HUNTINGTON - From his position across the field last weekend, Marshall's D.J. Hunter liked what he saw in the less-familiar No. 51.
That jersey belongs to Deon Meadows, who was pressed into his first extended action by an injury to Devin Arrington. To hear Hunter tell it, Meadows didn't stand still in his first extended action at weak-side linebacker.
"He was all over the field, getting to the ball," said Hunter, MU's starter on the strong side.
It wasn't a banner day for the Thundering Herd defense, which yielded a number of big plays in a 54-17 loss to Central Florida. The Herd yielded 568 total yards, 421 of them on 18 plays of 10 or more yards.
Injuries were a factor, and that's what brought Meadows into the game early. Scarcely 10 minutes into the game, Arrington stopped UCF running back Latavius Murray for a 1-yard gain and then limped off, not to be seen again.
During his weekly press conference Tuesday, coach Doc Holliday announced that Arrington would miss the next two or three weeks, starting with the Herd's game at 2 p.m. Saturday at home against Memphis.
Meadows was the team's third-leading tackler on a difficult night, recording seven, including four solos. He also blocked an extra point, downed a punt at the UCF 1-yard line and recovered his own forced fumble in the fourth quarter.
"He played pretty good," said defensive coordinator Chris Rippon. "There were some cases, certainly, where he was a little bit rusty, but he made a number of tackles, filled the gap. One mental error, an alignment error. Other than that, he was ready to go."
Barring last-minute changes, Arrington's injury will give Meadows his first start, with former starting strong-side linebacker Raheem Waiters up to the second unit. Listed at 5-foot-11, 223 pounds, Meadows now has a week to consider his new role.
That's good and bad. Hunter, who was moved from safety and thrust into his linebacker spot after the first week, can relate.
"You're excited but, at the same time, you're really nervous. If he was nervous, I understand where he's coming from," Hunter said.
Meadows' coaches think he'll do fine after playing essentially a full game, and Meadows said he's more comfortable.
"I have some things to take care of, knowing I'm not 100 percent sure of things I'm doing out there," Meadows said. "But if you play fast, you're going to make plays, and that's the biggest thing."