Deon Meadows (left) saw his first extended playing time at weak-side linebacker in last week's loss to Central Florida.
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."nn
Other items from Holliday's press conference and beyond:
The coach said he thinks the three-headed cornerback crew of Keith Baxter, Derrick Thomas and Monterius Lovett will be able to play. Baxter went out with a shoulder injury against UCF but re-entered in pain when Thomas went to the locker room.
For the first time in a press conference, Holliday brought up the names of the men who would be Nos. 4-5 in case they're needed."We've got Ardy Holmes and we've got Derek Robinson, two guys that are walk-ons that practice and play, at some point," Holliday said. "If they've got to play, they'll play."That's one position, with A.J. Leggett having shoulder surgery and Darryl Roberts breaking his ankle, we went from a lot of depth to being pretty thin there. There are other guys who are going to have to go play. We can't control that."Silver-lining observation about the UCF debacle: Rippon had nothing but praise for his unit's play in the first quarter.
The Herd did thwart UCF's first three possessions, lapping into the second quarter. The first two were quick disposals: First, Thomas intercepted Blake Bortles on a first-play bomb, and then the Herd allowed 2 yards in a three-and-out. On UCF's next drive, it marched from its 9 to the Marshall 3, but the Knights committed a holding foul and Billy Mitchell picked off Bortles.
The problem was the Herd tripped over itself on offense and gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to fall behind 7-3. And then Marshall's defense wasn't so good the rest of the second quarter, giving up 211 total yards and three touchdowns."I'd like to think we could build on that first quarter," Rippon said. "I thought the first quarter Saturday night was the best quarter we've had all season. Things got out of hand, and against a good team they have a tendency to get ... extended."Holliday didn't have much positive to say about his kickoff coverage unit, which allowed two touchdowns. Needless to say, that's a point of re-emphasis.
"We've made a couple changes personnel-wise," he said. "It's like anything else - guys have to get in position to make a play and you have to make it. Unfortunately that didn't happen last week, and we have to make sure that we get guys in there to make those plays."That's what happens to you when guys get banged up and hurt. Your special teams will suffer a little bit because of it. We have to get the right people in the positions and coach the heck out of them."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.