HUNTINGTON — As Marshall head coach Doc Holliday gets set for a trip that will end with him saying goodbye to his current seniors, Holliday said hello to a new group of incoming players on Wednesday.
Holliday announced that the team signed 15 new players on Wednesday, National Signing Day.
The signings solidified the Herd in several areas of immediate need, most notably at linebacker and defensive back.
“We’re excited about the 15 guys that we signed to this class,” Holliday said. “Eight of those 15 will be here in January, which is exciting. I felt like we met the needs that we needed to meet.”
Those eight players Holliday spoke of include seven junior college players — four of whom will be seen on the defensive side of the football.
That figure included a pair of junior college linebackers — an area where Holliday has seen success in recent years. Those junior college linebackers were Navarro College linebacker Abraham Beauplan and Butler Community College linebacker Charlie Gray.
Beauplan had 133 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, last season while Gray added 79 tackles and six sacks last season. They provide instant production potential for the Herd defense.
“We had to get some older guys in that class,” Holliday said. “I like our young guys, but they are young guys.”
Beauplan was one of three players to sign from Navarro College, joining defensive back Joshua Bowers and wide receiver Shadeed Ahmed in the class.
Bowers is a speedster at cornerback, clocking a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash while also bringing ability. He had 46 tackles with 15 pass breakups last season. Ahmed caught 51 passes for 775 yards and seven touchdowns.
Linebacker and defensive back were positions of need that were addressed with the Herd signing four linebackers and three defensive backs.
Beauplan and Gray were joined at linebacker by Immanuel Bush, a 6-1, 250-pound linebacker from Lancaster, South Carolina, and Kerion Martin, a 6-2, 200-pound projected linebacker from Capital High School in Charleston. Both players also have experience at other positions, with Bush playing defensive line and Martin having played defensive back.
Martin’s experience compares well to that of former Marshall linebacker D.J. Hunter, who was a defensive back in high school who moved to the second level. Former linebacker Chase Hancock is also a favorable comparison in style.
Martin was one of three area players who were part of Wednesday’s class. Perhaps the day’s biggest surprise signing was Bluefield running back and linebacker J.J. Davis, a 6-0, 195-pound product who helped the Beavers to a berth in the Class AA championship.
“To be able to get those two in-state kids, we’re excited about that,” Holliday said. “They’re both tremendous athletes, great kids. We’re excited to get them here.”
The other was 6-foot-6 quarterback Eli Sammons of Greenup County. All three were considered three-star prospects. All had also competed in Marshall’s summer camp series, where they were discovered.
Programs are allowed to sign up to 25 scholarship athletes per signing period, so Wednesday’s announcement of 15 need-based signees gives Holliday and recruiting coordinator Mike Treier some leeway as how to move forward with the final signing day period for the Class of 2020, which is Feb. 5.
Holliday said most recruits who are signed later in the period will be the best players available following Wednesday’s scramble of elite teams.
Breaking up signing day into two separate periods allows for a new crop of athletes to emerge, Holliday said.
“There’s a lot of guys — a whole new pool of players — that come open,” Holliday said. “You sure don’t want to sign an entire class and then be sitting there with … all the extra players that come out there without being able to take some kids. We like where we are.”
With early signing day now complete, Holliday and the Herd staff set their sights on Tampa, where they travel on Thursday to continue preparing for the 2019 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. Marshall takes on UCF at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 23, at Raymond James Stadium in a game that will be shown on ESPN.