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Marshall football: Herd will wait to hire defensive coordinator

HUNTINGTON - Marshall's new defensive coordinator probably won't be named until after the holidays - and most of the bowl season.

Marshall football Coach Doc Holliday said Wednesday that he's received plenty of interest in the job, open since former coordinator Chris Rippon resigned following the Thundering Herd's season-ending double overtime loss to East Carolina. But with bowl season heating up, Holliday said the process likely will continue into January.

"Right now, we have a lot of guys who are interested, who are excellent," he said. "Right now there's just so much going on with the bowls being played. So after Christmas when the bowls are finished up, we'll probably solidify that thing the second week of January or so."

The hire is a crucial one for the Herd, which finished 5-7. Marshall's offense scored 40.92 points per game, eighth-best in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Its defense allowed 43.08 points per game, 119th in the FBS. That new coordinator, Holliday said, will be someone who has that job now or had it in the past.

"We'll name a coordinator here that's had previous coordinator experience or who is a coordinator now who's been very successful," he said.

That new hire will get some athletic, talented players, Holliday said. He'll have to solve the conundrum of the growing number of high-scoring offenses. More than a third of FBS schools - 43 out of 120 - allowed at least 30 points per game in 2012. Holliday is looking for a coordinator well versed in both fundamentals and stalking the quarterback. Marshall was tied for 85th last season with 1.58 sacks per game.

"We want to be very aggressive defensively," he said. "We want a guy in here that's very technique-sound and fundamentally sound. We're going to have some players and we'll be fine. Right now, what we're seeing around the country, you have to be able to put pressure on the quarterback, whether it be three down (linemen) or four down."

While Marshall's defensive coordinator office remains empty, Holliday said that hasn't hindered his coaches on the recruiting trail.

"I don't think it's affected us," he said.

"They know we'll hire a great guy and we'll hire a guy who's very qualified. They have confidence that'll happen."

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THE HERD actually picked up two mid-year junior college signees Wednesday that will help fortify its defense. Taj Letman, a safety from Holmes Community College in Mississippi, and Arnold Blackmon, a defensive end from Navarro College in Texas, both signed letters of intent.

Letman, originally from Elberton, Ga., missed the 2012 season at Holmes with an injured finger, and will have three years of eligibility at Marshall. As a freshman in 2011, he recorded 59 tackles and broke up 10 passes as a free safety.

The website, 247Sports.com,  rated Letman the No. 74 overall JUCO prospect and the No. 4 JUCO safety prospect in America. Rivals.com, ESPN and Scout.com all rated him a three-star recruit.

"He's long and he's physical," said Holliday, who added that Letman could play either at strong or free safety. "He can run from sideline to sideline. The one thing you're trying to look for in safeties is guys who can make plays in space."

Blackmon led the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with 21 tackles for loss and was second with eight sacks. He's grown a little since graduating from Bellaire (Tex.) High in 2011, when he weighed just 218 pounds. Still, he was named a Class 5A, District 20 first-team defensive lineman.

"The one thing we were looking for at defensive end was a guy who can rush the passer, and Arnold Blackmon gives us that," Holliday said. "He's a guy that can come off the edge and go get the quarterback."

Marshall will get some more reinforcements on defense next semester. According to the university, linebacker Kent Turene and corner Corey Tindal, both of whom came to Marshall as academic non-qualifiers, will be on scholarship this spring, as will Class of 2012 grayshirt Tyler Combs, an offensive lineman. Also, starting punter Tyler Williams' time as a walk-on lasted all of one semester. The Conference USA all-freshman team member earned a scholarship after averaging 45.2 yards per punt.

Holliday also said Devon Johnson, who played fullback this season, will begin spring practice at linebacker. He also didn't rule out moving a cornerback to safety to help with numbers there.

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RAKEEM CATO, Marshall's quarterback last seen hobbling around East Carolina's field with an injured knee and ankle, should be fine for spring practice, Holliday said. Cato was named Conference USA's most valuable player after leading the FBS with 4,210 passing yards.

"There are no surgeries or anything at all involved," he said. "He was back working out prior to them going home."

Holliday added that rehab for both linebacker Evan McKelvey (knee) and cornerback A.J. Leggett (shoulder) is going well, though those two and safety Andre Scott (unspecified injury) might go non-contact in spring practice.

Holliday also said that corner Derrick Thomas, who had a hospital trip following an car crash, was fine.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.


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