CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Marshall Coach Doc Holliday arrived in Huntington in 2010, he saw two places on the team that needed work - strength and speed.
Both have improved during his tenure and he said both need to be solid when the Herd visits West Virginia University in the Friends of Coal Bowl noon Saturday. The game is being televised on FX.
"I think we've helped ourselves depth-wise at the skill positions and I think we do have more speed," Holliday said. "I know we're stronger now than when I got here, but we still have a ways to go in that department. But I think we have improved and gotten better."
Holliday said the area where it might have helped the most is on special teams.
Before last season, he didn't think he had the speed in those areas to stay with teams like Southern Mississippi and Central Florida. That wasn't the case for the Herd in 2011.
"I didn't think we got outmatched a year ago in our kicking game and I think that won six of seven games for us," he said. "We take great pride in that and put our best guys on that."
Holliday likes his defensive speed in that newcomers like Boston College transfer safeties Okechukwu Okoroha and Dominick LeGrande allowed players like Raheem Waiters and Devin Arrington move from safety to linebacker and add to that units athleticism.
Offensively, the speed from freshman running backs Kevin Grooms and Steward Butler will give the Mountaineers a look they have not yet seen.
"As I've said all along, it's a personnel-driven game and there's no doubt in my mind that we're a better team as far as personnel goes," he said.
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HOLLIDAY RELEASED his first depth chart of the season, and perhaps the most surprising entrant was Essray Taliaferro, who rushed 26 times for 92 yards in 2011, at second-team running back.
But Holliday said it's not too much of a surprise for him.
"Taliaferro is a guy that maybe had the best camp," he said. "He had an exceptional camp in all phases and he can really go. You look at his measurables, he's as good as any of them."
But that doesn't mean freshmen Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms won't see action. The two, who had impressed throughout preseason camp with their speed and agility, won't stay on the sidelines long.
"I could put slash-slash-slash-slash if I wanted to," Holliday said.
One running back who won't play Saturday is 2011 leading rusher Tron Martinez, who is still recovering from offseason knee surgery. Holliday said Martinez, who rushed for 649 yards last season, won't be ruled out for following weeks just yet.
In other depth chart matters, true freshman punter Tyler Williams beat out redshirt freshman Austin Dumas for that starting job. Redshirt sophomore kicker Justin Haig beat out Trent Martin, though Holliday said he won't rule out using both. Redshirt junior Monterius Lovett is listed above Penn State transfer Derrick Thomas at cornerback and redshirt sophomore Ra'Shawde Myers is listed above redshirt junior Alex Bazzie at defensive end.