Chuck Landon: Offensive line holds key to MU recruiting
College football fans are starry-eyed.
So, on National Signing Day all the conversation is about how many stars Rivals.com or Scout.com or 247Sports.com conferred on Marshall's best new recruits.
That means such four-star recruits as wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis, linebacker Stefan Houston, wideout Deontay McManus and, perhaps, inside linebacker Davon Durant will command most of the attention on Wednesday.
But is that justified?
The wideouts, running backs, linebackers and defensive backs are the showy recruits whose highlights are oh so impressive on YouTube. But for the serious Herd fans who want a real glimpse into Marshall's football future, I recommend taking a detailed look at the offensive line.
It will dictate Marshall's success.
And, potentially, it could be bright.
Six of Marshall's top seven returning offensive linemen are upperclassmen, including four seniors. Such starters as left tackle Jordan Jeffries and guard/tackle Garrett Scott, along with part-time starters Gage Niemeyer and Alex Schooler are seniors. And starters Chris Jasperse, center, and Josh Lovell, guard, are juniors.
That leaves sophomore center/guard Cam Dees as the lone underclassman.
Worse yet, other than sophomore tackle Clint Van Horn, who played on MU's field goal and extra point teams last season, none of the other young linemen have any experience. That includes tackle Eric Ansley, who is very highly regarded by MU's coaching staff, and massive Josh Murriel, who are redshirt freshmen.
That is why the offensive line recruits in Marshall's Class of 2013 are so vital. They just might make or break this class.
Going into signing day, Marshall had four commitments and counting. They included Chris Huhn, 6-foot-6, 290-pound tackle; Cody Collins, 6-2, 280 center; Michael Selby, 6-3, 280 guard; and Gerald Wright, 6-2, 321 center.
Huhn, who was offered by Louisville and seven different Mid-American Conference schools, and Selby, who turned down a late offer from Georgia Tech, are the top prospects.
But there is still a wild card out there.
His name is Sandley Jean-Felix and he's a 6-5, 295-pound native of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., who has long arms, nimble feet and is a prototypical left tackle.
Jean-Felix gave a verbal commitment to nearby Florida International on Aug. 18, 2012, and never wavered despite offers from Texas Tech and West Virginia University, according to ESPN.com. Until, that is, FIU fired Mario Cristobal as head coach and didn't retain Alex Mirabal as offensive line coach. They were the prime reasons Jean-Felix committed.
So, when Marshall hired Mirabal as its offensive line coach, well, it came as no surprise when Jean-Felix made an official visit to Huntington last weekend.
The standout from Boyd Anderson High School didn't commit to Marshall or make any promises, but it doesn't appear likely Jean-Felix will honor his verbal to FIU.
He is expected to make a decision Wednesday.
If Jean-Felix signs with Marshall, he could be the linch-pin in future Herd offensive lines. Huhn, Selby and Jean-Felix would join Dees, Van Horn, Ansley and Murriel to give the Herd seven highly regarded young offensive linemen.
That could be the key to Marshall's future success.
All of it will unfold Wednesday.
RECRUITING FODDER: Don't expect Marshall to sign junior college defensive back Lakeith Murray. He verbally committed but MU has decided not to offer him, according to sources.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.