CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's a February ritual, it seems: A blue-chip football recruit falls into limbo with his commitment to a big-name program and jumps into a safety net just hours before National Signing Day.
Marshall and coach Doc Holliday have landed a few recruits that way, and safety Kendall Gant appears to be another one. The Lakewood, Fla., product flipped his commitment Tuesday from Georgia to the Thundering Herd.
Academics - i.e., the question over whether he can become eligible as a freshman - is the main consideration. The Southeastern Conference and other "power" conferences do not take nonqualifiers, and don't tend to keep offers intact for borderline cases.
The recruiting-oriented site Dawgs247 indicated Gant can enroll at MU as a partial qualifier, which means he can join the program, practice and receive a scholarship, but cannot play. But that wasn't going to fly at Georgia.
Lake Gibson High coach Keith DeMyer said Gant would have gone to junior college if he had stuck with the Bulldogs.
"That's pretty much what it came down to," DeMyer told Dawgs247. "He could have signed on Signing Day to Georgia but he was done for a year. They were going to stick him somewhere. He didn't have the test score, and they weren't going to hold the scholarship for him."
Marshall stands to get a pretty good safety, if the ratings are accurate. The national 247Sports service gives the 6-foot-3, 184-pound Gant a "composite" rating of four stars, calling him the No. 20 safety in the nation and No. 36 prospect in the state of Florida.
Rivals and ESPN give him three stars. ESPN ranks him the No. 30 safety in the nation, while Rivals places him 39th.
ESPN's scouting report says, in part: "Smart, instinctive player with a nose for the ball and a good feel for surroundings on the football field. Reads the QB accurately and plays ball to man soundly, which allows him to anticipate routes and get a good jump on the ball."
Holliday has made it a habit to pull down last-minute recruits, including:
"Gator, he may be the surprise player of the class," Holliday said prophetically. "Florida thought that Hoskins was an SEC player. They were close to taking him. We were hoping like heck that nobody else found out about him. You watch him on tape, he's exciting."
Two defensive players were picked up late, but neither panned out - junior-college defensive end Terry Franklin and linebacker Robert Way. Franklin never appeared at Marshall.