Replacing Curry a tall task for Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Chris Rippon is a frequent post-practice interview request because his quotable response-to-question ratio is higher than the rest.
Ask one question and a sportswriter can fill three or four minutes of space on his or her voice recorder.
The veteran football coach, who is Marshall's defensive coordinator, obliges requests and delays his post-practice sprints so he can regale and reminisce. He is usually there long after players have hit the showers and Coach Doc Holliday and other assistants have disappeared into the Shewey Building for late-night film study and their other myriad responsibilities.
After one Herd spring practice, Rippon was posed this question: How does Marshall replace Vinny Curry?
Rippon, his eyes concealed by his trademark Ray-Ban sunglasses, crossed his arms and looked down at the Edwards Stadium turf. The response wasn't immediate, as if his brain was sorting through 30 years of experiences for a similar scenario.
The man of many words finally had an answer.
"You don't," he said.
(Related blog post: WVU's Bruce Irvin before Marshall's Vinny Curry?)
Marshall's annual Green-White spring game is at 2 pm. Saturday at Edwards Stadium, and fans will get a glimpse of the Curry-less Herd.
Rippon and his coaching cohorts have two unenviable tasks in replacing the NFL-bound Curry.
One is to replace the production of Curry, who ranked among the national leaders in tackles for a loss (22), sacks (11) and forced fumbles (seven) as the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Curry, a New Jersey native like Rippon, also became a team captain and the face of the program as a senior last season.
"In Vinny we had a marquee guy," Rippon said. "Two years ago it was (linebacker) Mario Harvey and then it was Vinny Curry.
The candidates aren't simply limited to Curry's successor on the defensive front, which include returning starter Jeremiah Taylor and possible new starters like sophomore Ra'Shawde Myers and junior Alex Bazzie on the opposite side.
Linebacker Devin Arrington is the only senior on defense, and Holliday and other coaches often point to junior cornerback Darryl Roberts as an emerging leader.
"We're inexperienced and we're young," Rippon said. "But we've got a guy like Jeremiah Taylor and JT has a chance to be that kind of dominant player.
"I think another year from now, a guy like Darryl Roberts can be a big-time guy. At linebacker we have three or four guys, but can they develop to that point?
"We'll throw a lot of things at them and see what people can do best in each position and we'll mold our defense around them."
At defensive end, Taylor made 45 tackles (7 1/2 for loss) and had 3 1/2 sacks working on the opposite end of the line from Curry.
First-year MU defensive line coach J.C. Price never coached Curry, but is tasked with finding the heir apparent.
"I don't think you replace Vinny Curry with one guy," Price said. "I don't know how many first-round defensive line picks this school has had, but you don't replace that kind of production with one guy.
"It's a collective effort and I like us as a group. I like what we're becoming."
Curry also left an indelible mark on the program. The returning players are hard-pressed to not mention Curry when asked about leadership, and coaches like Rippon and Price admit that Curry's presence can still be felt in team meetings.
"They don't want to let him go because he brought that foundation of what we are defensively," Rippon said. "He personified it. He bought in and he was a great player who bought in, so now it's 'I want to be like that guy. Put me in the same sentence as what he did.'
"He's left a big mark."
Contact sportswriter Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.