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Taking a look back at Herd's Class of '08

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- WHILE WONDERING when and how the Marshall basketball team will win two Conference USA games in a row, I am counting down to the absolute best day of the sporting calendar.

It is, you guessed it, the day after football's national signing day. For one day, maybe, the cult of football fans and Internet hobbyists can put aside their obsession over an 18-year-old's college choice.

I tell you who else loves it: the coaches. If I go to Cam Henderson Center to do pre-practice basketball interviews in February, I inevitably see the football coaches in a "heated" half-court game. They can't shoot a lick but, oh, you should see the smiles.

While we look forward at the future of the teams we follow, I take my annual look back at a class that just finished play. Here, we talk about the Marshall recruiting class of 2008.

You didn't see the top product of this class Sunday night, but he was on the sidelines with a purple uniform. Safety Omar Brown signed with the Ravens and played three games late in the season. He'll have to fight to stay in the league next year, but there is a good group of ex-Marshall players who have done so successfully as undrafted free agents - C.J. Spillman and Albert McClellan played Sunday night, and Doug Legursky has started in the big game.

I count Brown in the '08 class even though he signed in the summer of 2007 and grayshirted that fall. He still had five years to play four, but played right away in 2008. Besides, the Herd suffered through a 3-9 season in 2007 and coach Mark Snyder's seat was getting toasty.

Of the players announced as signees on Feb. 6, 2008, two just completed full five-year careers - Devin Arrington and Martin Ward. Arrington was a versatile performer who played linebacker, safety and linebacker again, while Ward was the MVP of MU's 2009 bowl win over Ohio.

Every coaching change has a player or two who gets the bad end of it, and Ward was the casualty of the Doc Holliday regime.

In the 2010 West Virginia game, on a day he had a 55-yard run and gained 101 yards on 11 carries, he was on the sidelines when freshman Tron Martinez fumbled at the WVU 6-yard line. With the score 21-6, the miscue cracked the door open for the Mountaineers, who barged through it to win in overtime.

From there, Ward's role was de-emphasized to essentially signaling for Andre Snipes-Booker to take a knee in the end zone on kickoffs. I remain unimpressed that he was not made available for my interview request the week of his senior day.

Linebacker Tyson Gale, who had a good football IQ if not good speed, and punter Kase Whitehead. Whitehead excelled at moonshots with long hang times, and those kicks held current Indianapolis Colt T.Y. Hilton to zero punt-return yards in the 2011 bowl against Florida International. Ahmed Shakoor was a hot-and-cold cornerback who contributed as a redshirt freshman and eventually started.

Snyder loaded up on junior-college players, but only Jimmy Rogers and Brandon Burns became an effective starters. Rogers, did so for just one year - the 325-pounder arrived with a Division II body and had to develop himself in the weight room. Burns moved down from safety to linebacker.

Chuck Walker, a quick receiver, started in 2009 and 2010 after a redshirt year, with Andre Portis a reserve linebacker. Snyder didn't get much out of the other jucos, including four-star tight end Maurice Graham and equally touted receiver O.J. Murdoch.

Graham broke his arm during practice and it ended his career, and Murdoch didn't take a practice rep here. Tragically, he died of an apparent suicide in July 2012.

John Youboty had a big career - at Temple. The defensive end was ruled medically ineligible at MU because of a congenital narrowing of the spinal column but was well enough to lead the Owls with five sacks in 2012.

Others not making it to senior day were Jamie Hatten, Leshawn Henderson, Cory McCutchen, Jordan Taylor, Zach Tenuta, Demetrius Thomas and Jamal Wilson.

If nothing else, that class traveled an interesting path and played in two bowls. But the big gambles didn't pan out and neither did Snyder's tenure, which ended in November 2009.

Feb. 6, 2008 also was the day Snyder announced the hiring of John Shannon as offensive coordinator. Add your own punch lines here.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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