CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The South Florida recruiting hotbed region seems to get more crowded every year for football coaches, but Doc Holliday still gets his haul come the first Wednesday in February.
This time around, it's a bit smaller than usual. Then again, his class is smaller than usual, about 20 signees - a function of a small departing senior class in 2012.
The Marshall coach will unveil his fourth recruiting class today, and it's expected that up to five prospects from the Interstate 95 corridor from Fort Pierce southward to Miami.
If they become/remain eligible, they will join about 15 players on MU's current roster from that area, plus about 13 more from everywhere else in the Sunshine State. Holliday is also expected to sign a running back from Gibsonton, Fla., south of Tampa, and an "athlete" from Davenport, Fla., near the I-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa.
The state is rich in talent, but also pretty crowded with coaches recruiting and major-college coaches nearby. Consider this: When Holliday established his beachhead as a West Virginia assistant three decades ago, only Florida, Florida State and "The U" of Miami played Division I-A.
South Florida wasn't playing football and Central Florida was transitioning into Division II - not yet I-AA, but II. Florida Atlantic had just started athletics and Florida International was a non-football playing D-II program nicknamed the "Sunblazers."
The landscape has changed right before Holliday's veteran eyes. USF and UCF are now Big East rivals in football, and FAU and FIU are suddenly in Conference USA - and both road teams on the Thundering Herd's 2013 schedule.
In a way, the whole concept of reporting a south Florida prospect making an "unofficial" visit is almost laughable. In a few cases, that may have involved a walk down the street.
Of course, those aforementioned schools, Marshall included, are hardly the only ones who know their way to the Florida peninsula. Nonetheless, Holliday and his recruiting coordinator, Belle Glade native JuJuan Seider, will be pleased with their slice of football paradise, which includes:Quarterback Kevin Anderson of Boca Raton, ranked 26th on the Palm Beach Post's 75-man rankings. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder's season was cut short by a collarbone injury, but Marshall stayed with his summertime commitment and he enrolled at MU for the spring semester.Josh Knight, a 6-1, 180-pound receiver from Fort Pierce Central, ranked 29th on the Palm Beach Post list. He is listed with 24 receptions, 353 yards and five touchdowns his senior season.Jeremiah Benjamin, a 6-2, 225-pound linebacker from McArthur High in Hollywood, Fla. He is ranked with four stars by ESPN.com, which calls him "a knock-'em-back tackler who can stack ball carriers with excellent leverage and has the finishing explosion that doesn't allow for additional yardage after contact."Gerald Wright, a 6-2, 321-pound offensive linemen from Miami Northwestern. What would a Holliday class be without a man from the big city? He will join two O-line prospects from the state of Ohio, as the Herd tries to keep from having that unit as thin as it was in 2010, when Holliday arrived.Aaron Plantt, a 6-1, 200-pound linebacker from Hallandale High in Broward County.
For prospects due to come out of high school, the Herd is signing the two Ohio linemen, a wide receiver from Memphis, Tenn., a defensive back from Myrtle Beach, S.C., and an offensive lineman from Georgia. But there are older, more mature prospects due to sign.
There are two four-star recruits expected from Virginia's Fork Union Military Academy (linebacker Stefan Houston, receiver Angelo Jean-Louis) and another from Atlanta Sports Academy (receiver/athlete Deontay McManus). One is to sign out of Georgia Military College and another from an occasional MU source, the California junior college circuit. Two other juco imports, defensive end Arnold Blackmon and defensive back Taj Letman, signed in December and are attending classes.
Those commitments have more or less impressed the recruiting-oriented websites. One, 247 Sports, ranks the Herd atop 20 schools in various states of Conference USA membership - exiting, holding over or entering.
Southern Mississippi has surged ahead in the Rivals list, which puts MU fourth in the old C-USA lineup. Scout, which ranks the new C-USA teams minus FAU and Middle Tennessee, has the Herd third behind East Carolina and Southern Miss.
When the list comes out today, it is expected to include defensive back Corey Tindal and Kent Turene, who enrolled at Marshall in January 2012 as "props" and have just become eligible.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
SIGNED IN DECEMBER (2)
Player Pos Ht Wt School/JC Hometown
Arnold Blackmon DE 6-2 235 Navarro Coll. (Texas) Bellaire, Texas
Taj Letman DB 6-3 195 Holmes (Miss.) CC Elberton, Ga.
EXPECTED TO SIGN TODAY (18)
Player Pos Ht Wt School/JC Hometown
Kevin Anderson QB 6-2 200 Boca Raton Boca Raton, Fla.
Jeremiah Benjamin LB 6-2 225 McArthur Hollywood, Fla.
Brandon Byrd RB 6-0 198 East Bay Gibsonton, Fla.
Cody Collins OL 6-2 280 Archbishop Ketter Dayton, Ohio
Neville Hewitt DB 6-2 220 Georgia Military Milledgeville, Ga.
Stefan Houston LB 6-3 200 Fork Union Military Academy Fork Union, Va.
Chris Huhn OL 6-6 290 Pickerington North Pickerington, Ohio
Justin Hunt WR 6-1 182 Whitehaven Memphis, Tenn.
Angelo Jean-Louis ATH/WR 6-0 185 Fork Union Military Academy Fork Union, Va.
Josh Knight WR 6-1 180 Fort Pierce Central Fort Pierce, Fla.
Deontay McManus WR 6-2 215 Atlanta Sports Academy Dawsonville, Ga.
Lakeith Murray DB 6-0 185 Ventura CC Ventura, Calif.
Tony Pittman RB 5-11 200 Phoebus Hampton, Va.
Shykeem Pitts WR 5-11 175 Ridge Davenport, Fla.
Aaron Plantt LB 6-1 200 Hallandale Hallandale, Fla.
Michael Selby OL 6-3 280 Washington County Sandersville, Ga.
Chocolate Wilson DB 5-9 160 Myrtle Beach Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Gerald Wright OL 6-2 321 Northwestern Miami, Fla.