Feb. 13, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Before the clock ticks farther past the 2013 National Signing Day, it might be additionally instructive to consider Marshall’s football recruiting effort through another prism.
Coach Doc Holliday and his staff not only produced what has been ranked as the top class among non-BCS members, but one that also ranks well against fellow schools that will be in the so-called “Group of Five” once the BCS is replaced by a three-game playoff system starting with the 2014 season.
Using conference alignments that are set for the future, Marshall’s class was tops among Group of Five members (Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt) by 24/7 Sports, and third by Rivals, behind only Houston and USF of the Big East.
The Herd was No. 47 nationally by 24/7, and USF was next among group of five schools, at No. 54. By Rivals, Houston was No. 50, South Florida 56 and Marshall 58 … and those two other schools bring up another plus about the Herd’s recruiting haul.
Those two schools don’t have to leave their very large and player-fertile states to recruit. The Herd has no regional recruiting base – unless you count Georgia and Florida as the Ohio Valley’s backyard.
Look at C-USA, current and future, and check which football programs don’t have a regional recruiting base. Marshall doesn’t, and maybe, Middle Tennessee State. Middle is squeezed by SEC neighbors in a state that doesn’t produce stunning prospect numbers – but Georgia has plenty to go around, and 11 of the Blue Raiders’ 25 signees were Peach State kids.
That fact makes the efforts by Holliday and his staff – even while Doc was retooling the latter after several losses during December and January – all the more impressive.
Consider the C-USA teams. Current and new members alike have plenty more talent at their doorstep.
UCF, FIU, FAU are in Florida, UTEP, Rice, UT-San Antonio, North Texas, Houston and SMU in Texas. Tulsa can fill its bucket in Oklahoma and Texas. Louisiana Tech and Tulane have the Bayou State and neighboring Texas.
Southern Miss and UAB can go into each other’s state and also Georgia. Charlotte has North Carolina and South Carolina. Ditto ECU, adding in the long rich Tidewater of Virginia next door … which is home to Old Dominion, which when it steps up from FCS will cut into the annual recruit signings in the state (and its prep schools) by Virginia Tech, Virginia and other ACC schools.
Don’t believe me? Check the signing classes from last week. Some examples? LaTech has 15 of 21 from Texas and Louisiana. Rice has 17 of 18 from Texas, FIU the same numbers from the Sunshine State. North Texas has 20 of 23 from its home state. Southern Miss has 17 of 25 from Mississippi and Alabama. Tulsa has 17 of 21 from Oklahoma or Texas. Charlotte got 15 of 19 from the Carolinas.
I could go on, but you get the idea …
West Virginia produced only three FBS signees this time (for North Carolina, WVU and Air Force), with the number expanding to five since Charlotte’s new program signed a Mountain State pair for the 49ers’ program that goes FBS in 2015.
Cross the Big Sandy River, and Kentucky is not a talent-rich state in football, by any means. Ohio? Although the Herd landed two linemen from Ohio, the Buckeye State has eight FBS programs … a lot of competition.
So, the Herd throws the deep ball to Florida and Georgia for most of its talent – getting 17 in the 2013 class from those states. There’s little option otherwise. Besides, why mess with success?
Holliday has been going into Florida and securing talent for years. He’s said something time and again, and it echoed again last week:
“There are no secrets. It’s all about relationships and hard work, effort … You’re allowed six contacts in a home or at (the prospect’s school). We take all six.
“Relationships are everything in the recruiting business … relationships and trust.”
For the Herd, it certainly isn’t about geography. That makes this top-ranked Herd haul even more impressive … or should.
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Here’s something I discovered about the Rivals rankings for the Herd … which may have been a few stars short, or so it seems. The recruiting service adds the prospects’ stars and uses a mathematical formula to devise the team ranking.
Well, for the Class of 2012, when eventual Marshall newcomers Kent Turene, Corey Tindal and Josh Brown were ranked, they were 3-star prospects. Turene committed to USC and then switched to Georgia, Tindal originally chose FIU and Brown was headed to Clemson before heading to Huntington.
However, after the three sat out the year at Marshall and have become eligible for 2013 starting with spring practice, they were reported on Signing Day by Rivals as 2-star guys.
Uh, did those three – on whom Holliday is very high – suddenly become worse college prospects after not playing in 2012? Don’t think so.
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Finally, Holliday and his aides didn’t have to do the hustle for an exclamation point on its 2013 recruiting pitch. The Super Bowl provided one – and the Herd coach gladly admitted as much.
With Albert McClellan and Omar Brown on the Baltimore roster and Randy Moss and C.J. Spillman with the 49ers for Super Bowl XLVII, Miami (Fla.) was the only school with more players on the two active Super rosters than the Herd.
"Every opportunity we got," Holliday said when asked if the former Herd stars in the Super Bowl was a subject in prospects’ homes and schools. “Every conversation we had ended with that for the last two weeks."
In the last decade, the Herd alumni players on NFL title game rosters include those four and Ahmad Bradshaw, Byron Leftwich, Doug Legursky, Troy Brown, Mike Bartrum, Chris Hanson, Johnathan Goddard and Jermaine Wiggins.
"That's great exposure for us," Holliday said. "Kids, they all have dreams. They all have dreams of playing in the NFL and that's a good thing. When I recruit those kids, I always tell them that I want two things -- that my job as a head coach four years down the road is to have you walk out of Marshall with a college degree in that hand and an NFL contract in the other one.
"A lot of people say, 'Doc, you shouldn't talk like that.’ But I have extremely high expectations and extremely high standards. And I want to surround myself with kids who have those same dreams and same expectations."