Chuck Landon: Top prospect lands at MU
Just call him Travon "The Moving" Van.
That nickname is appropriate at every level.
First and foremost, it's because the 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back has been released from his commitment to the University of Florida and is moving to Marshall's football program.
In fact, Van already is in Huntington and is attending summer school classes.
That's huge considering the San Diego, Calif., native was rated as a four-star prospect.
Yes, Van is that good.
So good, he was ranked as the ninth-best prep school prospect in the country after playing for Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y., last season.
So good, he chose Florida over scholarship offers from Miami (Fla.), Southern Cal and West Virginia University.
So good, he was expected to play immediately at Florida as a true freshman cornerback and kick returner.
What changed all that?
Van still isn't qualified academically, so he and the Gators decided to part ways. And since new Herd coach Doc Holliday and several of his assistants have connections to Florida coach Urban Meyer, moving to Marshall became a logical solution.
Besides, Meyer obviously wouldn't want Van to end up playing for a future Gators opponent.
That's why Marshall is a good fit in every way.
And that includes academics.
Although Van hasn't qualified yet, he still has a chance to do so before the 2010 season. If not, Van can sit out the 2010-11 school year at Marshall as an academic non-qualifier.
Either way, the Herd has gotten a big-time player.
Just ask Troy Starr.
"He's from the high school that produced Reggie Bush," said Starr, who coached Van at Helix High School in San Diego. "It's a really good high school program. I was only his coach for a year.
"I worked with Doc at Florida."
During his senior year at Helix in 2008, Van rushed for 1,237 yards on 139 carries for an eye-popping 8.9 yards per carry average. Besides rushing for 10 touchdowns, Van also had 311 yards and a touchdown receiving. And, defensively, he had 50 tackles and seven interceptions.
See why Florida signed him?
"Oh, he's legit," said Starr. "He's the real deal. He's a real fast guy. He's dynamic. I mean, he's going to be an impact player there. He's probably one of the better recruits Marshall has gotten in a long time."
And that leads to Part Two of why "The Moving" Van is such an appropriate nickname.
He possesses phenomenal speed.
"I mean, he's a legit speed guy," said Starr." He's a 10.6, 10.7 (seconds) 100-meter guy.
"So, he can fly."
Van has the strength to break tackles plus the breakaway speed to turn any carry into a long touchdown run.
What's not to like?
"He's the real deal," said Starr. "He's an upper tier Division I guy. He's a real good player."
Sounds like Marshall stole a player.
"Yeah," said Starr, "they really did."
The Class of 2010 is in town. Twenty-two members of Holliday's first recruiting class began taking summer school classes at Marshall on Monday.
It is with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye to my old friend and colleague Mike Cherry. The former Charleston Newspaper sportswriter and Marshall alum passed away in Melbourne, Fla., early Monday.
Rest in peace, Mike.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.