HUNTINGTON -- It was "spring" practice in name only as the Marshall football team took the field at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
The first of 15 practices between Tuesday and the Green and White intrasquad scrimmage on April 27 included frigid temperatures, blustery winds and all sorts of precipitation.
"It's amazing," Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said. "I think it was the first spring practice we had a little bit of everything - snow, sleet, hail and some rain."
Yet it didn't seem to sap the energy from the Thundering Herd, which has come together under a number of new assistant coaches this spring to begin its rebound from a disappointing 5-7 season.
"I thought they ran around and gave great effort and they were coached hard," said Holliday, who is entering his fourth season as Marshall's coach. "I thought that was a good thing."
Effort is the focus of the early days of spring, at least on the defensive side. Marshall's defense had a near total staff turnover and will try to climb out of the cellar of the Football Bowl Subdivision's rankings. The Herd ranked 101st in total defense, allowing 456.58 yards per game, and 119th in scoring defense, allowing 43.08 points per game.
Defensive end Jeremiah Taylor, who served as a team captain last season as a junior, said the defensive schemes of this year aren't drastically different from those of last year, though there are different tweaks and terminology. The key, he said, was building a foundation with the unit to where it can master the nuances of the new defense later on.
"Right now, the mission is getting everyone on the same page," Taylor said. "Right now, we're pretty much looking for effort, guys running to the ball. Getting the plays down, that'll come later. Dealing with today, we're happy with where we're at right now."
Offensively, the Herd is looking for ways to improve, even though the unit finished among the best in the country - first in passing (365.08 yards per game), sixth overall (534.25 ypg) and seventh in scoring (40.92 points per game). Holliday said there are still areas to work on, that the offense needs be able to change tempo and become a better running team.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato, last season's Conference USA most valuable player who led the FBS with 350.08 passing yards per game, said that last season was good, but an offense resting on its laurels wouldn't be tolerated this spring.
"We just have to keep going hard," Cato said. "Bring your 'A' game every day. You can't get big-headed off of just one season. It's a new year and we have to keep going on."