"I told our players, you wanna figure out what your name is, do something," he said. "Play really well and we'll figure out who 12 and 1 are."
Now, some folks outside the football program feel they shouldn't have to work in order to figure out the identities underneath those jerseys. Some took to social media to call it a high school ploy, that the handful of duplicate jersey numbers on the team would make it impossible to tell the players apart. Some even claimed it was a stunt to spike program sales.
First off, if a Division I athletic program is so hard up for cash that it's taking names off football jerseys so more people will buy game programs, that joint is in bigger trouble than anyone can imagine. Marshall's not in that mess. As for duplicate numbers, the two guys who share the number 11 are 5-foot-7 receiver Devon Smith and 6-foot-5 defensive lineman James Rouse.
A high school move? Tell that to Notre Dame, which normally keeps its jerseys nameless. The University of Southern California goes name-free, too. Penn State went without names until last season. Those are some teams with some pretty strong traditions.
Removing names from jerseys and putting captainships up to a weekly vote create a more democratic atmosphere in the Marshall locker room. They're gestures that promote the Herd as a whole, not the individual members, and let them know anyone has the opportunity to lead. Holliday showed the team and the fans that when he brought more than two dozen players to last week's Charleston event.
That's what he felt was his leadership base - seniors, juniors and sophomores, stars and supporting cast members. Senior defensive end Alex Bazzie doesn't have a problem with any of it.
"We understand this community has a lot of history," Bazzie said. "The program has a winning history, when Chad Pennington and those guys were here. When you hear those guys talk about their winning experiences, they talk about Marshall. They talk about the Herd. Chad Pennington doesn't go up there and say 'Chad Pennington did this,' or 'Chad Pennington did that.' He goes up there and says, 'Our team, the Herd.'
"We're representing the team, he added. "When we get that victory at the end of the day, it's the team that won. It's not an 'I' thing, it's a 'we.' And as long as 'we' matter, there is no 'I.'"
But those names might not be gone forever. Holliday said that, if the team performs well and reaches a bowl game, the names will go back on their backs as a reward.
That's Holliday's hope, and he'll weather the conspiracy theories over game programs to get there. He figures if the Herd wins, names on the backs of jerseys will be the last thing anyone worries about.
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.