The make up of a football roster in today’s day and age in the college game is pretty much a gigantic math equation. An equation in which many of the numbers are unknown due to decisions made over a four to five year period by young men leaving home for the first time ever. Doc Holliday has become a master in molding the 85 man roster and making it work. It has worked to the tune of a program that has won at least 10 games for three straight seasons.
The 2016 season is about to get started here in less than a month when the team hits the turf at the Joan for the first practice of the season. The team, however, has not stopped working since last season ended with a 16 to 10 bowl win over UCONN. The season however, ended with without a trip to the CUSA championship game. It would have been the program third straight trip.
Season leadership is crucial to a team’s success at any level, that is no different at Marshall. Five years ago, Coach Doc Holliday and his staff signed at least 23 young athletes ready to come in and take the Herd to the next level. The Herd was coming off a 7 – 6 season and a bowl win over FIU.
That class of 23 kids was highly ranked by scout.com in CUSA. It contained many highly regarded prospects including one of the highest rated players in many years for Marshall in AJ Leggett.
Heading into the 2016 season, only two players from that recruiting class will take the field as fifth year seniors. This number is a little skewed as it does not include Joe Massaquoi since he was part of the previous year and ended up as a grey shirt. So with Massaquoi there is three.
A handful of players never made it to campus in Chris Hall, Deyonte Henderson, Billy Rone, Adam Wing and Zach Hall. Several others came and then left for a variety of reasons. The aforementioned AJ Leggett left the team after being disgruntled over playing time. Offensive lineman Eric Ansley left the team as did defensive lineman Marcus Gilchrist. Daeonte West was never really a part of the program along with Josh Murriel. Andre Scott, Kent Turene and Rakim Reed came, and left, never really producing much. Cameron Dees started some as a true freshman before suffering career ending injuries. Gunnar Holcombe left prior to this year to play quarterback elsewhere. Tyler Combs career has been a mystery ever since his recruitment.
That leaves three. Massaquoi, Ryan Riedel who has played linebacker, fullback, tight end, defensive end, offensive line and now defensive tackle. Defensive star Gary Thompson is the other who will walk on senior day as a fifth year senior.
So where will the leadership come from. Many experts and fans alike may take a look at the recruiting class and assume it will hurt the Herd this year, when in actuality, Holliday has been working the past couple years in making sure this class will be solid.
At least 13 scholarship players will walk on senior day in late November against Western Kentucky in what should/could be a battle to represent the CUSA East in the CUSA championship game against Southern Miss.
The 13 will be led by Thompson, Massaqoui and Riedel. Holliday has managed to back fill this class with several solid producers and stars. 6th year transfer senior, Clint Van Horn is one of the top offensive lineman in the conference and is a legit NFL prospect. He transferred to Marshall in 2011 and joined the program in 2012.
The class is made up of four players from the Class of 2013 who did not redshirt. Wide receiver Justin Hunt, safety Tiquan Lang, offensive guard Michael Selby and wide receiver Josh Knight will play big rolls this season. All but Knight will most likely start this season, and Knight could still move his way into the starting lineup but will definitely be in the wide receiver rotation.
To replace the likes of AJ Leggett and Andre Scott, Holliday has replaced them with junior college safety Corey Neely and Michigan transfer Terry Richardson. The defense lost Kent Turene, prior to last year Holliday pulled in junior college transfer Tre Tyler at the last minute. He started most of the year last year and is a leader on and off the field.
The senior class will be wrapped up with tight end Emmanuel Byrd, a junior college tight end who came to the program last year and will start, and former walk on Cody Carter from nearby Cabell Midland High School.
To summarize, the class will be made up of at least 13 players. One 6th year senior, three 5th year seniors, four 4th year seniors, three junior college transfers, a grad transfer and a former walk on.
Holliday continues to work his magic year in and year out to keep the program at or near the top of CUSA. Each class matters, and each class determines how the next class is recruited. Fortunately for Herd fans, Holliday and his staff manage the roster year round, and not just the traditional recruiting periods.
Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com for further updates and stories as the season gets closer.