By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Much has been made of the upheaval in membership in Conference USA, but Marshall University football coach Doc Holliday speaks nothing but positives — publicly, at least.
Interviewed at the Marshall coaches tour in Princeton last week, he said about the new group of schools joining in the next couple of years, “I think it’s real exciting, to be honest, because we’ve become more regional. For us, it’s going to give our fan base the opportunity to come see us play.”
“We’ve got Old Dominion and Charlotte, which is not far from here. Then, in another year, we’ll add Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, which is just on the other side of us, and easy for the fan base to get to.”
The addition of Florida Atlantic and Florida International will result in a different kind of positive effect, Holliday said. Marshall recruits heavily in South Florida.
“I look at it from a head coaching and a recruiting standpoint, too,” he said. “Those areas where we’re picking up teams are big-time recruiting areas for us. So it’s exciting for us as a football staff, and it’s going to be exciting for our fan base, too.”
“Any time you can go into places and get exposure (there), it’s going to help you,” Holliday said. “We have a lot of Florida kids, and we’re going twice to South Florida to play, this year. ... It’s huge.”
He also addressed a familiar theme at his tour stops — having state-grown players on Marshall’s teams.
He said, “You’d love to have a whole team full of West Virginians, and we work extremely hard (to recruit) each player that has the skills for us to go in and win a championship with. We’re still going to recruit him.
“Unfortunately, there’s not enough (such) players in the state, so we have to go a lot of places to get our players. But, I love the kids that we do have in West Virginia, and we work extremely hard to make sure we don’t miss one.”
“We’ve got some kids from this area who are going to show up as walk-ons,” said Holliday, who was born in Hurricane.
“I’m from West Virginia. I love West Virginia kids. You tell me an opportunity to recruit one for Marshall, and whether he’s a scholarship player or a walk-on, we’re sure excited about him showing up for camp.”
He said 2012 Bluefield High School graduate Joe Woodrum “has done a tremendous job for us ... We’re excited about him. He gets better every year.”
The Thundering Herd finished 5-7 last fall, concluding with a double-overtime 65-59 loss at East Carolina. In Holliday’s previous seasons, Marshall was 7-6 in 2011 and 5-7 in 2010.
Asked about priorities for the current recruiting class, he said, “We felt like we had to get more athletic at linebacker, and I feel like we’ve done that.
“We felt like we have to continue to develop offensive linemen every year, and we’ve got four excellent players coming in.”
“The great thing about this recruiting class is, with the exception of nine of them, they’ve all been there (enrolled in classes since) January, there on campus.”
As a result, he got to evaluate several during spring drills. He said another nine recruits were enrolling for the Marshall summer term that began this week.
“We’re excited about where we are,” Holliday said. “I think we can recruit pretty well.”
“In addition, with $32 million worth of new facilities under construction right now — the dirt’s already being moved — that’s going to help us tremendously as far as recruiting goes, and hopefully, we can get to the next level.”
Marshall opens its 2013 schedule on Aug. 31, hosting Miami of Ohio at 7 p.m. in Huntington.
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com