Marshall football: Herd’s Heater, Hokies’ Loeffler cross paths again
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Chuck Heater and Scot Loeffler are "Michigan Men" who, at the same time, became Florida Gators and Temple Owls. Their uniforms are different now, but their tasks are alike Saturday. Heater, Marshall's defensive coordinator, and Loeffler, Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator, will try to get the best of each other starting at noon that day at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.
Heater and Loeffler's paths crossed long before Saturday's ESPNU-televised contest. Their foundations are the same, as both played football at Michigan, though in different eras. Actually, when Loeffler, a quarterback, was born on Nov. 1, 1974, Heater was finishing up his final season as a star Wolverines running back.
"He comes from the same school I come from," Heater said, "so we kind of bleed the same blood, so to speak."
The two spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons together on Urban Meyer's Florida staff, Loeffler as the Gators' quarterback coach and Heater as their assistant defensive coordinator and then co-defensive coordinator. And when Steve Addazio became Temple's head coach, he brought Loeffler along as offensive coordinator and Heater along as defensive coordinator.
In those years, the two gained an intimate knowledge of the other's coaching philosophies. Heater saw that Loeffler, who coached Tom Brady while a graduate assistant at Michigan, employed a style that mirrored the New England Patriots' offense.
"He's a New England Patriot protege, Tom Brady and all of that," Heater said, "so you see him trying to do some of those same things with multiple formations. It'll give you a lot of headaches."
Loeffler saw that Heater was an aggressive defensive coordinator, a coach who liked to turn up the pressure on opposing offenses.
"It doesn't matter who he's playing against, he's going to play press man," Loeffler said. "And he's going to force you to make plays. He's just like any defensive coordinator. He wants you to stop the run and force you to throw it. And that's what he's known for - stop the run and force you to throw the ball."
The two are in their current positions for the same reason. They've been drafted to help resurrect moribund units. The 2012 Thundering Herd defense was among the nation's worst, finishing next to last in the Football Bowl Subdivision in points allowed at 43.1 points per game. The Hokies offense also struggled, finishing 83rd in both total offense (376.8 yards per game) and scoring (25.1 points per game). Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, once considered a top NFL prospect, threw 18 touchdowns against 16 interceptions and was sacked 25 times.
Heater seems to have gotten the head start in turning his group around. Marshall (2-1) enters this game fifth in total defense (252.7 yards allowed per game) and tied with Tech and Washington State for 23rd in scoring defense (16.0 points allowed per game). The Hokies are 88th in scoring (23.3 ppg) and 108th in total offense (328.3 ypg), while Thomas is completing just 47 percent of his passes and has thrown three touchdowns against four interceptions.
Yet the Hokies are 2-1 after last week's 15-10 win over East Carolina, and Heater said Tech's revamped offensive line could be keeping that offense from a quicker climb. That he and Loeffler both signed on for rebuilding projects doesn't surprise Heater at all.
"We're all competitors and like the challenge of making something better," he said. "We get a great satisfaction from coaching. You feel like you've had some hand in improving a defense or an offense, so I'm sure it's the same challenge he looks forward to as well. It motivates you to get it done."
The two coaches' bond goes beyond their shared experiences. They're close off the field. When Heater came through Blacksburg this past summer, Loeffler had a guest bedroom waiting for him.
"He's a family member in my mind," Loeffler said.
Yet trying to solve each other Saturday won't throw a wrench into their relationship. They both know this is part of their business, that longtime friends might find themselves on opposite sidelines more than once in their careers. On Saturday, friendship won't mute competitive spirit.
"Obviously we know each other," Loeffler said. "We were together for so long. So he'll have something for us, I'm sure. And we'll have something for him, I'm sure. It's just part of the cat-and-mouse game."
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.