HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Only one game is in the books for the Marshall defense, but this much is clear: The change in coaching scenery is indeed doing that side well.
Perhaps Jermaine Holmes will be the greatest beneficiary.
The 5-foot-11, 243-pound junior from Valdosta, Ga., enjoyed probably the best game of his career in the Thundering Herd's 52-14 whipping of Miami (Ohio), as he had eight tackles, four solo, with three tackles for loss and one sack.
Miami lost a total of 11 yards on those hard tackles, which will happen when a middle linebacker crosses the line of scrimmage freely. Holmes said he went in untouched twice.
"If they're going to give it to me, I'll take it," Holmes said Monday. "I'm not going to complain."
As exhibited in preseason camp, Holmes took advantage of a lighter play-calling and play-remembering load. Under new coordinator Chuck Heater, a single word dictated the plan for all units, all 11 players. Previously, Herd defenders had much more to think about.
Also, Holmes has prospered so far with some old-fashioned teaching.
"Heater came in, he taught me some things I didn't know," Holmes said. "I was like, 'Dang, if I'd do what coach Heater taught me [in 2012], I would have made this play, that play.' Each day I learned something new under [position coach Adam] Fuller and coach Heater, and that's going to help us a lot this year."
His teammates are noticing the difference, certainly. They're almost feeling his fierce hits.
"I think he's always been that way," said fellow linebacker Raheem Waiters. "But coach Fuller came in, critiqued him up a little bit and he's playing with a little more control, more discipline, and it shows."
Waiters played about 15 snaps, he said — shoot, Miami's offense was limited to 57 — and pretty much made the most of them. He had four tackles and a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Through the preseason, he has showed some anticipation skills.
"Just like the scrimmage [when he scored on a similar play]," Waiters said. "We were in the same coverage, [I] take the back or read the quarterback, I read the quarterback and his eyes took me straight to the ball — he threw it right to me.
"And he was the last line of defense. I wasn't going to let a quarterback tackle me."
That would have cost him a lot of grief in the locker room.
It appeared that Miami set its defensive strategy after watching quarterback Rakeem Cato and the Herd struggle against an eight-man coverage used last year by Alabama-Birmingham.