CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In a sports season in which Marshall fans have been buffeted by a 5-7 football season and gut-punched by a 9-12 basketball season, football's national signing day offers a ray of hope.To see the recruiting websites tell it, the Thundering Herd is leading the way in the newly realigned Conference USA, and even outworking those C-USA schools defecting to the Big East.JuJuan Seider, MU's recruiting coordinator, probably doesn't put much stock into the "standings," typically a compilation of commitments according to their "star" rating. And even if he did, he has been too busy zigzagging across the state of Florida for a last-minute find.The recruiting season enters its last weekend before the coaches wait for the fax machine to hum at 7 a.m. Wednesday. That kicks off a day recruitniks place above Sunday's Super Bowl, birthdays and wedding anniversaries, sometimes even above game-day Saturdays.Seider is back home after untold days on the road, helping welcome a handful of prospects to town this weekend. One notable visitor, 247 Sports says, is Michael Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound cornerback from Miami's Booker T. Washington High. He has been listed as a Florida State commitment for nearly a year, but anything goes in the final week.A late snatch would be a bonus. Seider said the toughest part is to keep your current commitments on board."Other guys try to jump in, so you've got to deal with that," he said. "In four years here, I've only lost one [receiver Mark Barr Jr. switched to Cincinnati last week]. ... We've done pretty well with that."
Currently, up to 18 recruits are reportedly committed to MU, including midyear junior-college signees Arnold Blackmon, a defensive end, and safety Taj Letman. The consensus prize catch is wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis, a former Miami signee who will come to MU from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.He is accorded four stars by ESPN, 247, Scout and Rivals. Other prospects given four stars by any of those sites are linebacker Jeremy Benjamin of Hollywood, Fla., cornerback D'Andre "Chocolate" Wilson of Myrtle Beach, S.C., linebacker Stefan Houston out of Fork Union and wide receiver Deontay McManus out of Atlanta Sports Academy.Marshall will not get another four-star visitor, as rated by 247, Davon Durant. The linebacker from Greenwood, S.C., enjoyed his visit, the Gazette learned, but will stick with his plans to go to Butler (Kan.) Community College. Greenwood High assistant Tony Temple said Durant wants to eventually play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.As for MU's place in the so-called team rankings, 247 is the most favorable. It ranks the Herd atop a list of 20 schools either staying in C-USA, leaving for the Big East or arriving from other leagues. That site is ahead of Rivals and Scout, which hasn't recognized that the next down will come after the official July 1 date of realignment.Both Rivals and Scout have Marshall behind Houston and Southern Methodist in the 2005-12 alignment, and ahead of everybody in the 2013 lineup. 247 has Marshall 55th in the FBS, Rivals has the Herd tied for 65th and Scout has it 74th.Those are less certain than the calendar, which says signing day is just days away. It's the day college coaches across the land can exhale."Just glad it's almost here," Seider said. "We'll just keep recruiting and see what happens."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.