June 28, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, Va. – A 10-4 season, Military Bowl victory and impressive 2014 preseason expectations aren’t the only ways to judge the climb of Marshall football fortunes.
There is what might be called a grassroots measurement, too. The Thundering Herd’s youth summer camp numbers have spiked significantly this month as well.
“We’ve had 731 participants in our camps to date,” said Herd tight ends coach Todd Hartley, who also is the MU recruiting coordinator and camp coordinator in Coach Doc Holliday’s program. “We have one camp left – our Upperclassman Showcase Camp on July 27 – and we already have about 30 pre-registered for that, which is a high number, too.”
In 2013, the Herd football camps – individual and 7-on-7 team camps – combined to have 585 participants. This year, the final total will probably show an increase of about 200.
Hartley said the football staff has made the one-day camps more accessible by offering 12 sessions over a 14-day period where in the past, if an athlete couldn’t attend on a Monday or Thursday with a locked-in date, the camper was out of luck.
The Herd camps grew so much that they were moved to the YMCA Kennedy Center on Route 2 due to space needs. The 7-on-7 sessions attracted 24 teams, “the most we’ve ever had in a two-day span; we’ve never had more than 20 before,” Hartley said.
The Holliday assistant said there’s no question in his mind about the increased interest.
“It’s a reflection on winning,” Hartley said. “Success and interest in the program, I think it’s all relative, that and the availability of our one-day camp.
“Most schools’ one-day camp, you have one day, and if you can’t attend on a Tuesday and that’s the camp day, there’s no option. Kids don’t have to make special arrangements around certain days to get to one of ours now.
“We opened it up to a two-week window this year, had camp 12 days in 14-day span (off Sundays) in June. You come whenever you can.”
Hartley said the current 731 total for all camps to date could be nearly matched alone in the 7-on-7 team camps, if his plan for 2015 comes to fruition.
“We’re hoping to expand it, take 24 teams a day, not just 24 total,” Hartley said. “Each team brings about 15 kids, so that’s 360 for one day, 720 for two days. We can do that.”
And if the Herd has the kind of stellar season predicted across the board by pundits, the numbers could spike even more.
“No doubt this all goes back to winning, visibility of the program, expectations,” Hartley said. “When I was at Georgia, we had thousands of kids at camps. The reasons were, one, we had a big window for camp, and two, we were playing for SEC championships every year and people want to be associated with winners.”
More campers before Herd coaching eyes means something else, too.
“With an increase in numbers that’s an increase in kids you get to see play, so it’s probability and chance,” Hartley said. “The more kids you get in, the more you can see and maybe you see somebody good enough to play for Marshall.
“So, the more kids you get, the more it maybe helps you in recruiting. It’s all a cycle.”
# # #
Records – it is said – are made to be broken.
Well, there are two Herd listed football records that no longer are records … and these go back more than a few years.
Thanks to some voluminous offseason archival work by Steve Cotton, the “Voice” of the Herd, here are a couple of items on new Herd highs:
*When Marshall’s Damone Williams returned five punts for 140 yards in a 30-23 win at Ohio in 1998, the yardage was reported as a school record and has stood as such in the record book for the last 15 years. However, Mickey Jackson returned three punts for 155 yards (including an 83-yard touchdown) in a 27-20 Fairfield Stadium win over Morehead State in 1966. So, Jackson has the single-game punt return yardage mark.
His 83-yard return is tied for the sixth-longest return in the Marshall books, too.
*When Cody Slate caught 11 passes for 177 yards against New Hampshire in 2007, both numbers were reported as all-time, single-game records for Marshall tight ends. However, in a 38-35 loss to Ohio University on Nov. 22, 1969, tight end Larry Carter caught 12 passes – the “new” record -- for 156 yards.
Slate’s yardage remains the tight end record.
Here’s another “first,” too …
Thundering Herd quarterback Ted Shoebridge passed for 312 yards against Ohio in that 1969 game that included Carter’s TE record -- the first 300-plus yard passing day in Marshall history.
Shoebridge, who died in the 1970 football team plane crash, had the only 300-yard air day in Herd annals for 15 years, until Carl Fodor passed for 315 yards in a 40-6 win over Morehead State on Sept. 8, 1984.