Chris Deaton and the late Phil Ratliff would be proud.
Marshall welcomed at least eight new players Wednesday in the first early national signing day, and the first part of the 2018 class was dominated by young men in the trenches. Five, to be exact.
Four are offensive linemen, and they are from Kentucky. Perhaps two or three of them could become the modern-day version of the “Kentucky Headhunters,” the aforementioned duo from the Thundering Herd’s Division I-AA days.
The standout defensive lineman just so happens to be Elijah Ratliff, Phil Ratliff’s cousin. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder hails from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, near Columbus, and was named defensive MVP of the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, played Tuesday at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
He was a Division I All-State selection, and could well wear No. 56 in honor of cousin Phil, as he has the previous two years. Phil Ratliff, who died in 2015 while an assistant coach at Charlotte, was also a Marshall assistant and the head coach at Spring Valley High.
Owen Porter and Jacob Cassidy are carrying the Spring Valley legacy at Marshall. Porter is listed as a linebacker and Cassidy is ticketed for tight end.
The most familiar of the four offensive linemen from Kentucky, at least to Capital High players, is Ethan Bingham. The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder led a Johnson Central line that gashed the Cougars’ defense for a combined 592 rushing yards in two wins, 23-6 and 31-20 at Paintsville.
Bingham is listed as a resident of Prestonsburg, roughly 13 miles south on U.S. 23.
Trey Livingood, MU’s only three-star signee (as rated by 247 Sports) is from Berea and went to Madison Southern. Zack Ferris is from Eubank (Pulaski County) and Dalton Tucker is from Paris (Bourbon County).
Madison Southern played in the championship game of Class 5A (second-largest of Kentucky’s six divisions), while Johnson Central advanced to the 4A finals and Bourbon County lost to Ashland Paul Blazer in the second round of the 4A playoffs.
Marshall is reinforcing its kicking ranks by bringing in Rhode Island transfer Justin Rohrwasser. As a sophomore in 2016, he made 6 of 7 field goals with a long of 42 yards, and 23 of 24 extra points. The native of Clifton Park, New York then enrolled in Erie Community College (western New York state), earned his associate degree and enrolled in Marshall in January.
Kaare Vedvik, the Norwegian who handled both the placekicking and punting chores, has used his eligibility. Robert LeFevre kicked off in one game this past season.
Vedvik, an all-conference punter, was just invited to the College Gridiron Showcase and Symposium, a five-day event in Addison, Texas, joining all-conference tight end Ryan Yurachek.
MU officials declined to confirm the signings, all reported via Twitter. The school will wait to announce all signings on the traditional national signing day, Feb. 7.