NCF Nation: Doc Holliday
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There was already more than enough evidence proving the sharpness of Urban Meyer's eye for talent, but add one more perfect example to the Ohio State coach's file.
Tom Herman wasn't toiling away in total anonymity while at Iowa State and building his case as one of the hottest young coordinators in the nation, but he also wasn't so well known that it was obvious Meyer would have to pursue him when he was putting together his first Buckeyes coaching staff three seasons ago. In fact, there really was no previous relationship between the two of them at all.
But Herman shared a similar philosophy with Meyer and won him over quickly despite not popping up on many coaching hot lists. The same was true for current co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, when Meyer was in the market for an assistant on that side of the ball after last season.
With a coaching tree that has sprouted yet another branch -- Herman is officially taking over as Houston's coach -- and so many Meyer protégés scattered around the country, by now it should be no secret that Meyer is as successful at spotting what he wants in his coaches as he is recruiting top-shelf talent for them to work with on the field.
Filling Herman's shoes won't be easy, not after his wild success preparing four quarterbacks in the past two seasons -- thanks to a string of injuries that almost certainly would have crippled most attacks but barely slowed down the Buckeyes -- to operate the highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten. But when added to a list of former assistants -- like Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong, Steve Addazio, Doc Holliday, Tim Beckman and Gary Andersen -- who are now in charge of programs, the loss of Herman represents another chance for Meyer to add fresh ideas and continue evolving, rather than pose an insurmountable obstacle for title chances in 2015.
The hiring of Herman by the Cougars also offers a fantastic fit for both parties. Herman's ties to recruiting Texas, his knowledge of quarterback play and the spread offense, and his personality will be smash hits with fans and boosters of his new program. It's a victory for the Buckeyes in that they'll keep him around for as long as they're alive in the College Football Playoff.
So even though there's always uncertainty when a job this critical to a major program like Ohio State comes open, Meyer has earned the benefit of the doubt that he'll get his hire right, probably by nabbing an up-and-comer who wasn't widely considered an option when the process began. And given the somewhat unusual way Meyer operates with his offensive staff, he's already working from ahead because he doesn't have to also replace his invaluable offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, who like Herman is destined to run his own program at some point in the near future.
"Like on offense right now, we have two coordinators -- Ed Warinner, Tom Herman -- and myself," Meyer said recently. "It’s not one guy calling plays, that’s not the way how we do business. At some places, that’s maybe how they do it.
"But we script each play, everybody is involved in the game plan and that’s the only way I’m going to have it. I don’t want that dictator in there, that’s not the way we do business."
Losing another coordinator, even the reigning Broyles Award winner as the best assistant in the nation, isn't going to run the Buckeyes out of business.
It's probably going to provide a major boost for Houston and it sets Herman on the path to prove himself and potentially land a bigger job down the road, while leaving Meyer to do a bit of professional recruiting again this offseason. In the end, the odds look good that everybody gets what they want.
The list of reasons why the Florida head coaching job is so attractive is awfully long, but the biggest reason is recruiting.
Texas might produce more Division I prospects, and you can find high concentrations of talent in California, but if you want to find difference-makers -- the kind you need to win the SEC and the national championship -- you head to the Sunshine State. The University of Florida sits in the heart of the highest quality and quantity of high school football talent in America, and to win big the Gators must hire somebody who can tap into that local pipeline. Will Muschamp’s replacement must beat Florida State and Miami regularly for these players and also keep Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Les Miles, Urban Meyer and others from poaching players away.
It’s a tall task indeed, but here are top 10 candidates who would make sense at Florida because they have the recruiting chops to be successful.
Head coach, Ole Miss
Freeze might be tough to pry away from Oxford because of his close ties to the state of Mississippi and the fact that he still has more time left with the vaunted 2013 top-five recruiting class he brought in to Ole Miss. But from a recruiting standpoint, it’s hard to think of somebody who would be in a better position to lure talent to Gainesville. Freeze already knows how to recruit in the cutthroat SEC and has recruited against the big dogs with a lot of success in Florida since he arrived at Ole Miss.
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2. West Virginia's upset of Oklahoma State provided a ray of hope in Morgantown as the Mountaineers prepare to play at No. 17 Baylor, which is 15-1 at home since the beginning 2011. It's no coincidence that the struggles of the Mountaineers coincide with the departure of top recruiter Doc Holliday to become head coach of Marshall three years ago. Holliday is well-known for his ability to recruit in Florida, where the Mountaineers found quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Stedman Bailey. They left last season, and no one as talented has appeared to replace them.
3. The disappearance of tough intersectional games has led to grade inflation at the football stadium. I looked at the Week 6 AP poll for each of the last 10 seasons. From 2004-11, the average number of undefeated teams is a shade under 14. Last season, 18 teams made it to Week 6 without a blemish. This season, it's 17. It must be the disappearance of tough intersectional games. Let's hope that nine-game conference schedules and the College Football Playoff force teams to play up, and do it earlier.
Marshall beat FIU 20-10 in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl on Tuesday night. Here is a look at how it happened:
How the game was won: Marshall special teams. The Thundering Herd have been excellent all season at blocking kicks, and Tuesday night was no exception. With its offense stalling left and right, Marshall got the big play it needed with 7:35 left in the game. FIU set up to punt from its own 22, but Zach Dunston blocked the kick -- the seventh block of the season for Marshall (three kicks, four punts). The Herd appeared to score on the play, but the touchdown was negated because there was an illegal forward pass. A personal foul call on Tyrone Carper was tacked onto the end of the play. But Marshall was able to stay in field goal range, and Tyler Warner made a 39-yard kick that hit off the inside of the upright to put the Herd ahead. Aaron Dobson caught his second touchdown pass of the game on a fourth-down play with 30 seconds left to ice the game.
Turning point: The block was a huge turning point for Marshall. For FIU -- it was the play of T.Y. Hilton. The Panthers were determined to get him going early, and he had some nice plays -- including their only touchdown of the game. But he bruised his thigh in the first half and was mostly ineffective when he returned to the game in the second half. After Marshall kicked its go-ahead field goal, Hilton had a costly play that ended up being a deciding factor. He fumbled after a catch near midfield with 4:24 remaining, and Marshall recovered. It was his second fumble of the game, though he recovered his first.
Player of the game: Dunston. His blocked kick turned the tide in the game.
What Marshall learned: The Thundering Herd won their seventh bowl game in the last eight appearances, and Doc Holliday led this team to a winning record in his second season. This win is huge for the momentum he is building at program eager to restore its past traditions. Rakeem Cato was inconsistent in the game, but playing as a true freshman can only help next season.
What FIU learned: Without an effective quarterback, it is hard to win games. The Panthers decided to start senior Wesley Carroll, but he struggled. Backup Jake Medlock came in briefly in the fourth quarter but was equally ineffective. They had no downfield passing game, also hurt because of a hobbled Hilton. Now the question that looms is whether FIU coach Mario Cristobal returns next season. He is a candidate at Pitt.
WHO TO WATCH: Hilton. One of the most dynamic playmakers in all of college football, Hilton was slowed earlier this year with a hamstring injury but has returned to form. This season, Hilton broke the FIU and Sun Belt career records for receiving yards (3,443), receiving touchdowns (24), all-purpose yards (7,351) and kickoff return yards (2,819). He also was named to the Sun Belt first-team as a receiver, kick returner and all-purpose player. That's as well-rounded as you can get.
WHAT TO WATCH: Quarterback situation. Neither team has the most stable quarterback situation. Marshall will start true freshman Rakeem Cato, who is back in the starting lineup after he got benched midway through the season. With A.J. Graham out because of a shoulder injury, the Herd must rely on Cato to help lead the team to victory. He was great in an overtime win over East Carolina to get Marshall bowl eligible, but he has been maddeningly inconsistent this season (10 interceptions to 13 touchdown passes). Meanwhile, FIU is expected to play both Wes Carroll and Jake Medlock -- coach Mario Cristobal will probably make a game-time decision. Carroll was benched this season as well but played again after Medlock got hurt. Both are healthy going into this game.
WHY TO WATCH: This is your last chance to get a look at Curry before he moves on to the NFL. The C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, Curry has put together back-to-back outstanding seasons. Cristobal says Curry "discombobulates people." That is an astute way of putting it. This season, Curry is tied for third nationally with six forced fumbles, ranks second in tackles for loss (21) and is sixth in sacks (11).
PREDICTION: FIU 28, Marshall 21. Neither team jumps off the page statistically speaking. In fact, Marshall is the only one of the 70 bowl teams to rank 80th or worse in both total offense and total defense, according to ESPN Stats & Information. FIU has Hilton, and he makes the difference in this game.
Top prospects: The ESPN Recruiting folks love four-star linebacker Armonze Daniel, writing he is a steal for the Thundering Herd. Of Daniel, they write: “He can stack the run with striking downhill strength as well as match up in space with great athleticism.” Also included in the class are two players who signed with AQ schools last season -- running back Travon Van (Florida) and quarterback/athlete Conelius Jones (Michigan).
Needs met: The Thundering Herd needed help at linebacker and quarterback and seemed to have gotten it. Daniel and Deon Meadows are the stars at linebacker, while Marshall also got Blake Frohnapel and Rakeem Cato at quarterback. Depth on the defensive line also was answered with Jarquez Samuel and Robert Mincey. Marshall loaded up on skill position players as well, something that should definitely help the Thundering Herd, who struggled without a big-time playmaker last season.
Analysis: Coach Doc Holliday has a great reputation as a top recruiter, and he most certainly showed why with this class. Plenty of talent here, and plenty of players coming in from Florida, where he spent several years as an assistant under coach Urban Meyer. Now he has to coach these players up and get Marshall to the top of the East.
But the Herd have no choice at this point, and are hoping a home crowd and national television stage can provide them some momentum when they play UCF tonight at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
The Herd have not appeared to be the same since that game. Their lone win came against Ohio, when the Bobcats failed to make a two-point conversion with no time left. In its two losses since the West Virginia game, Marshall has been outscored 85-44. That includes an embarrassing 41-16 loss to Southern Miss in which the Herd had more penalties (12) than first downs (11) and gained just 170 total yards.
Quarterback Brian Anderson was pulled after going 4-of-13 for 16 yards in the first half. Though A.J. Graham was better, he hurt his ankle and Anderson will start against the Knights.
Perhaps fans can take some measure of solace in knowing Anderson plays better at home. In two home games this season, he is 41-of-59 for 524 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
But the bottom line is the Marshall offense has been mediocre, and the Herd have struggled to establish a running game. They rank No. 106 in the nation in total yards, averaging just 300 yards a game, and are 105 in rushing offense. A shaky quarterback and shaky run game have kept point production down, too, as Marshall ranks No. 100 in scoring offense, averaging 19.2 points a game.
“We spend a lot of time in that meeting room to find ways for our offense to be successful,” Holliday said. “We all know being one-dimensional is not one of those ways. Believe me, we are working extremely hard and spending a lot of time trying to find the best way to run the football. It comes down to blocking and we’ve got to do a better job of doing that.”
About the only highlight has been the play of Vinny Curry and Mario Harvey on defense. Curry leads the nation with eight sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Harvey leads the nation with an average of 13 tackles a game, and also has four sacks. Putting pressure on quarterbacks Jeffrey Godfrey and Rob Calabrese is going to be a huge goal.
Marshall has yet to beat UCF in Conference USA play, dating to 2005, and is still smarting from a 21-20 loss last season in which the Knights came back to win with 23 seconds left. The Herd has plenty to get them motivated.
“This game concerns me,” UCF coach George O’Leary said. “It’s a big game up there. There’s not a lot of love there, more so on Marshall’s part than our part. It will be an interesting game. I don’t think there will be a lot of handshakes. As I told our team, just take out the West Virginia film. That’s the kind of capabilities they have and I think that’s the effort that we’ll get.”
The Mountaineers trailed 21-6, and Marshall had the ball inside their 5 with 8:28 left. A score probably would have ended things.
Led by impressive sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, the Mountaineers mounted two long touchdown drives and a two-point conversion to tie things up with just seconds left. Then Tyler Bitancurt nailed a field goal in overtime and Marshall missed its field-goal try, giving No. 23 West Virginia a 24-21 victory. Mountaineers fans everywhere -- and the Big East -- could exhale.
How about Smith? West Virginia had to go 98 yards with a little more than three minutes left and one timeout to get the tying score. He floated a beautiful pass to Will Johnson in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown and found Jock Sanders in the back of the end zone for the two-pointer. Smith showed amazing poise for a sophomore making his second college start, and he looks like a star in the making.
That is, if his offensive line can give him protection. West Virginia almost lost because Marshall's defense eviscerated their offensive line, hurrying and hitting Smith often. That unit was completely exposed by former West Virginia assistant Doc Holliday's new team, and the Mountaineer won't go far if they don't start blocking better.
There was a lot not to like about the Mountaineers' performance. Too many penalties. Turnovers. Marshall often looked better-prepared and far hungrier.
But the bottom line is that West Virginia won, and thankfully for Stewart. His fan base would have roasted him for being the first coach to lose to Marshall in school history. There will still be a lot of grumbling in the days to come, but he and his team live to fight another day. Their goal of returning to the 10-win plateau looks shakier now, especially with Maryland and LSU coming up.
At least they escaped to get to 2-0. And at least the Big East didn't suffer another embarrassing loss.
But when the Friends of Coal Bowl kicks off Friday night (ESPN, 7 ET), it will lack the bite of most bitter in-state showdowns. Part of the reason is that it has been so one-sided; West Virginia has never lost to the Thundering Herd and has won the past four meetings by an average of nearly 25 points. And the series doesn't have as much history as you might expect -- the teams have only played five times since 1923.
There are many Mountaineers fans who see this as a ho-hum kind of game. I asked on Twitter recently whether West Virginia fans wanted the series to continue, and the majority of those who responded said either no, or not with the game making regular stops in Huntington.
The current series contract ends in 2012, and this is the last year that Marshall has a scheduled home game between the two. Gov. Joe Manchin has been an ardent supporter of extending the series, but West Virginia is demanding a 2-for-1 deal, while the Thundering Herd wants a home-and-home contract. There's a good chance that even if the schools reach another deal that they might not play every year.
West Virginia coaches and players have used the 'R' word this week to describe this game, however.
"Yeah, it's a rivalry," cornerback Brandon Hogan said. "It's in-state and not too far away from us. I feel like we owe it to the guys on the team from West Virginia to not have a loss in this rivalry game."
"It’s all about state pride," running back Noel Devine said. "It means a lot to people here."
Adding interest to this year's game is the coaching connection. New Marshall head coach Doc Holliday was a longtime West Virginia assistant. When Bill Stewart got promoted to full-time coach after the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, he sacrificed some of his salary to bring Holliday aboard as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for a $400,000 salary. The ties between Stewart and Holliday extend almost 40 years.
"I put a lot of trust in him and confidence in him," Stewart said. "He has been a confidant for me. We're tremendous friends and I wish him nothing but the best, but I want to beat him."
Still, there were some hurt feelings inside the Mountaineers program when Holliday left and tried to recruit players to Marshall that he had been pursuing as a West Virginia assistant. Holliday also knows the West Virginia personnel, schemes and secrets as well as anyone. But Stewart says that is no big deal, and that the Mountaineers have changed all their sideline hand signals.
"The playing is done by the men in the arena," Stewart said. "The guys on the sidelines have direction over that. But when it comes down to blocking and tackling and young men playing hard and straining and all the intangibles of playing football, that's usually done by the guys on the field, not off it."
Besides, Holliday might know how West Virginia likes to hand off to Devine, but that doesn't mean his players can stop it. In his debut as head coach, the Thundering Herd lost 45-7 at Ohio State. The Herd did not score a point on offense while giving up 529 yards.
"Looking at the film, they made a few mistakes in the secondary," West Virginia receiver Jock Sanders said. "Their secondary is not their strength. Their defensive
line and their linebackers are their strength. We’ll have to exploit the secondary with the things that we do with our offense."
The Mountaineers are heavy favorites to win the Coal Bowl yet again. It will take a great effort for Marshall to reverse history -- and to inject some life into this rivalry that's not quite a rivalry.
The Utes put the "U" in ugly during win, writes Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune.
It appears Sun Belt officials blew a crucial call late in Middle Tennessee's loss to Minnesota.
Still, there was plenty to build on for the Blue Raiders, playing without Dwight Dasher.
Is South Carolina that good, Southern Miss that bad, or a combination of both?
Idaho posted its first shutout since 1997.
Colin Kaepernick said he played just average in Nevada's win.
Ball State easily won its opener.
Dan Enos won his opener at Central Michigan, the school's first opening-game shutout since 1979. Ryan Radcliff went 20-of-34 for 242 yards and a touchdown.
Spencer Keith had his first three-TD game in Kent State's opener against Murray State.
Jerry Davis proved he has a good grasp of Buffalo's new offense in a win against Rhode Island.
FAU rallied from a 16-point deficit to stun UAB in Birmingham. Included in the comeback was a last-second blocked field goal to preserve the victory.
Plenty for Doc Holliday and Marshall to learn after their 45-7 loss to Ohio State.
Many concerns for Northern Illinois after losing to Iowa State.
Southeastern Louisiana gave Tulane all it could handle.
Hawaii came oh-so-close to USC, but its defense could not get the job done.
Meanwhile, TCU coach Gary Patterson said he "screwed up" in the Fiesta Bowl for allowing his team too many distractions. Players are having their cell phones taken away Friday night to prevent any distractions before Oregon State.
And as a reward for making it this far, I give you a must-read Washington Post magazine feature on Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs.
Other conference links:
And make no mistake: The BCS title is the goal for the Buckeyes this season. Head coach Jim Tressel returns one of his most complete teams, and after winning or sharing five consecutive Big Ten championships and winning the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, the next step is rather obvious.
There's a ton of anticipation for this Buckeyes season. I saw people wearing Ohio State jerseys at Midway Airport Thursday morning in Chicago, more Ohio State jerseys after I landed in Chicago and even a few more when I grabbed lunch at Chipotle near my hotel. The Buckeyes are everything in this town, and the anticipation for the season is very noticeable.
These two teams had better be in shape because its very hot tonight. The temperature will be in the high 80s around kickoff and not drop much during the game, maybe 10 degrees. It was very balmy walking to the stadium from the new media parking lot, in a tie, no less. Rain is on the way, but not until early Friday.
Marshall is an interesting first opponent for the Buckeyes. The Thundering Herd return 13 starters but have new systems on both sides of the ball as the Doc Holliday era begins. Senior quarterback Brian Anderson isn't an ideal fit for the spread offense, but the Herd plan to stick with the veteran.
Unless Ohio State stumbles out of the gate, most of my attention Thursday night will be on Buckeyes junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Will he take the next step or continue to be inconsistent like he was for much of his sophomore season? I'm also interested to see who emerges at running back, and how young defenders like John Simon and C.J. Barnett perform. Safety/linebacker Tyler Moeller's return to the field also should be pretty special.
We've waited for months, and the season is finally here. Time to get excited. You know I am.
Central Florida redshirt freshman running back Brendan Kelly believes the Knights rushing attack will still be strong even without Brynn Harvey.
Houston aims to be four games better than it was a year ago.
The Detroit News broke down the challenges its three state schools from the Mid-American Conference are facing this year.
The Idaho Statesman takes an early look at Boise State opponent Oregon State.
Hurricane, W.V., now announces itself as the home of current Marshall football coach Doc Holliday.
First-year coach Doc Holliday decided to part ways with the junior after he was involved in an incident with Huntington police last week.
“T.J. Drakeford has been dismissed from the Marshall football team due to a team rules violation,” Holliday said in a statement released by the school.Drakeford was arrested for two misdemeanors -- battery on a police officer after he allegedly pushed a cop in the chest and obstructing justice.
Teammate DeQuan Bembry also was involved in the incident. He was arrested for assault on a police officer and public intoxication, both misdemeanors.
Bembry, who’s had trouble with the law in the past, remains indefinitely suspended from the football team.
Last May, Bembry was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver with former teammate Darius Marshall.
In March 2009, Bembry was arrested and charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.
Bembry was suspended the first game of the 2009 season, but went on to lead the team with three interceptions. He also had 53 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
"They have let their team down, their coaches down, our fans down and the Huntington community down,” Holliday said in a statement regarding Bembry and defensive back T. J. Drakeford, who was accused of striking an officer in the chest.
“I am extremely disappointed in their actions and the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken once I have all the facts.”
Holliday’s is the second first-year non-AQ coach in the past week to deal with a player’s legal issues. East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill dismissed Brandon Jackson after the running back was charged with underage consumption of alcohol, intoxication and simple affray. Similar to Bembry, it was Jackson’s third arrest.
The school has not yet announced what punishments have been levied on either Bembry or Drakeford.