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.