Opponents are converting on third down more than 14 percent less often (30.68 percent this season compared to 44.75 percent last season). The Herd has gained 13 turnovers in six games in 2013 after needing 12 games in 2012 to gain 18. Not surprisingly, the Herd is 4-2 after six games this year, as opposed to starting 2-4 last year. (And, not surprisingly, the Herd gave up at least 45 points in four of those 2012 games.)
So how has Heater done it? He added a fifth defensive back to the base defense and removed a lot of the jargon that bogged down the 2012 group. He wasn't afraid to throw a "radar" defense look at teams, where there are no down defensive linemen and plenty of confused offensive linemen. And the players all have mentioned the attitude he's instilled in the group and a love for teaching the game that hasn't waned even in his 37th season as a coach.
Now, Heater's had some help from the players on the field, especially newcomers like defensive back Corey Tindal and linebacker Neville Hewitt, plus guys like defensive tackle James Rouse and corner Darryl Roberts, who have returned from injury. But many of the players on Marshall's defensive depth chart were on the field last season. They're just playing better.
Take linebacker Jermaine Holmes for instance. In 2012, his physical gifts - speed and athleticism encased in a 5-foot-11, 243-pound frame - were obvious. He admitted, however, that the defensive scheme often led him to hesitate. There is no such hesitation this season, and that's led to even more impressive performances.
In a season where Marshall's offensive numbers are merely really good rather than otherworldly, the Herd's defense has allowed for easy wins against some teams and the ability to stay in striking distance versus all of them. For that, Heater deserves a ton of the credit.
Maybe, if the Herd players earn the reward of their names on their backs for a bowl game, Heater can have his name sewn on the back of his pullover. Right now, three letters would be enough to show his value.
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.