HUNTINGTON -Several factors played into Marshall University's success on the recruiting trail.
On Wednesday, the Thundering Herd announced their 2014 recruiting class consisting of 28 individuals, including 11 three-star recruits as rated by Rivals.com. No other Conference USA school claimed more than four.
Marshall completed a 2013 football season that included a five-win improvement from the previous season. Only three other FBS schools enjoyed a better turnaround.
The Thundering Herd also earned its first berth in the C-USA championship game and defeated Maryland 31-20 in the Military Bowl to close out the campaign at 10-4. Following the bowl game, Marshall received 10 commitments, including a half dozen three-star recruits.
Various recruiting services rank Marshall as the top class in C-USA by a wide margin, while 247sports.com ranks it as the top class among the non-power conferences.
"I honestly think this class is as good as we've signed here, and I wouldn't trade it for anybody else's," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "I'm glad we got them. We added a lot of great talent to what we have coming back for 2014."
Marshall's 2014 football signees announced Wednesday:
A.J. Addison, ol, 6-6, 290, Fork Union (Va.) Military
Emanuel Beal, wr, 6-1, 200, Hillgrove HS, Powder Springs, Ga.
Ryan Bee, dl, 6-7, 245, Hillsdale HS, Ashland, Ohio
Fedrice Binot, ol, 6-3, 252, Lake Gibson HS, Lakeland, Fla.
Alex Cason, wr, 6-2, 180, Valdosta (Ga.) HS
Keion Davis, rb, 6-1, 185, Langston Hughes HS, Fairburn, Ga.
Nathaniel Devers, ol, 6-3, 261, Washington HS, Massillon, Ohio
Jordan Dowrey, ol, 6-1, 270, Handley HS, Winchester, Va.
Hyleck Foster, wr, 5-11, 186, Gaffney (S.C.) HS
Kendall Gant, db, 6-3, 184, Lake Gibson HS, Lakeland, Fla.
Cole Garvin, qb, 6-1, 200, Sandy Creek HS, Tyrone, Ga.
Donquell Green, wr, 5-8, 160, Burke County HS, Waynesboro, Ga.
Maurice Hall, lb, 6-3, 225, Gibbs HS, St. Petersburg, Fla.
LaDerrick Hammond, db, 6-2, 175, Jefferson County HS, Louisville, Ga.
Kaleb Harris, lb, 6-3, 207, Norwayne HS, Creston, Ohio
Nyquan Harris, dl, 6-2, 310, Lake Taylor HS, Norfolk, Va.
Frankie Hernandez, lb, 6-2, 203, Largo (Fla.) HS
Demetrius Johnson, db, 6-2, 205, Annapolis (Md.) Christian HS
Quintavious Knight, db, 6-0, 175, Georgia Military, Milledgeville, Ga.
Brandon Mitchell, ol, 6-4, 310, Pierce CC, Woodland Hills, Calif.
Tomell One, dl, 6-3, 270, Bayside HS, Palm Bay, Fla.
Antavis Rowe, db, 5-10, 170, Washington HS, Atlanta
Jason Smith, dl, 6-3, 235, East Coast Prep, Great Barrington, Mass.
Malik Thompson, de, 6-6, 275, Fork Union (Va.) Military
Reese Wooten, wr, 6-2, 170, Cairo (Ga.) HS
Ryan Yurachek, te, 6-3, 225, Carolina Forest HS, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Even though Marshall returns eight starters on defense, the Thundering Herd coaching staff signed 15 prospects on that side of the ball, including defensive backs Kendall Gant and Quintavious Knight.
Gant originally committed to Georgia, but decommitted on July 12. During his senior season at Lake Gibson High School (Fla.), he led the Braves to the Class 6A playoffs after recording 48 tackles and five interceptions.
Knight decommitted from Mississippi in November. He enrolled at Georgia Military College and led the Bulldogs to a 13-1 finish this past season and a runner-up showing in the National Junior College Athletic Association after producing 26 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions.
The first recruit to join the Thundering Herd family on Wednesday was offensive lineman Nathaniel Devers from Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio. At 6-foot-3 and 261 pounds, Devers was ranked the No. 7 center in the country. He originally committed with Cincinnati.
Marshall signed a total of five offensive linemen with A.J. Addison, Fred Binot, Jordan Dowrey and Brandon Mitchell.
Addison out of Fork Union Military Academy (Va.) is one of four recruits who were mid-year enrollees. Binot out of Lakeland, Fla., attended the same high school at Lake Gibson that produced Marshall running back Remi Watson. Dowrey started four years on the offensive line and three on the defensive side of the ball at Handley High School (Va.), while Brandon Mitchell was originally a Class of 2010 prospect at defensive tackle at Taft High School (Calif.) before enrolling at Moorpark Community College (Calif.).
The lone quarterback added to the list was Cole Garvin from Tyrone, Ga. Another mid-year enrollee at Marshall, Garvin finished 39-2-1 as a starter at Sandy Creek High School and led the Patriots to two state titles.
Marshall loaded up at the wide receiver position after nabbing a total of six recruits. The list includes Emanuel Beal (Powder Springs, Ga.), Alex Cason (Valdosta, Ga.), Hyleck Foster (Gaffney, S.C.), Donquell Green (Waynesboro, Ga.), Reese Wootern (Cairo, Ga.) and tight end Ryan Yurachek (Myrtle Beach, S.C.).
A three-sport star at Gaffney High School, Foster rushed for 1,548 yards and 30 touchdowns, and caught 35 passes for 557 yards and three scores during his senior year.
Also tabbed as three-star prospects by Rivals.com was Beal. Despite missing the first five games of his senior season at Hillgrove High School, Beal finished with 10 catches for 355 yards and three TDs.
On defense, Donaldven Manning (Miami, Fla.) and Ricardo Williams (Homestead, Fla.) both transferred to Marshall and are enrolled for the spring semester.
Before arriving in Huntington, Manning attended Virginia Tech where he had four tackles and one interception in eight games at defensive back during the 2012 season. At Miami Central High School, he was teammates with Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and wide receiver Tommy Shuler.
Williams played one game on the defensive line for Miami (Fla.) in 2012.
Also enrolled for the spring semester at Marshall are defensive lineman Jason Smith (Hackensack, N.J.) and Malik Thompson (Winter Gardens, Fla.). Thompson is a three-star prospect.
Rounding out the three-star signees are linebackers Maurice Hall (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Kaleb Harris (Creston, Ohio), Frankie Hernandez (Largo, Fla.) and defensive back Demetrius Johnson (Annapolis, Md.).
Closing out the list of recruits for Marshall are defensive linemen Ryan Bee (Ashland, Ohio), NyQuan Harris (Norfolk, Va.) and Tomell One (Palm Bay, Fla.), and defensive backs LaDerrick Hammond Louisville, Ga.) and Antavis Rowe (Atlanta, Ga.).