Marshall's new coaches, especially on defense, are thankful for the upperclassman population. An experienced group can make for quick learners, first-year defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said. And if it's a good group, he added, that makes it even better, and Heater considers this group a good one.
"It's great for us," he said. "That's why I feel that, foundationally, we can get something done because we have a good core group of seniors disappointed about what happened in the past and taking ownership by how they work and how they go about their business."
Holliday's not just looking toward the seniors for leadership. A young lineup in 2012 meant a lot of sophomores earned plenty of playing time, and means a lot of juniors enter 2013 confident in the schemes. That includes reigning Conference USA MVP Rakeem Cato, record-setting receiver Tommy Shuler and offensive lineman Chris Jasperse.
Taylor knows how those players feel. He was named a team captain last year and responded with a team-high 5.5 sacks. Both he and Niemeyer said a player doesn't have to be a senior to be a leader, and there should be plenty of juniors with the experience to fit the bill.
"Going through what we went through last year puts you through a lot of adversity and stuff you have to learn from," Taylor said. "Once you learn from it, you learn how to interact with your players and go from there."
The struggles of last season - finishing at 5-7 and falling short of a bowl berth - weigh on the seniors of 2013. They understand what people think they're capable of this year. They know their window opportunity is closing and, among themselves, decided to put their experience and veteran skills to good use.
"We just knew it was our last year," Niemeyer said. "We knew we had five months and one shot. So we kind of just all looked at each other and it was just an unspoken thing. We all nodded our heads and knew it was time to go. We have no other shot together. We have to lead this team and we have to win."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.