HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - So Doc Holliday's Marshall coaching staff was in a state of flux during the height of recruiting season. What effect would that have on the Thundering Herd's new signing class?
Apparently, none. Check that - the effect just might have been positive.
It showed as Holliday unveiled his fourth signing class Wednesday. A total of 29 players signed letters of intent, a combination of one mid-year junior college signing, nonqualifiers from last year, students already in class at MU, two Penn State transfers and the usual number of prep school and high school prospects.
And there were some last-week steals and hard-fought retentions.
In the day's surprise, Holliday and recruiting coordinator JuJuanSeider hauled defensive back Michael Johnson off Florida State's recruitment list. That wasn't reported until Wednesday morning by Warchant, an FSU-oriented website.
In a swaying that was reported in south Florida earlier in the week, incoming assistant Alex Mirabal helped land offensive lineman Sandley Jean-Felix of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. Jean-Felix was one of the better commitments at new Conference USA rival Florida International, and was one of the most solid - until Mirabal and the rest of the FIU staff were fired.
The Herd also flipped defensive back Tiquan Lang, a Georgia Class 6A first-team all-stater who was listed as a South Alabama commitment for four months. Among those thought to be signing with MU on Wednesday, only California junior college cornerback Lakeith Murray did not.
"I'm happy with the class. There weren't a whole lot of surprises," Holliday said. "There were a couple of guys we picked up today we weren't quite sure we were going to get. We were about plus-two on the day, which is unusual in this business."
Holliday used his deep recruiting roots in Miami to land Johnson, who helped Booker T. Washington High win the Florida Class 4A championship. That school's only loss was to 6A Miami Central, the former home of MU's pass-catch combo of Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler.
"We have great contacts at Booker T.," Holliday said. "[Head coach Tim] 'Ice' Harris is a personal friend, [assistant coach] Ben Hanks I recruited out of high school is down there. We have a lot of friends in that school, and I recruited Michael's dad way back, when he was at Miami High, so I had a relationship with his dad.
"[Johnson is] a tremendous young guy who wants an opportunity to play early, and kids do things for different reasons. We were fortunate we hung in there with him, he visited and he liked it and he ended up signing with us. That was a good get."
Jean-Felix was in an odd situation in Broward County, but one that will become more common. His parents are Haitian, and they don't speak English, or Spanish for that matter. Mirabal brought him to his high school camp for three years and secured his commitment at FIU, but swaying him to come northward provided another challenge.
"What we had to do in this case is find somebody who spoke Creole," Holliday said. "We found somebody at the [high] school there who spoke Creole, and we did the whole appointment. Alex was sitting there, somebody spoke Creole and we got it done. If there's a will, there's a way.
"I wasn't smart enough to figure Creole out, so we had to find an interpreter."
Mirabal was Holliday's last new coaching hire - in fact, it still has not been formally announced. Chuck Heater, the new defensive coordinator, helped bring the Herd in on Lang.
And while the coaching staff shuffled, Seider, Gerad Parker, Bill Legg and J.C. Price did some very heavy lifting. Price is credited for getting former Maryland signee Stefan Houston out of Fork Union Military Academy, among others, and Hartley's name is all over the school's recruiting press release.
Holliday singled out one special effort.
"Todd Hartley had a kid from Georgia [offensive lineman Michael Selby] who was offered by Georgia Tech three days ago and told Chan Gailey, 'No, he's going to Marshall.' So that was all because of that relationship with Todd Hartley. He had his arms wrapped around everyone in that family that helped make that decision, and we were able to hang on.
"I can't give those guys enough credit - those five guys who were here and did the bulk of the recruiting."