Feb. 8, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – A day off? A holiday for Doc Holliday?
On the heels of a superb National Signing Day effort by the Marshall football coach and his staff, Holliday was scheduled to speak at a NIKE clinic on Long Island on Friday. The impending East Coast blizzard canceled that session, so he was in his Shewey Building office, doing what he’s been doing besides trying to land players in recent months.
“We’ve got to wrap up staff hires, and then we’ll be good to go,” Holliday said. “I’m really happy with the (signing) class, and now we’ve got to get the staff completed.”
That’s been an annual task for Holliday, heading toward his fourth season as the Herd head ball coach. A hire of strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair was also announced on January 25.
And when newcomer defensive side aide Anthony Midget resigned earlier this week after only 10 days on the Herd staff to move to Penn State, it left Holliday with a fifth hiring to do this offseason, and 10th in three years among his on-field staff.
“To be able to do what we did in recruiting with the guys leaving the staff is a huge credit to the guys who were here,” Holliday said. “JaJuan Seider, Todd Hartley, J.C. Price, Gerad Parker, Billy Legg – tremendous job by those guys. They held it together and we ended up with a good class and one that really filled our needs.”
CoachingSearch.com did a composite of the recruiting websites and reported that the Herd’s class ranked 49th nationally (among 125 FBS programs), and No. 1 among non-BCS schools, ahead of Boise State (57) and BYU (64).
The Herd also had the top Conference USA class (using the members for 2013, moving forward).
Yes, those gauges are subjective. While 24/7Sports had the Herd No. 48 (Boise was 56), Marshall was No. 72 by Scout (and Boise was 43). Rivals had Marshall and Boise tied at No. 62.
But the ranking that counts most is the one by Holliday.
“I don’t know what it means,” Holliday said when asked what MU’s rank among the “star system” galaxy meant to him. “Evidently, it means you’re recruiting people that people think are pretty good players, but I’d rather be No. 1 than No. 10.
“A lot of it … I think it means we’re on the right kids and we’re getting the right kids, but what counts is what happens when they get here and step onto that field.”
The Herd also got more national attention for its recruiting effort in a shout-out of sorts from J. Darin Darst on CBSsports.com, who wrote about players who “landed at non-AQ schools who should be ones to watch in a few seasons.”
Darst’s seven-player list was topped by cornerback Michael Johnson of Booker T. Washington High in Miami, who picked the Herd over a Florida State commitment after a visit to MU in the final week before signing day.
“Tremendous young guy, wants the opportunity to play early,” said Holliday, who likes Johnson at safety/nickel as much as corner. “Kids do things for different reasons and we were fortunate to hang in there with him. He visited and liked it … It was a good get.”
On the day after Signing Day, Holliday said he was “nervous at one point” about losing multiple staff members during the crucial recruiting weeks. His hire last month of defensive coordinator Chuck Heater – whose resume is filled with big-time experience – helped and opened some eyes, the Herd coach said.
“One thing about losing coaches is the fact that if people are hiring them away, it tells you that you must have good people, that we’re making the right hires,” Holliday said Thursday. “If nobody’s hiring your guys, then you probably ought to ask yourself if you’re hiring the right guys.
“I can tell you this – there’s no doubt in my mind that when the changes are done, we’ll have improved our staff.”
It helped in recruiting shorthanded that he had experienced this previously, with two staff losses after his 2010 debut season and then three after 2011.
“I think the one thing was that first year when I lost a couple of guys on staff, I was really upset about it and worried about it,” Holliday said. “But then I had the opportunity to talk to people you worked with, and you go back to what you learned from the coaches you had the most respect for.
“For me, that’s Don Nehlen and Urban Meyer. And the one thing they always felt and always said was when you lose somebody, you work to enhance the staff. It gives you an opportunity to improve the staff. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to miss the guys you’ve lost. It means you’re going to have a chance to go out and find guys to enhance thing, and move on.”
Holliday has hired Heater, Sinclair and former FIU and Miami high school coach Alex Mirabal, who will be an offensive coach for the Herd. The Herd coach said he hopes to have another defensive assistant – a linebacker coach, he said – in the fold next week.
“It will be someone with defensive coordinator experience,” Holliday said.
Then, he will seek Midget’s replacement and finalize a decision on how he wants the staff organized according to position assignments and recruiting territories.
“I feel really good about hiring Scott Sinclair,” said Holliday. “What happening in the weight room now with Scott … we hit a home run there. Tremendous. I love the energy, love the enthusiasm.
“And he was also the team chaplain at UCF for George (O’Leary, head coach). He brings a lot to what weight room and is a great get.
“Chuck Heater, what can you say besides the fact he’s an excellent hire. Look where he’s been, his accomplishments, the coaches he’s worked with. Being able to hire Chuck was a real plus for us. It says a lot about our program that he would come to us.
“Alex Mirabal is a fun-to-watch coach. You talk about a great teacher, a guy who can really coach on the field. Excellent. With those three, we have enhanced the staff, the program, and the next two will do the same thing.”
The moves not only will change the Herd on the field, Holliday said. There also is a mesh of different personalities in the meeting rooms. Only Legg and Seider remain from Holliday’s first Marshall staff in 2010.
“It always changes a bit with new people, and I think it’s good,” Holliday said. “It fresh stuff, new ideas come to the table and that’s good.
“We’re going to do things a certain way because that’s the way I want them done, but I’m not so hard-headed to think there aren’t people out there who have great ideas and can make us better.”
Holliday said next week brings a certain kind of start to the 2013 season.
“We’ll get going Monday, and Chuck will sit down with the defense and make sure we’re all installed there and Billy will get going with the offense the same way,” Holliday said. “We’ll get back on cut-ups from games last season.
“We’ve got about a five-week period until spring break (March 17-24) and we come right on back and get into spring practice (March 26-April 27). We’ve got a lot of work to do the next five weeks in getting the staff together and getting on the same page.
“We’ve got a lot of energy and are really looking forward with the personnel and staff we’ll have.”
A big recruiting year will do that for you.