"It was a new one to me when coach Pruett told me he was moving me to defensive end," Hairston said after Wednesday morning's practice session. "And I figured, hey, why not? I can come off the corner pretty good. And, I have good agility. So it works out pretty good."
Coming into spring practice, Hairston was listed as third on the depth chart at right end, behind Jamus Martin (6-3, 235, sophomore) and Kingsley Clark (6-5, 225, junior). Judging by Wednesday's practice, those three are all fighting for playing time, regardless of who the starter is.
Hairston (center) finds his way around tackle Steve Sciullo and into the backfield every now and then during spring drills, a good sign.
Hairston (6-2, 231, junior) spent his first two seasons in a specialized running back role. His solid, 231-pound build made him especially useful in third-and-short situations, and his agility belies his size. "I still see myself as a running back," Hairston said. "I'm still using my skills as a running back to give me some moves coming around the end."
What better way to find out what Hairston is made of than to repeatedly put him up against Playboy All-Amercian tackle Steve Sciullo? That's exactly what the Marshall coaches have done this spring.
"He's an explosive athlete off that end," Sciullo said on Wednesday morning. "He's got the speed, quickness, and agility. He's going to be a special player here one day." Sciullo, it goes without saying, likes what he sees from Hairston every day in practice. "Marcus is picking up things real well," Sciullo added. "He's a strong kid, he's physical and athletic. You can't teach that lesson."
For Hairston, the only judge of his own progress comes against Sciullo. He's never lined up against any other tackle from any other team, so Sciullo's all he knows. "It's kind of funny because when I think I'm doing good on certain plays…I'm trying to smack his arm down," Hairston said of Sciullo. "I see his hand, and I have perfect timing, and all of a sudden he slips me, and clamps me down." Hairston watches the fastest 6-6, 344-pound guy he's ever seen put moves on him, and that gets his attention, in Sciullo. "He's tough. Very, very quick."
In the end, the goal is to make Marcus Hairston a better defensive end quickly, Sort of an accelerated How-To-Be-A-Defensive End course that lasts exactly six weeks. Sciullo has a lot to do with that.
In the end, just the opportunity to play is good enough for Marcus Hairston. Offense or defense, it does not matter. "I'm a team player," Hairston summed up. "I'm having fun. I love the game of football, and that's the main thing."