion percentage, plays of 10 yards or more, yards per catch.
“And we’re playing uptempo. At the same time our time of possession was better this year (by 32 seconds per game) because we were moving the chains. Look at our first downs (211 last year in 13 games; 353 in 12 games this season).
“Now, what we’ve got to have is the ability to slow things down at times and go a different tempo, and to do that we’ve got to get a little better up front, because those guys were at their best when we were going fast and the defense couldn’t get set, couldn’t set their feet. Going as fast as we did was moreso what we had to do this season to accomplish what we wanted on offense.”
Holliday said he is in no rush to replace Rippon.
“We’re not going to get in a hurry; there’s no need to be in a hurry for the coordinator,” the Marshall coach said. “What’s very important is that we get the right guy, and there are a lot of great candidates out there, and I promise you a lot of great candidates are interested in this job. I have no doubt we’ll hire the right man, a great guy who will come in and do a good job for us.
“Once he gets in here, he and I will make personnel decisions, whether to move some people, but one thing I’ll assure people is we’re going to fix the defense.
“Jefferson is a guy who’s a tight end, but he’s also a big-time defensive end. Turene is going to play defense, so is Tindal, and in addition to those guys, we’ll put every ounce of energy and effort into recruiting and whatever we do here to fix that deal.”