May 31, 2013
Marshall's WV Recruiting Map
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON - Doc Holliday is a West Virginia native, from nearby Hurricane to be exact. Still calls the Putnam County town home.
He played college football for an in-state program, West Virginia. He's coached at both Mountain State major programs, too.
So, it makes sense that while the Marshall fourth-year head coach is known for his recruiting acumen - and great success - in Florida, Holliday's program certainly is not going to ignore prospects in his backyard.
"I think we're doing a much better job with the in-state kids," said Todd Hartley, the Herd's tight ends coach and in his first year as Holliday's recruiting coordinator. "We've tried to do a better job with the high school coaches in-state and in the metro area.
"Build a great relationship with the high school coaches, they in turn sell your program to the kids, then the kids get more interested ... and that's where the whole recruiting process gets rolling."
Hartley said the next few weeks are crucial for in-state prospects who have the Herd on their radar and vice versa. Calling it an "average year" for FBS prospects in West Virginia, Hartley said upcoming up-close looks at players will make a difference.
"I'd say a good number for West Virginia kids right now would be 15-20 that we're looking at," Hartley said. "The thing that helps those kids in-state are summer camps. Some of these kids are coming to our one-day camps, whether that be at our Senior Camp on June 8 or the Doc Holliday Camp the next day."
The Senior Camp is open to rising high school seniors. The Holliday Camp is open to any high school-age participant. It is at these camps that Herd coaches hone in on whom to offer, Hartley said.
"Another camp that really helps us out evaluating kids is our 7-on-7 passing camps (June 11 and 12)," Hartley said. "There are two days of those and we'll look at kids closely there, too. We have some really good in-state teams coming down, and it's really good for us. Our goal is to have 12 teams each day and we're almost there. We hit it last year. There will be good talent here then."
Herd coaches contacted in-state and Tri-State area schools prior to spring practice, getting an idea who and what was where. Now, the so-called eyeball test is important, Hartley said.
The Herd staff divides the in-state recruiting map among seven staffers. Another assistant coach takes southeastern Ohio, bordering the Ohio River, and another takes eastern Kentucky, bordering the Big Sandy.
Those Tri-State area high schools "are what we call metro area, for the university's tuition purposes," Hartley said. "We consider the metro just like in-state, cover it the same way; that's local for us."
He said the number of in-state and Tri-State prospects the Herd is following as grant-in-aid or preferred walk-on prospects will change soon.
"That number, 15-20, might expand to 30, or could decrease to 10," Hartley said. "But these camps really help us recruiting in-state, because nothing is better, in our minds, than a face-to-face evaluation of someone on the field. In the camps something can happen; we make those calls right after that usually.
"That's the best type of tool you can have, face-to-face and because there are so many restrictions on contacts and what you can do with a prospect, really the only place you can do that is on your campus at a summer camp."
Hartley said the Herd is attracting more interest these days from in-state and Tri-State high school stars. The names and numbers will show when preseason practice begins Aug. 5.
"We had more preferred walk-ons from the area this year (2013) than we've ever had," Hartley said. "I'd say it's roughly 8-10 in-state or Tri-State area kids that are going to be really good walk-ons for us. And that's big, because it means they want to attend Marshall, they want to play for Marshall.
"We've got a couple kids walking on from that (southeastern) area in Ohio this year coming up, which is big for us. So even though we may not sign a kid, we're bringing in them as a preferred walk-on that we know about and the player still really wants to be part of our program.
"As far as knowing them on the front end and they're good football players who want to come and play for us, we've never had this many. Some turned down Division II offers to walk-on with us."
Hartley said the Herd's in-state and Tri-State prospects know those camps next weekend are critical.
"We tell them that, exactly," Hartley said. "Recruiting in football is starting to become more like AAU basketball, with camps, with combines, come do this clinic. The best way to get evaluated is to go with a college coach and a college camp, on campus.
"It's the best way to get evaluated. Coach Holliday likes to see the kids we have interest in. We as a staff don't put much stock in combines and what those other things do. We do put a lot of stock in what we see with our own eyes, so we sell that hard."
The Herd's spring roster included 11 names with in-state or Tri-State area high school connections. The newest was 2013 grayshirt signee Tyler Combs of Louisa, Ky. Combs went through spring drills as the Herd's No. 2 center.
It also aids the Herd, Hartley said, when an in-state product prospers in an MU uniform, as was the case with wide receiver Aaron Dobson from Dunbar and South Charleston high School. Dobson, who graduated in 3 1/2 years, was the No. 59 overall pick in the NFL Draft last month, by New England.
It also doesn't hurt that MU coaches can point out that Marshall was Dobson's only FBS grant-in-aid offer, and he left as one of the school's all-time top receivers and a second-round draft choice.
""That helps you big-time," Hartley said. "You can use that as an example, and we do. Once something like that happens, you sell that, you can market that.
"It really helps you, especially with (Dobson) being a kid in-state, from right down the road."
The Herd recruiting coordinator said Holliday's program tries to identify potential prospects as early as possible in their high school careers. That's why the recruiting-area map and the contacts within it are so crucial.
"The thing is now, what's happened is everyone is getting offered so early, the kids that get hurt are the ones that develop between their junior and senior years, those that have a great senior year," Hartley said. "A lot of those kids are getting overlooked because so much recruiting is done on the front end now. For these in-state kids that's especially true, maybe some of these kids haven't been offered. "They develop like a Ryan Riedel (a Herd redshirt freshman h-back/tight end from Cabell Midland High). He really developed his senior year in high school and we signed him."
Hartley said the growing bond between the Herd staff and in-state and Tri-State high school coaches is paying dividends.
"We've done a great job trying to get the high school coaches involved," he said. "We tell them our practices are open to them anytime they want to come down. We don't close it off to those guys. We have an open door policy to the coaches in-state and in the area.
"We think that's the best way to do it, and once you build that relationship with the high school coaches, that's when you start finding out about kids before other schools do. The coaches will start calling you before they call other schools and you get a leg up on it.
"I believe we have gotten better at building relationships with the high school coaches over last two years. That's going to help us."
Coaches and high school players interested in the Herd's Senior or Doc Holliday Camps on the 7-on-7 camps should call Hartley, at (706) 340-3545.