February 20, 2011

Marshall coaching staff discusses 2011 class

The dust has settled on the 2011 recruiting class for Marshall football and now many of the MU football fans are curious as to what the Thundering Herd coaching staff has to say about their signees.

HerdNation got to catch up with the four coaches who signed the majority of the recruiting class for Marshall football--JaJuan Seider, Phil Ratliff, Zach Smith, and Sean Cronin.

Between the four of them these four dynamic recruiters demonstrated their skills on the trail by signing _______ of Marshall's 2011 recruiting class.

We got to speak with each coach about the different prospects that are going to play in their position groups.

Below are the interviews.

Interview with former MU wide receivers coach Zach Smith

Davonte Allen: "Well you know what, Davonte's a kid that outside of the relationship with Coach Seider probably would not be in Herd Nation. But he's a special talent. I've had a lot of experience dealing with kids from Glades and also Pahokeee--they always work harder than anyone else. They always end up being more productive than you thought which is kind of unheard of when you watch their tapes because you expect them to be productive. They always exceed expectations. Davonte is gonna be a big-time player. He's a kid that I would've expected to play really early. He's a kid--an outside receiver by body type but has the skill set to play inside. He's got unbelievable body control, unbelievable change of direction and speed. He'll be a dominant outside receiver that could end up playing inside if they see fit just to get him on the field early. But he's a kid that should play early and will have an unbelievable career at Marshall."

Tommy Shuler: "You know, Tommy's a kid that probably was a little under the radar in Miami just because he committed (early to MU). He's a kid that probably would've blown up had he not committed early. We had planned on him coming in early but that didn't work out. But he's a kid--he's a true slot. He's extremely quick. He has the top end speed you look for and he catches everything. He's the true essence of a playmaker--what you look for when you say okay--this is a guy I want to get the ball to and see what he can do in space. That's what his expertise are. He's a space player. He's got great change of direction, he's got great speed, and he's got good ball skills. So he'll be a really good inside receiver at Marshall."

Levern Jacobs: "Levern's probably the most underrated receiver that we recruited this year. He's six feet tall and he plays with the body control of a slot. He's extremely quick. I noticed him watching 7-on-7. Back in spring, I went to a 7-on-7 of Suitland High School versus Forestville Military Academy. He's extremely quick off the line. But what really impressed me were his ball skills. He's got unbelievable ball skills. But the biggest thing about Levern is he has the "it" factor. He has the swagger and the mentality to be a great receiver. He's gonna be big-time there just because he will be a leader--maybe as a freshman, sophomore, junior, whatever it is. He'll bring the mentality to that receiving corps that they need. He'll have the Michael Jordan effect--he'll bring everyone else's play around him up."

"You walk into Suitland High School you don't have to ask for anybody but Levern Jacobs. He runs that school man. He is Mr. Suitland High School. You walk in and everybody knows Levern. When I walked in, everybody said, 'Oh, you're here for Levern?' They call Levern over the loudspeaker and Levern comes down. He takes you around, introduces you to everybody. Every single person that walks by has a different handshake for him. He has probably about 50 different handshakes for every single person that he walks by (laughs). That's his school now. There's no lack of personality with that kid."

Craig Wilkins: "Well Craig Wilkins was kind of a surprise recruit just because he was such a quiet kid and no one could get a read on him. But he's a kid that possesses all the skills you look for in a receiver. He's got straight line speed, ball skills, and everything else. But really, he's an extremely, extremely intelligent kid--high football IQ. He's the type of kid that can walk in and learn everything from day one and really make an impact as a young kid. He has the ability to do that as well as the intelligence to do that."

Christopher Alston: "Chris Alston was one of my top kids on tape--prior to his injury. He's a strong, strong slot that has great speed, great body control, great change of direction, and great ball skills. (He's an) extremely under-the-radar kid just because of where he's located but prior to his injury he was probably gonna blow up and Marshall wouldn't have been able to touch him. Then he got hurt. As much as you don't want somebody to get hurt, it was a blessing in disguise just because now he's gonna be wearing Green and White. Once he recovers and gets back healthy, he'll be a big-time player there."

HerdNation: What do you think is the toughest part of recruiting for Division I-A college coaches?

Zach Smith: "You know it's probably managing your area just because you come to the point that you really start to feel strongly about the kids in your area. You've got to be able to step back from that and evaluate kids from all areas even though you know the kids from your area the best. You still want a fair evaluation nationally to make sure you find the best player for your position. At the same time, every other coach wants to find the best player in his position. There's a lot of times--heated arguments about kids at other positions in your area because you know them so well that you want to fight for them because you feel strongly about them. But that's probably one of the toughest parts--removing yourself from personal relationships when evaluating an entire position group. But it's also one of the best things because an area coach fights strongly for a kid in his area--there's alot to say about conviction for one of those players."

Interview with Marshall tight ends coach Phil Ratliff

We caught up with him to get his thoughts on Colonial Forge tight end Eric Frohnapfel.

Eric Frohnapfel: "Being blessed to have coached two NFL tight ends the previous four years (Cody Slate and Lee Smith)--in recruiting Eric, he's kind of a mix between both Lee Smith and Cody Slate--not to put too much pressure on him in any way. He's the type of guy that you can line up in the tight end home position, he's a guy that you can flex out, he's got the speed to where he can stretch the field vertically. He's also got the tenacity and obviously the length where he can be a dominant blocker in this league (C-USA). He's got very soft hands. He has the ability to get in and out of his breaks which will allow him to cause matchup problems with linebackers and safeties. (He's a) very intelligent young man, very intense young man. He's exactly what we're looking for in a tight end. We're extremely excited to be able to play him--he's able to line up at the home position at tight end, we're able to flex him out. We'll be able to do a lot of things with him so he'll bring a lot of versatility to our offense."

HerdNation: What's the hardest thing about recruiting for a Division I-A college coach?

Phil Ratliff: "The unrealistic tag of a BCS school or non-BCS school. It's hard to sometimes shake that non-BCS label. That will take care of itself as long as we keep recruiting like we are. Bring on the BCS!"

HerdNation also got the opportunity to catch up with former MU defensive line coach Sean Cronin to talk about the defensive ends in the 2011 recruiting class.

Interview with former MU defensive line coach Sean Cronin

Robert Mincey: "Robert Mincey was one of my top high school kids from the very beginning. Usually as you go--guys fall off the board and end up going to upper level BCS schools and he just stayed there. He had a lot of attention from upper level BCS schools but Mike Cassity did a great job recruiting him and he felt comfortable with us. I think in the end, once he was at Marshall he just kind of felt like home and he didn't even want to take the rest of his visits. He chose us over Illinois and Kansas. Even Michigan on RichRod's last day called and offered him and he said no. I think he's that type of player--he's a BCS player. (I) was just thrilled to get him. I'm really disappointed I don't get to coach him and all of these guys I feel that way about. But he's just a really big kid with such athletic ability, great change of direction, and can bend. (He's a) true athlete but he's also big enough that he may be able to move inside. Obviously he'll start as an outside player but we talked about recruiting bigger ends and having a more athletic front and staying away from defensive tackles as far as recruiting them and just recruiting ends and whoever comes big enough to become a tackle (will play there). He was a guy that gave you a lot of flexibility because he's so athletic that he could do whatever you wanted him to do."

Jarquez Samuel: "Jarquez Samuel's an absolute freak. He's a gigantic human being. I mean he looks like a guy we would've recruited at Florida and signed at Florida and he's that type of player. He's an SEC type of player--explosive, huge long arms, and if you come within five yards of him he's gonna snatch you up because he's got such long arms. Again--fits into the mold of Mincey but even bigger than Mincey where he can play inside and out. Definitely more of an inside player than Mincey is--he'll probably be a great, great defensive tackle."

Terry Franklin: Terry Franklin's a guy we were really lucky to get. He transferred from JUCOs which kind of eliminated some of the schools he was able to go to. The SEC has several rules about how many JUCO hours you're allowed to have, that you have to finish up at the same school--so he didn't fit into their eligibility rules. The SEC wasn't allowed to take him. But he's that type of player. He's a grown man. He's older maturity wise. He's ready to step on the field right now. But the best thing about Terry Franklin is he's a high, high motor guy who can really run and has just a tremendous burst. He has--when you look at the NFL and when you look at who the first round draft picks are on the defensive line--the common factor that they said about every one of those guys when they did their breakdown on ESPN was that they were high motor guys. That was what you heard about them and that's exactly what Terry Franklin is--he's a high motor guy that plays a thousand miles an hour and never quits."

HerdNation: What's the most interesting place you ever met a recruit?

Sean Cronin: "I know when I was recruiting Gator Hoskins we went bowling. There was a lot of rules--like he had to pay for everything. So it was kind of weird to go on a recruiting visit and making the recruit pay for everything but he wanted to go bowling. So we went bowling and he had to drive because I wasn't allowed to drive. But to see him in a competitive situation--that was interesting."

HerdNation also got to catch up with Marshall running backs coach and recruiting coordinator JaJuan Seider to talk about the running backs in the 2011 class.

Remi Watson: "Well the thing about Remi Watson is he's a big 'ole kid and people don't realize it--5'11, 200 pounds. I don't know what his 40 is--I bet it's a high 4.4--at least 4.4 range, maybe 4.3. What makes him special is that he can run like a smaller back but he's the same kid that runs through tackles. He's great great skills getting in and out of his breaks. He can stick that foot in the ground and get north and south just as fast as the smallest guy--that's what is unusual for him. The kid is a big-time back--I think an SEC caliber player. Not only that in the backfield you can get him in space--you can line him out at wide receiver. You talk about guys that separate themselves--those type of people are playing on Sundays one day."

Steward Butler: "Stew Butler is a kid I call "instant offense". When he goes, he goes. He can get from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye. He's a kid that can make the first guy miss and every play he's a threat for the homerun. Those guys--we like to call those guys make coaches look better than what they are."

As always remember that HerdNation is your premiere source for Marshall football recruiting coverage!

Wade Peery is the Publisher of HerdNation.com. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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