HUNTINGTON — Now that Marshall has announced Doc Holliday will not return after 11 seasons as head football coach, focus shifts to who will lead the Thundering Herd into the 2021 season.
According to Marshall President Jerome Gilbert, a search committee has been formed to find Holliday’s successor who will lead the team moving forward.
The committee, expected to consist of eight to 12 persons, will be led by Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick. Gilbert added that there is already plenty of interest in the position.
“At Marshall, we have a storied program, loyal fans and the foundation in place to field successful teams on and off the playing field,” Gilbert said. “I am encouraged by the early indications that the pool of candidates is deep and will allow us to identify and select the right person.”
Here is a look at some of the top names that will surface in regard to the position:
Gerad Parker, WVU offensive coordinator: Parker, who turned 40 on Monday, is a Tri-State native from Louisa, Kentucky. He spent the 2020 season as WVU’s offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach under Neal Brown. WVU was 119th in the nation in total offense in 2019 prior to Parker’s arrival, but the Mountaineers finished in the top 50 in 2020 at 412.6 yards per game, which included a 62-yard-per-game increase in rushing from a team that was 128th of 130 teams in 2019.
While at Penn State in 2019, Parker was the passing game coordinator for an offense that ranked 15th nationally at 35.8 points per game. Parker was at Duke in 2017-18 and was Purdue’s recruiting coordinator from 2013-16 while serving as tight ends coach (2013-14) and wide receivers coach (2015-16). He was also Purdue’s interim head coach for the final six games of the 2016 season.
The former Lawrence County High School standout and University of Kentucky wide receiver served as Marshall’s wide receivers coach in 2011 and 2012.
Brad Lambert, Marshall defensive coordinator: When Lambert joined Holliday’s staff prior to the 2019 season, it was thought he would do so in hopes of landing a future head coaching job. He has experience as a head coach, having started Charlotte’s program from scratch following his hire in 2011. He was with the 49ers until being relieved of his duties following the 2018 season.
Lambert was on the watch list for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, after his defensive unit was ranked No. 1 in FBS in scoring defense at 13 points per game in 2020. The Herd defense was ranked No. 5 in rushing yards allowed per game (95.5).
Lambert has plenty of knowledge of the Marshall community from his first stint with the Herd from 1990-95 when he served as an assistant for Jim Donnan.
Mike Furrey, Chicago Bears wide receivers coach: Furrey, another former MU assistant, is in the midst of preparing for the NFL playoffs with the Bears. Furrey was Marshall’s wide receivers coach in 2013 when Parker left to go to Purdue and the Herd receivers continued to climb in the next two seasons. In 2014, Marshall finished 13-1 with one of the nation’s top offenses. Furrey’s wide receivers helped lead an attack with quarterback Rakeem Cato that finished in the top 10 nationally.
Furrey was a critical component of Marshall’s community efforts, starting the “Baskets of Hope” project in which players visited Cabell Huntington Hospital to deliver baskets of toys and gifts to children on each Friday before Saturday games. It was an extension of Furrey’s work in the NFL, where he was a 2010 finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year, given to the player whose volunteer and charity work is most exemplary.
After his final season in the NFL, Furrey entered the coaching ranks as head coach at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson.
Furrey left Marshall in 2016 to again become a head coach at Limestone College in South Carolina before returning to the NFL as an assistant in 2018.
JaJuan Seider, Penn State running backs coach: The 43-year-old from Belle Glade, Florida, has been with the Nittany Lions since 2018, but his roots are steeped in West Virginia. Seider played at WVU from 1995-98 before transferring in 1999 to Florida A&M, where he was an All-American.
Seider’s college coaching start came as a graduate assistant at WVU (2008-09), and he joined Holliday’s first staff with Marshall in 2010 as running backs coach. Seider stayed with the Herd until 2012, serving as the leader of Marshall’s recruiting efforts with a central focus on his home state of Florida. Many of Marshall’s recruiting inroads in Florida are the product of Seider’s work during Holliday’s tenure.
Following his time in Huntington, Seider moved on to his alma mater at WVU, where he coached from 2013-2016.
Seider joined the Florida staff for one season in 2017 before making the trip to State College in 2018, where he coached with Parker on the Nittany Lions’ staff.
Mike Bartrum, Philadelphia Eagles assistant tight ends coach: Bartrum is a bit of a wild card in the coaching entry, but there is buzz among former players — especially those from the success of the early 1990s — that Bartrum could be considered.
The former Marshall tight end and long-snapper went on to a decade-long career in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles before returning to Ohio, where he became a Meigs County Commissioner. Bartrum then joined the Eagles’ staff.
Of note, two of the most recognizable players in Marshall history — quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich — are also on the wish list of those who support the program, but their interest is unknown.
Leftwich is the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has had his name thrown in the mix for several head-coaching jobs within the NFL.
Pennington’s coaching career is in its relative infancy as the head coach of Sayre High School in Lexington, Kentucky. Pennington has seen quick success at the school, but he has no coaching experience at the college level.
Other names to watch include a pair of state natives — Tony Gibson, now North Carolina State’s defensive coordinator, and Rich Rodriguez, the former WVU, Michigan and Arizona head coach who saw success during his time with the Mountaineers.