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Week of healing for Herd

HUNTINGTON -- Marshall's midseason siesta really is in the middle of the season -- six games are in the books with six to go.

For the curious, that has happened one other time in the era of 12-game schedules, in 2008. To preserve the sanity of Thundering Herd fans everywhere, we'll skip over the before-and-after results of that year.

Coach Doc Holliday can't skip over this week, as he ruminates over the Herd's 45-38 loss to Tulsa last weekend and tries to apply the appropriate lessons to the Oct. 20 game at Southern Mississippi.

Players were given Sunday and Monday off as Holliday's assistants hit the road on targeted recruiting visits. The team returned for lifting and running Tuesday and will practice in shorts today. Physical workouts follow Thursday and Friday, with players getting Saturday off and the coaches meeting.

It is a week of healing all the way around - physically, mentally, fundamentally and emotionally. The Herd is 2-4 with two excruciating losses at home.

"My standards and expectations are extremely high," Holliday said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "For us to get where we want to go, we have to be able to beat teams like Tulsa that are one of the better teams in our league. It has to happen. It didn't happen and it is disappointing, but we have to get back to work and get better.

"Our goal has always been to win the conference championship. To be able to do that, we have to be able to line up against teams like Tulsa and find a way to make plays to beat them."

Getting the walking wounded into better health will help. Holliday cited the case of Chris Jasperse, who has played every snap of the last four games despite wearing an orthopedic boot during those weeks. Garrett Scott and John Bruhin are other linemen battling injury.

And they're not the only ones. Players wear red shirts at full-pads practices when they have such injuries, signaling them to stay out of full-contact situations. Some days, it has looked too much like Christmas, but Holliday doesn't expect to see a lot of red next week.

"Our two [starting] corners have been in red jerseys for three weeks," Holliday said. "They haven't been able to go through tackling drills and things they need to do to become better players.

"It's not just us. This is happening all over the country. Six weeks into your season, you're going to have some guys banged up."

Defense is an obvious point of emphasis, tackling and otherwise. Holliday doesn't need to be told that unit is 120th in the nation in scoring allowed, 115th in sacks, 112th in rushing yardage and 105th in total yardage.

"I think the two safeties [Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha] are starting to feel comfortable," Holliday said. "They've played pretty solid. I think [linebacker] D.J. Hunter is starting to step up and make some plays. The defensive front has played better. Again, as a group we are not nearly where we want to be, but I think they've all made some progress."

Holliday is disappointed with the kickoff return units, both ways. Andre Snipes-Booker has struggled to make the 25-yard line when he does return it under the new touchback-heavy kickoff rules. Conversely, the Herd gave up a kickoff return touchdown against Tulsa.

The minus-7 turnover margin is as large a concern as any. The Herd is 89th in losing turnovers (12) and 106th in forcing them (five).

"You work all the time on ball drills and strip drills," Holliday said. "That's one thing we have to do a better job of. We have to do a better job at not turning it over and a better job at creating turnovers ourselves."

Other tidbits from Holliday's press conference:

  • Holliday holds out hope that defensive tackle Ken Smith may overcome his injury and play this season. He is not so optimistic about other long-term injuries to defensive lineman James Rouse and cornerback Darryl Roberts.
  • As for priorities in recruiting, Holliday said his staff needs to land two or three outside receivers, a couple of linebackers, one more offensive lineman and perhaps a safety. Keep in mind that with a small number of seniors, the 2013 signing class will be about half the usual maximum of 25.
  • Just as important is to hang onto commitments Herd coaches have. Three offensive linemen have been reported, as has Boca Raton, Fla., quarterback Ken Anderson.

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

     


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