Marshall football: Holliday presses for more time with team
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday can't wait to see the 2013 edition of his team out of the practice field on Monday.
He just wishes he could see them some more before that.
As Holliday previewed the start of his fourth preseason camp during a Monday press conference, he discussed how little the NCAA allows football coaches to interact with their players in the offseason. NCAA guidelines severely limit how those coaches and players work together. Strength and conditioning coaches are the only staff members who can oversee summer training.
"I just think it's a shame - and I'm not talking about going out and practicing and all that," Holliday said. "I'm just talking about getting around the kids and getting in the weight room. I mean, we can't even watch them work out. It's crazy."
That's what made hiring Thundering Herd strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair in January from the University of Central Florida so important, said Holliday, who praised Sinclair's work this summer. But Holliday's desire goes past Xs and Os. He wants more summer interaction with his players to make sure they're making the right choices in the classroom and in their personal lives.
There has been talk of giving football coaches eight hours a week like they have in the spring, Holliday said. Other sports have found a way to let coaches work with players during the summer. The NCAA gives basketball teams two full hours of instruction per week during the summer, something Marshall is taking advantage of right now.
"Basketball's found a way to do it," Holliday said. "I don't think we need to find a way to go out and practice three days a week in the summer, but I think we need to get involved with our kids and get around them, because as a head coach, I'm sure as hell accountable for them."
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ONE NUMBER that makes Holliday a happy man is 85. That's the number of scholarship players he has on the team this year. Since he arrived a number of factors - players being dismissed, players transferring, players who originally came to Marshall to play for the former coaching regime leaving - has kept the Herd's roster below the 85-scholarship limit.
And there might be some players under the radar who end up on campus as the season draws closer, Holliday said. Last-minute academic non-qualifiers have come to Marshall before. Running back Kevin Grooms, the reigning Conference USA freshman of the year, came to Marshall in September 2011 as an academic non-qualifier after signing with Miami in the spring. And defensive end Gary Thompson and defensive lineman Josh Brown both arrived as non-qualifiers at the end of last August.
"There will be some guys I can't comment on that will probably walk in here on Sunday," he said. "And we'll have guys when school starts that walk in here that we can't comment on."
Holliday acknowledges there are times he wishes he held a scholarship or two open just in case.
"I get greedy and I don't want to hold any back," he said. "I'd like to have a couple every year at this point and I don't."
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HEALTH-WISE, the Herd is looking pretty good. Holliday said linebackers Evan McKelvey, lost three games into last season with a knee injury, and Kent Turene, who spent most of the spring sidelined with an ankle injury, are healthy and ready to go. Receiver Tommy Shuler, a Biletnikoff Award watch list member whose 110 catches last season broke Marshall's single-season record, is banged up, Holliday said. Shuler tweeted in June that he underwent surgery to repair his foot.
"Shuler may miss a couple of things, but not a lot," Holliday said. "He'll be ready to go by the first game."
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MARSHALL'S COACHES begin their annual retreat this morning. It's an opportunity, Holliday said, to go over the program with a fine-toothed comb.
"We'll start here and we just cover everything from A-to-Z," he said, "from staff responsibilities, we take the first two games and hit it really heavy as far as game planning is concerned, personnel, kicking game, academics, everything that the program's all about."
It's even more important this season, Holliday said, with six new coaches on staff - defensive coordinator Chuck Heater, receivers coach Mike Furrey, offensive line coach Alex Mirabal, running backs coach Thomas Brown, defensive ends coach Sean Cronin and linebackers coach Adam Fuller.
The retreat ends with a Thursday picnic, which Holliday said will be the first time all of the coaches' families will be able to get together at once. With the season coming, it might be the last time they all get together for at least a few months.
"It also gives the coaches a chance to say goodbye to their wives and families," Holliday joked. "They're not going to see them for a while."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.