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Marshall defense the same, but different

August 31, 2018

Marshall University football has a new defensive coordinator.

So, does that automatically mean the Thundering Herd also has a new defense?

Yes, no, maybe.

Check the “D” box for all of the above.

Although former linebackers coach Adam Fuller was promoted to defensive coordinator after veteran coordinator Chuck Heater left for the University of Maryland, he didn’t exactly go back to the drawing board.

Yet, when Miami (Ohio) hosts Marshall at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Oxford, Ohio, the RedHawks won’t be facing the same exact Herd defense opponents faced in 2017.

It will be different.

“It’s different like it has been different over the last several years,” said Fuller. “When you work on a defensive staff or a team somebody is going to be the coordinator because that’s just how it works. But it’s really the culmination of everybody else in the room.

“When we got together five years ago, it was like ‘OK, this is what I envision’ with the speaker being Chuck Heater. Then, ‘What can we do? What can we add? What are your experiences?’ But it leans back to him.

“And, then, you just kind of put your ideas together. But each year, you go back and look at it.”

Then, the defensive coaches tinker with new ideas and concepts. It’s an on-going process.

“Every year,” agreed Fuller. “So, there are differences, there are similarities. ... but there are a lot of differences from two years ago to last year. We were legitimately different last year.”

Indeed.

MU replaced one of the traditional defensive ends with the “Fox” position, which utilized a hybrid player who had the size and athleticism of a big linebacker/small defensive end.

“Which we thought was important,” said Fuller. “We looked at the roster. As coaches you say, ‘Well, this is what we are.’ But, then, you say, ‘This is what we have.’ And you have to make those decisions.”

Another change in the 2017 defense was the safeties were noticeably more involved in run support.

“That’s correct,” said Fuller. “Yes, there was more of that last year. And there will be more of that this year.”

There also will be some other subtle tweaks.

“We’re going to take what we thought worked,” said Fuller, “and we’re going to add some new things because we have different roles now. J.C. (defensive tackles coach J.C. Price) has a great voice. Cornell (defensive ends coach Cornell Brown) has a great voice. Mike Treier (cornerbacks coach) has got a good voice.

“And, now, Byron (linebackers coach Byron Thweatt) is here. Me and Byron worked together in 2007 at the University of Richmond. So, there’s openness in communication. And when you have a trust and openness, it’s not just “Last year, what worked? Let’s tinker.′ It’s, ‘Adam, I did this in 2008 when I was at school x, y or z.’ ”

Yet, one aspect never ever changes.

It’s called playing fast.

“Our goal is to do as many things as we can on defense, while still sticking with the same base philosophies,” said Fuller. “We want to be able to grow it and make it look like we’re doing a lot of things, but still allow our players to play fast.”

So, will Marshall’s defense be the same or different?

Actually, it will be both.

Sort of like fraternal twins.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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