HUNTINGTON - While many programs are finishing up their spring football sessions, Marshall University has just crossed the halfway point.
As the Thundering Herd gets into the final weeks of spring drills, the coaching staff has adopted a "no starters" philosophy, which basically puts every position up for grabs as the staff looks for the best 11 players on each side of the ball.
Yes, there is plenty of experience returning, but Marshall head coach Doc Holliday wants those players to earn every snap, which adds intensity and excitement to the spring.
"There are a lot of guys competing for jobs," Holliday said. "You've got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, but the good thing is you've got some quality people here at every position, so if you don't compete every day, you are going to get beat out."
One position one would expect to be solidified is quarterback, with Conference USA All-Freshman selection Isaiah Green returning after a successful rookie campaign.
Despite that success, offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey said Green is well aware of Alex Thomson behind him ready to go should Green falter or lose focus.
"We've told them there are no starters," Cramsey said. "Isaiah is not sitting there comfortable saying, 'All right, if I have a bad practice, I'm still going to start.' You know what I mean. There isn't a 'quarterback controversy,' and I'm not saying that right now, but he knows that guy behind him is a really good football player, and he's getting pushed."
Cramsey said the scenario is not just limited to the quarterback room. It is seen along the offensive front and wide receiver spots, where pieces are shifting daily; in the running back room, where Brenden Knox and Tyler King are battling; and at the tight end position.
Despite the tight end room featuring experience with Armani Levias and Xavier Gaines, the play of young tight end Devin Miller has been a talking point for both Cramsey and Holliday.
That continued Saturday when he snuck out on a wheel route and ripped off a 43-yard gain.
Defensive assistant Brad Lambert added the same notion on his side of the football.
Lambert and the defensive assistants break down film to see who is excelling on what days, and then reward them by allowing them to make their mark with additional reps.
"You've just got to back it up from a coaching standpoint and say to the guys, 'Hey, be productive and you're going to get reps,'" Lambert said. "That's really what we try to do. We want them to make plays and be productive football players. That's how you get on the field. Ultimately, our job is to play the best 11."
While Lambert is building trust with the defense in his first year, Cramsey said he is a bit more comfortable this season - his second with the Herd - in sending a message if a player seems to go through the motions on a particular day.
"Year two, you get to know kids and they get to know you and they trust you," Cramsey said. "Once they trust you, you can coach them as hard as you want and do what you need to with them. Every position is pushing each other right now. To me, that makes us a stronger team."
No matter who was on staff, Holliday has always preached that he doesn't want complacency within his program and, so far, the plan of attack for the spring has avoided such with guys like Miller, wide receiver Talik Keaton, defensive lineman Owen Porter and defensive back Jaylon McClain-Sapp all getting the benefit of additional repetitions after proving their playmaking ability.
"Those guys who want to play, they have to compete every day to get that done," Holliday said.