HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Marshall coach Doc Holliday doesn't want to see a repeat of last year's floundering defense.
While Marshall thrived behind quarterback Rakeem Cato, opposing offenses ran up 43 points per game on the Thundering Herd, which allowed at least 50 points five times.
Chris Rippon resigned as defensive coordinator a day after Marshall finished the season 5-7. The widely traveled Chuck Heater, who was on Urban Meyer's staff at Florida along with Holliday last decade, was hired by Holliday from Temple to try to straighten out a unit that returns seven starters.
"Offensively we took some strides. We got better a year ago," said Holliday, Marshall's fourth-year coach. "Defensively, we didn't. We've got to make sure that happens this year."
He'll try to turn things around with Heater, who's at his 12th school in a college coaching career that began in 1976. Heater earned two national championship rings while on Urban Meyer's staff at Florida and another in 1988 at Notre Dame.
"Seeing from last year to this year, you can tell the attitude of the defense changed," said Marshall defensive end Jeremiah Taylor. "When somebody makes a play, you see the whole sideline up and cheering, rooting them on."
Marshall has yet to earn a berth in the Conference USA championship game since joining the league in 2005. The key to getting there this season could loom in the regular-season finale Nov. 29 at home against East Division favorite East Carolina.
Marshall opens the season at home Aug. 31 against Miami (Ohio).