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Early commits are sign of progress

COLUMN

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– There are obvious signs that Marshall’s football program has come leaps and bounds from where it was when Doc Holliday took the reigns of the fledgling football team in 2010. When Holliday first arrived, the only mention Marshall got on ESPN.com was the weekly Bottom 10 list.

Now, The Herd is in the discussion to run the table, win Conference USA, contend for a major bowl game, and send its quarterback to New York as a Heisman Trophy candidate. That’s all the results of a program on the rise. However, there is another not-so-obvious sign Holliday is building a sustainable success.

That sign is on the recruiting trail.

So far, more than a dozen prospects for the signing class of 2015 have given verbal commitments to The Herd. The verbal commitments include 6-foot-4 receiver Larry Dunnon of Greenacres, Florida. Rivals rates Dunnon as a three-star prospect. Marshall has also landed local standout Alex Locklear from Spring Valley High School. The bruising lineman is already 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds.

“I think it is a tribute to our coaching staff. It’s a tribute to our weight program, that we’re recruiting the kind of kids who want to be great,” commented Holliday.

Holliday has always been known as a great recruiter but what has made him successful is not necessarily landing the top prospects as rated by services like Rivals or Scout.com but finding players who can be developed into major contributors.

“Those stars don’t matter a whole lot to me. It’s how big their heart is, how much they love ball, are they willing to the work in to be great? (Chris) Jasperse is going to walk out of here as good an offensive linemen that’s ever played here. (Clint) Van Horn has become a tremendous player. Look at Swede (Sebastian Johansson) and the way he’s developed. Two years ago I didn’t think he could play anything.”

Even now-Heisman hopeful quarterback Rakeem Cato was not highly recruited out of high school. He had verbally committed to FIU before changing his mind and deciding to join lifelong friend Tommy Shuler at Marshall. Holliday and his staff have taken prospects that others overlooked or even gave up on and developed them into solid football players.

“We’re recruiting guys who love football and care because they’ve worked their tail off to get to where they are. Scott Sinclair and his strength staff have done a tremendous job of developing players. We not only get those kids we continue to develop them.”

There’s no reason to believe that won’t continue. Holliday actually has the luxury of redshirting young players now and giving them time to develop. If Rakeem Cato or Tommy Shuler arrived on campus in 2014, they probably wouldn’t be thrown into the fire as true freshman. They’d be redshirted and given time to learn and mature.

Marshall can now restock the roster through recruiting rather than overhaul it. It’s just another sign the program is going in the right direction.





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