GALLIPOLIS — With names such as Pro Wells and Sir Patrick Scott, Marshall University football fans have every reason to be excited about this year’s Thundering Herd football recruiting class.
The Marshall football coaching staff, led by head coach John “Doc” Holliday” dropped in Monday night on the Mason-Gallia-Meigs Big Green Club in Gallipolis to present their official 2016 recruiting class.
And one of those recruits is from the Ohio Valley.
Before introducing the newest crop of prospective Thundering Herd players, Holliday talked about the Marshall recruiting process. He said recruiting is “really simple” in terms of getting players to visit Marshall and commit to the program.
“It starts with tradition. It starts with history,” he said. “It also starts with the people we have on campus. When we talk about recruiting, it starts years in advance. … I didn’t want to be a football coach anywhere where expectations aren’t extremely high and where we couldn’t compete for championships every year.”
Holliday is entering his seventh season as head coach of the Herd, amassing a 50-28 record since taking over in 2010. His teams are 4-0 in bowl games, with wins in Beef O’Brady Bowl, Military Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl and St. Petersburg Bowl.
Holliday’s 2014 Thundering Herd won the school’s first Conference USA championship with a win over Louisiana Tech. He was named the conference’s Coach of the Year that season.
Jacob Hill, president of the local MGM Big Green Club, said Holliday visits every year to show the group video clips and talk about the Herd’s newest recruits for the upcoming season. Monday’s event also serves as a fundraiser to support Marshall University athletics.
“It’s a great event,” he said. “Every year, our club raises a little more than $10,000 to give back to Marshall.”
People need not have any connection to Marshall University to become a member of the group.
“It’s a public event,” he said. “All you need is a ticket and a love for Marshall.”
Holliday said he and his staff pride themselves on filling the team with players who “have a big old heart” and “love football.”
“That’s where we start,” he said. “The culture when I got (to Marshall) needed to be changed. It needed to be changed by getting guys (who feel) football (is) important to them. We take great pride in our program. There is nowhere to hide. We expect our kids to go to class. If they’re not tough and they don’t love it, they won’t survive.”
Mike Hamrick, Marshall’s director of athletics, said fans will see this year’s recruiting class rack up awards such as all-conference, conference player of the year, defensive player of the year and others in seasons to come.
“Since coach Holliday has arrived here, we’ve had 16 players win one of those awards,” he said. “There’s no other school in Conference USA that even comes close to that. “
With a list full of recruits from across the country, the local Big Green Club was more interested in one of their own, Point Pleasant Junior/Senior High School football standout Cody Mitchell, who recently signed with the Herd.
“I said seven years ago that I will only recruit players who give us a chance to play for championships. Guess what? (Cody Mitchell) is one of them,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where (players are) from. If they’re good enough to play for championships, we’re going to recruit them.”
Hamrick said Marshall’s sporting facilities make it a major player on the NCAA recruiting scene, attracting recruits and opponents to Huntington, W.Va.
“Look at our football schedule the next five to six years and all the people that are coming to play football in our stadium – not us going to their stadium; they’re coming to our stadium,” he said. “Louisville, Pittsburgh, North Carolina State, Boise State, Cincinnati, United States Naval Academy, East Carolina … and we’ve got more that we’re working on so we can bring you what you want – big-time college football at Marshall University.”
Holliday finished his quick talk by urging Marshall University supporters to fill the stands at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on game nights. He referenced last year’s game at home against Purdue in which the crowd was one of the most boisterous he’s ever encountered.
“We’ve lost one game at home in the last three years – one game, in double overtime,” he said. “The reason for that is because of you guys. When Louisville visit (Sept. 24) this year, let’s make sure we have the same atmosphere, or better, than we had with Purdue. That helps us.”
Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.