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Marshall football: New coaches mesh for Herd

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday always has considered his coaching staff's pre-camp retreat important, but it was even more so as the 2013 season drew closer. With six new members on a 10-man coaching staff, that's a lot of ears hearing those messages for the first time.

But coaches old and new said the staff has meshed well in its short time together, thanks to boundless energy and the ability to check egos at the door and compromise.

"It's an exceptional staff," Holliday said. "I've been on a lot of staffs and this is as good as I've been around."

Following last year's 5-7 season, the nameplates changed on plenty of offenses. Chuck Heater replaced Chris Rippon as defensive coordinator and took over secondary coaching duties from former corners coach Lytrel Pollard and safeties coach Todd Hartley, who moved to tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator. Adam Fuller coaches the linebackers, Rippon's duty when he was in Huntington, and Sean Cronin coaches the defensive ends, as J.C. Price now focuses on the interior defensive line.

Offensively, coordinator Bill Legg now coaches quarterbacks after Tony Petersen departed and former Florida International offensive line coach Alex Mirabal now coaches that position with the Thundering Herd, replacing Geep Wade. Thomas Brown replaced JaJuan Seider as running backs coach and Mike Furrey replaced Gerad Parker as receivers coach.

"When you lose six guys, that's a lot to lose in one season," Hartley said. "You feel good about the guys you brought in, because you went through the interview process. But you just don't know yet how you're going to mesh. But going through spring, spring recruiting, the summer and the summer retreat, it's really provided a lot of energy in the building."

Brown, announced at the end of March as Marshall's new running backs coach, didn't have much time to get used to his surroundings. The Herd released that news less than a week before spring practice began. But it also didn't take long for him, as he sat through those first coaches meetings, to feel this reconfigured staff could work well together.

"Within the first couple of days," he said. "Our guys kind of just meshed together. We just had meetings and like-minded conversations and I was thinking, man, we could really be kind of special. With the talent we have and the mindset we have, we could do whatever we wanted to do."

One of the catalysts was that injection of energy that created a positive environment. And that energy seeps into more than the meeting room, Hartley said.

"Everybody works their butt off," Hartley said. "From special teams to recruiting to offensive and defensive game plans to practice preparation to meetings, all these guys, they get out and do their jobs and come to work every day and it's a different attitude, to be honest with you."

Furrey has been impressed with the varied backgrounds of his fellow coaches - and the ability for all those coaches to come together easily. When he looks around the offensive staff meeting room, he sees some with NFL experience in himself and Brown. There's Hartley, who he calls a "brainiac" who understands the ins and outs of every aspect of the game. And there's Legg and Mirabal, who he considers among the best in the country at their positions.

"When you sit in there and think about all these guys that bring in all these elements and the league years and the categories and yards he's put up, there could be a lot of ego things," he said. "'This is how we did it,' or 'This is how I did it.' The coolest thing is we sit in there and say, 'What do you think about this? What do you think about that?' Coach Legg says, 'Let's go with this' and we're like, 'Cool, we're in.' And then we go. There's no dissention."

Holliday hopes the energy and cohesiveness his staff has shown so far rubs off on their players.

"The old saying is you're a direct reflection of your coach," Holliday said. "I hope that's the case, because I like what all these guys are doing with the players at this point."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.



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