HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - So Marshall lost a couple of prospects on National Signing Day. It happens, and coach Doc Holliday expects it.
But a lot more went right for the Thundering Herd this recruiting season, and it goes beyond the morning surprise Holliday's staff engineered, or late commitments landed earlier this week.
A lot of hard work and a few breaks went into the announcement Wednesday of 28 new signees, including mid-year enrollees and transfers. But the Herd made many of its breaks.
Take the 31-20 victory over Maryland in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27. The Herd wasn't the only team to win a bowl game, but its strong finish and the game's timing on the Friday afternoon after Christmas seemed to create a perfect mini-storm. It certainly helped cultivate those January and February commitments.
"What a great time slot that was," Holliday said. "The ratings for that game were tremendous, the highest in our conference by far. Not only to play at that venue at that time slot, but people and players weren't bowl-weary, they were all watching. To win that on a national stage was great."
But the winning-begets-winning theme didn't start with the bowl game. The Herd's 10-4 season included six victories at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Six strong victories, with a number of prospects attending them all.
And they also saw the construction of the new indoor practice facility (product of that Vision Campaign). And on and on.
Holliday enjoyed unusually good fortune with the coaching staff, which has stayed intact this far into the "silly season." A year ago, his staff was pockmarked with vacancies, and he was spending as much time recruiting new assistants as he was athletes. This time around, offensive coordinator Bill Legg interviewed for the head coaching spot at Eastern Illinois, but eventually withdrew from consideration.
So for Holliday's fifth MU recruiting class, assistants were able to stick to defined geographic and logistical responsibilities, with Todd Hartley coordinating the effort.
Sean Cronin worked Tampa and Adam Fuller landed a few central Florida recruits. Thomas Brown worked Atlanta hard with good results, and Hartley worked the rest of Georgia just as well. Alex Mirabal, usually the south Florida dynamo, landed Los Angeles-based junior-college lineman Brandon Mitchell, and Mike Furrer worked South Carolina. J.C. Price continued to open Virginia, and Legg landed three Ohio-based signees.
Another bit of good fortune: Thanks to the private plane of Jeff Hoops (his name adorns MU's new soccer field), coaches were able to overcome the bad weather in the South. Had they flown to recruits exclusively via commercial flights, they would have done hard time in the Atlanta airport.
"That last week we started out in Gaffney, South Carolina, and ended up going to Myrtle Beach that night," Holliday said. "We had a plane we were able to take to Augusta, stayed ahead of [bad weather] there, went to Macon and then to Atlanta [where, alas, they finally got stuck]. You couldn't do all that [flying] commercial.
"With that private aircraft that last week, we'd have no chance. It would have been a total mess."
The coaches aren't the only recruiters in the Marshall program these days. Holliday said players are taking much more of an active role, a sign of true unselfishness. Holliday said linebacker Cortez Carter and center Chris Jasperse have even made it a competition.
And long-committed recruits can work on others they know, be it as high school teammates or rivals in neighboring schools. That came into play in the Herd's two notable late finds.
Offensive lineman Fred Binot had long since committed to MU out of Lake Gibson High in Lakeland, Fla., alma mater of current running back Remi Watson. Binot played a role in the commitment of safety Kendall Gant, who reluctantly walked away from his pledge to Georgia earlier this week. Receiver Donquell "Gator" Green came in part because of a fellow Georgian, quarterback Cole Garvin.
That dynamic came into play when Legg pulled off his last-ditch double in northeast Ohio, first landing offensive lineman Nathaniel Devers of Massillon and then linebacker Kaleb Harris of nearby Norwayne High on Wednesday morning. Both were Cincinnati commitments.