Marshall football: Blackmon getting a feel for defensive system
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall defensive end Arnold Blackmon will face a University of Texas at San Antonio team Saturday that he could have joined earlier in his football life.
The junior graduated from Bellaire High School in Texas, then spent two years at Navarro College in Corsicana, Tex. And during his time in the Lone Star State, the Roadrunners had an eye on him.
"They recruited me heavily out of high school," Blackmon said. "I got a few calls here and there in junior college. Not too much, but they did come and see me a few times in junior college."
UTSA could see plenty of Blackmon this weekend beginning at 2 p.m., as his role has started to grow in the Thundering Herd defense. With Jeremiah Taylor out for Saturday's homecoming game and possibly longer, Blackmon has moved into a more prominent spot in the defensive end rotation.
That growth came in a shorter time than Blackmon wanted. His plan was to graduate from Navarro early and get to Huntington in time for spring practice. He wasn't able to make it to Marshall for the spring, and admitted he missed some valuable opportunities to learn new defensive coordinator Chuck Heater's scheme.
"It most definitely set me back," he said. "I couldn't do too much through the spring. It was a minor setback. Those were days I could have learned techniques and things they wanted me to pick up here, rather than sit at home and not get anything done."
He wasted little time once he arrived at Marshall, and the 6-foot-1, 242-pounder became comfortable in his new surroundings. It started paying off on the playing field. Taylor's back injury knocked him out in the first half of the Ohio game, which moved Blackmon and fellow newcomer Gary Thompson higher up the depth chart.
So far, Blackmon has recorded four tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, with a 16-yard sack. His fellow linemen, including senior James Rouse, appreciate his willingness to stick his nose into the action.
"He's producing," Rouse said of Blackmon. "He's coming along well. He still has a lot of stuff to learn, but he's coming along. He really likes to get into blocks. He doesn't seem to veer away from contact. He tries to be aggressive."
Aggressiveness is what Blackmon likes most about Heater and his defense.
"He's full of energy," Blackmon said. "He brings a lot of enthusiasm to practice and to the games. You couldn't ask more from a coach. But the thing I think I like most is he's very aggressive. We don't lay down for anybody. We come out, try to start fast and try to finish as fast."
Heater likes Blackmon's progress so far. He's new to Division I football, so there have been points of inconsistency in terms of technique. Blackmon's had his misses on the field, but Heater said the junior's mentality and attitude are such that more hits should be on the way.
"Anytime a guy is a physical player on defense, you can take all those guys you can get," Heater said. "It's not a game where everybody likes to do that. The more guys you can get who are physical, that's what you're hoping for on defense."
Blackmon's responsibilities continue to grow, and he credits the help that Taylor and redshirt junior Ra'Shawde Myers has given him in developing as a defensive end. Those two in Blackmon's corner have been crucial in his climb up the depth chart, and he said it's satisfying that the Herd trusts him to play a part in this defense.
"I'm just happy to be one of the guys who can roll in," he said.
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.