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Herd coaches busy with more than bowl game

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

To say Marshall's coaching staff is busy this time of year would not only be obvious, but also an understatement.

Thundering Herd coach Bob Pruett came back from New York after a two-day trip on Wednesday, as a guest speaker at the Football Foundation banquet. Today, he leaves for Mobile, Ala., as his Marshall squad prepares for Wednesday's GMAC Bowl. And in the middle of it is trying to get an edge on recruiting.

This week is the second of three in a "live contact" period for recruits, meaning coaches can visit prospects in their homes. Throw in preparation for last Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championship game and the travel and practice for the bowl game, and for Herd coaches, it means working overtime.

"We really have to try to fit (recruiting) in," Pruett said. "But we'll get some extra attention with the bowl game."

It's Bill Legg's job to make sure the visits are made. He's Marshall's recruiting coordinator and doubles as the tight ends coach.

"For everybody in the country, this is a crazy time," Legg said. "For us, it's doubly as busy. You always have to wear duel hats, but our duel hats are stretched to the maximum."

Marshall's coaches were out on the recruiting trail Sunday, Monday and Tuesday this week. Preparation for the GMAC Bowl began Wednesday, a week before the game. The GMAC Bowl is at 8 p.m. on Dec. 18 and can be seen nationwide on ESPN 2.

When quarterback Byron Leftwich found out he wasn't a Heisman finalist on Wednesday, it actually freed up some of Pruett's schedule. If there's any silver lining, it's a weekend trip to New York both Pruett and Leftwich won't have to make. Instead, they'll stay in Mobile with the rest of the team.

The national coverage of the bowl game can help Marshall. Although Herd coaches can't physically be on the road, recruits can tune in to see the actual product. Yet other teams can sometimes get an edge with talking to recruits one-on-one.

"We're saying, 'I may not be able to come see you this week, but we're playing in championship games,'" Legg said. "(Postseason games) are recruiting for you, but at the same time, you're actually a little bit behind."

NCAA rules allow for seven coaches per team to be on the road at the same time, including the head coach. Pruett was in New York, but he wasn't visiting recruits.

During the three days Legg assigned for visits, two coaches were in Virginia, one in Mississippi and Kansas, one in the Maryland-Washington D.C. area and one each in Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma. Last week, they hit the usual area of Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas and went as far as California and Canada.

"It's not unusual for somebody to go 400 miles in a day in a car," Legg said.

Legg's area of responsibility is the state of West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, so he was able to make several visits during lunch and after practices. Perhaps the coach logging the most miles is Pruett, who personally visits each player offered a scholarship.

The live contact period is the three weeks after Thanksgiving and this year ends Dec. 21. Then a "dead" period begins until Sunday, Jan. 12. Coaches and recruits can talk on the phone, but no actual visits can be made. On Jan. 12, the final live contact period begins and goes until National Signing Day, which this year is Wed., Feb. 5.

Recruits can make a verbal acceptance of a verbal scholarship offer at any time, but it's not considered official until Feb. 5.

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at rpeirce@exponent-telegram.com.