"They just wanted to be told how to do it and be led," Heater said. "They've been in a great mindset. They've been responsive. From the moment I got here, they've been great. There's not much resistance. They were ready to buy. You just have to make sure what you're selling is right.
"That's yet to be determined, if what we're selling is good enough to get them where we say we're going to get them," he added. "They've certainly bought what we're selling."
It didn't take senior corner Derrick Thomas very long to buy in. He was sold after the first day, when he realized how similar Heater was to his old defensive coordinator at Penn State, Tom Bradley.
"They've got that same fiery personality on the field," Thomas said, "but both can be the coolest, calmest guys off the field and help you with anything, coach you up on anything, explain anything to you the best they can without a bunch of yelling."
The yelling stays on the field, Heater said, because the meeting room is for instruction, for correction. And that's done best through conversation rather than ranting and raving. If the defense is making the same mistakes over and over, that might be the time for raised voices. But in Heater's mind, the meeting room is the classroom.
"In there, you've got to teach and hopefully it can transfer and they're executing at a high level on the field," he said. "There is, in my mind, two distinctive arenas, if you will."
Heater has brought some new ideas to the Marshall defense. The scheme often relies heavily on a nickel package, trading a linebacker for a third corner in order to better match up with the spread sets the Herd finds in Conference USA. He's also consolidated the alignment calls into a couple of words. Where, in the past, players would look to the sidelines for a laundry list of calls, they now get the same information in a much shorter timeframe.
"The offenses make it difficult, they're so fast," Heater said. "So you better find a word that's all-inclusive, that includes the coverage, includes the alignment, includes all of it."
Thomas said that move to simplicity has made been a major benefit.
"I definitely feel it out here, but more than feel it, I see it," he said. "We watch film after every practice, so I see it. It's such a big difference."
The Herd will see how much of a difference Heater has made starting Saturday night. He feels that, seeing the strides Marshall's defense has made since he arrived, it's on the right track.
"We think we're going to compete," Heater said. "The kids are really good. I don't know what perceptions people have, but I'd take these kids as a group any place I've been."
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.