HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- If the running backs on Marshall's football team didn't know it coming into this spring, Coach Doc Holliday made it evident in his words after the first day of practice.
On third-and-1, the Thundering Herd must be able to line up and plow forward for that one yard.
Marshall's high-octane offense will still be the norm, but there will be times the team needs to slow things down.
That's the task for the running backs this spring, to add a little power running to their startling speed. And while they're doing that, they'll be jockeying for the top spots on the depth chart, spots they all showed they were worthy of last year.
With three freshmen - Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson - and redshirt junior Essray Taliaferro, the Herd jumped from ninth in Conference USA at 120.1 rushing yards per game to fourth in the conference at 169.2 yards per game. And all four demonstrated the skill to be a featured back.
Grooms was C-USA's freshman of the year after rushing for 737 yards and eight touchdowns, with a single-game high of 155 yards against Houston. Butler was second on the team with 500 yards and a single-game high of 166 against Rice. Watson ran for a single-game high of 84 yards against Rice and rushed for 380 yards last season. Taliaferro finished with 251 yards, but had a single-game high of 130 yards against East Carolina.
Butler said every running back knows the other is good, so there's no relaxing in the spring or beyond.
"It makes everyone work harder from the weight room to the field to the classroom," he said. "It makes everyone work hard because they know at any time their spot can get taken."
New running backs coach Thomas Brown, a former freshman all-SEC running back at Georgia, hasn't been with his crew long, but he knew before he even got there that he had a talented one on his hands.
He said that, while at Tennessee-Chattanooga, he watched film on the group and walked away very impressed.