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 derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.