By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
In a way, Marshall head football Doc Holliday has to feel like another Doc, ol’ Doc Frankenstein, for he, too, has created a monster, only in real life, not fictional, and will be on display in Milan Puskar Stadium at noon Saturday as the 2012 season opens for West Virginia University with the final renewal of the Friends of Coal Bowl.
The truth of the matter is that Holliday was responsible for the recruiting of the heart and soul of the WVU offense that Dana Holgorsen inherited a year ago, having brought both quarterback Geno Smith and wide receiver Stedman Bailey to WVU from south Florida.
It was, so to speak, his going away gift to the university, having left to take the Marshall job. These were his final contributions after a career of bringing player after player out of Florida to play at WVU to play key roles on the most successful of Mountaineer teams.
He estimates that ever since he first started recruiting Florida he has brought “more than 100 players” out, given them a chance to get an education and new start in life, many of them coming from poorer, underprivileged families and situations.
“I love those kids from South Florida,” Holliday told the Palm Beach Post a couple of years back. “When you get a kid from there, football is a way out for them, a way to be successful and get an education. They’re extremely loyal kids and they’re extremely tough. They just love to play the game.”
If he loves the kids, for the most part they love him.
Smith, who quarterbacks against him in this final opener for the senior, may wind up being the top recruit he’s ever had out of Florida, entering the season a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate on a team that, with some breaks, could be a contender for the Big 12 or national title.
“He didn’t sell me. The program sold me, but he was the one recruiting me,” Smith said this week.
In truth, though, it was Holliday’s persistence and knowledge of salesmanship that got Smith to WVU, although it didn’t hurt either that Smith’s high school coach was Damon Cogdell, a former WVU player who has established an underground railroad to bring players to Morgantown.
“(Holliday) was always showing up at my house, building a rapport with me. That went a long way with me, especially with my mom,” Smith said.
Sell the mother; the kid usually will follow.
“I’d come home and she’d say, ‘Doc’s been by,’ and I hadn’t even been at home. I’d been at practice. It was him just checking up on me. That’s something a lot of recruiters don’t do.”
Bailey was Smith’s high school teammate, a year behind him in school.
Holliday worked his magic on him, too.
“He was a cool guy, very down to earth. He knows how to talk to us guys and says all the right things. And when we came up here he made us feel at home,” Bailey said.
Being a legend as a Florida recruiter opens the doors for him, and that hasn’t changed. In fact, this year there are 25 players from Florida on the Marshall roster, a tribute to Holliday.
Oh, did we mention, his recruiting director is a former WVU quarterback Ja’Juan Seider who – yep – played high school ball in Florida and was recruited by Holliday.
Fresh off its upset win over previous No. 1 Stanford, the West Virginia women’s soccer team resumes action this weekend as host of the WVU 90 Minute Classic at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
West Virginia, Penn State, Miami and Pitt make up the four-team field. Pitt and Miami will square off at 5 p.m. today, followed by No. 24 WVU versus sixth-ranked Penn State at 7 p.m. Action concludes on Sunday, Sept. 2, as WVU battles Miami at noon, followed by Penn State and Pitt at 2:30 p.m.
“We are excited to bring some quality soccer to Morgantown this weekend,” says coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “We have teams from the ACC, Big Ten and Big East, and each game will be competitive.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.