Herd accelerates Massaquoi's development
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If Marshall's Joe Massaquoi wants to dominate at defensive end, he's going to have to dominate in the weight room.
The sooner, the better, as far as Thundering Herd coaches are concerned.
The 6-foot-5, 242-pound redshirt freshman from Alexandria, Va., has been manning one end on the second unit and pretty much getting all of those reps. Ra'Shawde Myers has been on the other side on the second unit most of the spring, being spelled by Armonze Daniel.
But it has been Massaquoi who has been mentioned several times in those unprompted bits of post-practice praise by coach Doc Holliday, and has gotten a lot of attention from his coaches. Sometimes, that can be translated to "chewing out," or other unflattering terms.
Hey, there's an indisputable football law about that: If you're not getting chewed out, then you worry.
"A lot of times with defensive linemen, it takes them a couple of years to develop, and we're trying to force him to develop faster than what you normally do," said defensive ends coach Sean Cronin. "So we've been all over him, and he's a great kid and he's going to get it; we hope it's sooner rather than later."
Massaquoi was signed out of T.C. Williams High School, where he had 20 tackles and four sacks in four games before missing the rest of the season with a minor injury. He "grayshirted," entering the program in the spring of 2012.
By his admission, the college game whizzed around him. It was no surprise he redshirted in the fall.
"It's been good [this spring]. It's way better than last spring, when I first got here," he said. "It felt like everything was going so fast, and it's slowed down a little bit."
He was happy to see Cronin, whom he met during the recruiting process, return to Marshall. Cronin was defensive line coach at Marshall in 2010 before heading to Temple, and returned to MU after head coach Steve Addazio moved on to Boston College.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater brought in son-in-law Cronin to handle defensive ends, with returning D-line coach J.C. Price handling the tackles. Price is the only returning defensive coach to stay on that side of the ball, with Todd Hartley shifting to tight ends and all others moving on.
Price and Cronin seem to enjoy that division of duties.
"I've learned a lot from him already," Cronin said. "Sometimes it's good to hear a different perspective on things. Me and J.C. teach the same things; sometimes we teach it slightly different but we're teaching the same things. Maybe they hear it from me and kind of don't get it, he explains it and maybe that resonates.
"It gives us a chance to specialize with the ends and the tackles, but for the most part we're a unit."
The most visible task Cronin has is getting more out of returning starters Jeremiah Taylor and Alex Bazzie. They combined for 171/2 tackles for loss and 71/2 sacks, but the defense as a whole had just 19 sacks.
Cronin recalls Taylor as a developing player in that 2010 season, while he was not as familiar with Bazzie. After seeing Bazzie for 13 practices, Cronin loves what he sees.
"Bazz is such a high-motor guy, and he creates a lot of problems," Cronin said. "A lot of times, Bazzie, things might not be as perfect [but] he goes so hard and never stops moving, he's hard to block."
But Cronin's most important job may be teaching a raw Massaquoi the finer points of the position. The rest will fall to strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair - and Massaquoi's will.
"We hope by the fall, as he matures in the weight room, gets a little stronger, maybe comes into his own, matures mentally and develops some more mental toughness in the weight room, really becomes a guy by the fall, that's what our hope is," Cronin said. "We'll see how that goes.
"The ball's in his court now, and I think he'll handle it the right way."
There haven't been a lot of position/string changes, save for that "As the Linebacker Turns" saga, which won't be settled until August - or later. If you need to know, Billy Mitchell was paired with Cortez Carter and Jermaine Holmes was paired with Stefan Houston in two-linebacker sets.
Kevin Grooms, arrested over the weekend on underage consumption and obstruction charges, did not practice Tuesday. That did not mean he didn't get a workout - his penance exercises had observers groaning in pain.
No, Grooms is not getting off easy.
Marshall will practice in shorts at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, preparing for Saturday's Green-White Game. First whistle will be at 2 p.m.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@ wvgazette.com or at twitter.com/dougsmock.