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Derek Redd: Marshall keeps winning at football recruiting

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As far as dilemmas go, it was one that Todd Hartley didn't mind having.

"Kind of running out of creative cryptic messages now...that's a good problem to have!" theMarshall recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach  tweeted last week.

What had Hartley going so cloak-and-dagger? He just snagged a couple more verbal commitments for the Thundering Herd's 2014 recruiting class. The NCAA forbids coaches to specifically mention a verbally committed player by name - such commitments are non-binding until they sign their letters of intent in February - but those coaches find other ways to broadcast the news. That's why you see the "YESSIR!"s and "Yahtzee!"s on their Twitter feeds that look like college recruiting Tourette's.

Here's why Hartley could be especially happy. Those latest verbals, Georgia receiver Keion Davis and Florida defensive lineman Ja'Ree Tolbert, were Marshall's seventh and eighth for 2014.

And here's some perspective: This is the fourth full recruiting year that Herd Coach Doc Holliday, whose recruiting acumen has been among his calling cards for decades, has had at Marshall. This is the first year of those four where Marshall has secured any more than two verbals before June 24.

Marshall's offense isn't the only thing that's fast around Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Now, neither method - reeling them in early or reeling them in late - is good or bad. They're just different, and both can work. Take a look at Florida State's strategies under both former Coach Bobby Bowden and current Coach Jimbo Fisher.

Bowden was considered one of the nation's best closers. As National Signing Day drew near, the list of Seminole commitments grew, and on Signing Day, many of those uncommitted prospects with FSU on their final lists grabbed the Seminoles' letter of intent to sign. Look at the Class of 2004 - two verbal commitments before Jan. 18. Current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons didn't commit until Jan. 29. Current Denver Broncos corner Tony Carter waited until Signing Day on Feb. 4.

Fisher didn't let the big fish swim around for too long. Some of his best coups came before the 'Noles' fall camp even started. In Fisher's first year in Tallahassee, as offensive coordinator in 2007, FSU snagged a Class of 2008 verbal commitment from E.J. Manuel - the surprise first quarterback taken in this year's NFL Draft - on June 27. Manuel's former FSU and current Buffalo Bills teammate, linebacker Nigel Bradham, committed to the Seminoles even earlier, on April 15.

In securing Manuel and Bradham's commitments early, the Seminoles had two bell cows for that year's recruiting class to point toward when wooing other prospects. They had a blue-chipper on offense and defense that, when other uncommitted studs came through Tallahassee, allowed them to ask, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to play with those guys?"

That's something the Herd could do with quarterback prospect Cole Garvin. Garvin, a well-regarded recruit from Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, Ga., was among Marshall's top overall targets for the 2014 class. He verbally committed June 14 and plans to graduate high school early to enroll at Marshall in the spring.

So, while it likely wasn't the only reason, it didn't hurt that Garvin was in the fold when the Herd scored verbal commitments from Valdosta (Ga.) High receiver Alex Cason and receiver Keion Davis of Langston Hughes High in Fairburn, Ga., only days later.

And here's another plus for early commitments: When they're making their decisions in May and June, they're doing so during college football's lull - no games, no official practices. So they can steal the spotlight as opposed to commitments in September and October, when the regular season is in full swing and such news becomes a footnote rather than a focus.

It's a strategy that could set the Herd up for a pretty good recruiting haul. And if that means Hartley has to start combing the Internet for some new pop-culture catchphrases, I don't think he'll mind.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.


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