HUNTINGTON — Marshall University junior center Levi Brown might have the toughest job of anyone as the Thundering Herd football team prepares to play Middle Tennessee.
Brown has a short week to get ready for a team with some of the most unique defensive looks the Rimington Trophy candidate said he will see all season. Middle Tennessee (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) visits Marshall (3-1, 1-0) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium (CBS Sports Network telecast).”Middle Tennessee is one of the heaviest blitz defenses that I believe we will see all year,” Brown said. “I think last year, we went through and did the percentage of blitz and it was around 70 percent. They are a blitzheavy team and they like to get their best players on our best players and cause a little ruckus in the backfield.”
That blitz-heavy opponent means there was little time to enjoy last week’s win over Western Kentucky (20-17) or rest for Brown and the offensive line.
After arriving back in Huntington at 4 a.m. Sunday from the Western Kentucky game, Brown said he got some sleep
before going back to the Shewey Building to watch video of mistakes from the contest and get a jump on Middle Tennessee prior to working out and Sunday’s evening practice.
In his third year as a starting player Brown knows with the Blue Raiders coming to town there will be plenty of different looks to know.
“Every year, they do something different on defense that you never really see anywhere else,” Brown said. “A lot of times, they will line up with four people outside their D-ends and they make you change your offense for their defense, which is something that I think they do really well.”
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday mentioned the importance of blitz recognition during his Monday news conference and also tabbed Brown as one of the game captains this week. Last season, Middle Tennessee incorporated more of an odd (three-man) defensive front in the Herd’s 38-10 win, but this season has seen the Blue Raiders go more to even (four-man) looks.
Holliday said the Herd will be prepared for both.
“They are a little bit different defensively, but their defensive coordinator is still a very aggressive guy that brings a lot of pressure and gets after you,” Holliday said. “We will expect a lot of that, just like we did a year ago.”
In addition to the recognition aspect, there has to be a good line of center-quarterback communication in terms of seeing the defensive look. One of the most important parts of offensive success are pre-snap recognition and communication, which enables the center to shift protection as they see fit while a quarterback gets the offense into a play that fits the protection scheme.
Considering Middle Tennessee’s exotic defensive looks and multiple blitz angles, that communication becomes more paramount.
“The quarterbacks are getting coached up to see the same things that I see so that the communication can be really clean,” Brown said. “The ones, the twos — everybody — has to see the same thing this week. There can be no miscommunication with the different looks.”
With Middle Tennessee’s blitz-heavy defense, the opportunity opens up for one-on-one situations and mismatches to present themselves if the defensive look is identified correctly.
Given that Marshall wide receivers Tyre Brady and Obi Obialo have excelled in oneon-one scenarios this season, there is plenty of excitement that comes with the Herd’s hard work in video study this week.
In the end, it comes down to preparation and execution — especially in a short week.
QB CLUB: Marshall’s QB Club booster group has a Thursday, Sept. 27, luncheon meeting in the Big Green Room at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., luncheon at noon. Cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE (2-2, 1-0) AT MARSHALL (3-1, 1-0)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Joan C. Edwards Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, WMUL 88.1-FM
Source: The Associated Press