The Thundering Herd, a part of Conference USA, was ranked seventh nationally in scoring and 12th in total offense before capping their season with a 31-20 win over Maryland in the Military Bowl.
Marshall (10-4) scored more than 40 points eight times behind the arm of quarterback Rakeem Cato, who is expected to return for his senior year after throwing for 3,916 yards and 39 touchdowns.
If all goes well, Beal could potentially be one of Cato’s top targets this fall. Having posted a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash, Beal has the speed to excel at the collegiate level.
A top receiver at Wheeler before transferring to Hillgrove for his senior season, Beal came close to making a commitment to Central Florida, but he reconsidered after seeing that the Knights were well-stocked with receivers.
That’s when Marshall started expressing interest in Beal, and the rest was history.
He will go on an official visit to the Huntington, W.Va., campus next weekend.
“They told me, straight-forward, what they wanted me to do when I got there,” Beal said. “I’m grateful to get a chance to play football at the next level.”
“I’m glad to get (recruiting) over with. It was kind of getting hectic. Places were filling up at the receiver positions, so I was getting frustrated with it.”
Marshall employing Beal’s preferred offense — the spread — was another selling point for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound player.
Beal described his senior season with Hillgrove as a maturation process. With experienced receivers Justin Denton and Omar Black to compete for playing time against, he was no longer the center of attention. Beal didn’t have the flashy numbers that he did as a junior at Wheeler, when he was fourth in the county with 855 yards and seven touchdowns.
Ineligible to play through his first few games of the season, Beal made his debut for Hillgrove on Oct. 11 against North Cobb and went on to finish the season with 10 catches for 355 yards and three touchdowns for the Hawks (11-2).
Beal said that playing alongside experienced receivers such as Denton and Black, who were already familiar with Hillgrove’s system, was a humbling experience.
“Coming from Wheeler, where I was No. 1, I had to learn to not be a No. 1 player, and it made my craft better,” Beal said. “I was glad that coach (Phil) Ironside pushed me so hard and helped me get rid of old habits.”
Although Beal had a much quieter season as a Hawk, he still made plenty of noise. Without him, Hillgrove might not have advanced to the state quarterfinals.
The Hawks trailed by two touchdowns early in the second quarter of their game with Camden County before winning 34-21, and the likely turning point of that game was Beal’s 30-yard touchdown catch.
Another highpoint for Beal was a 90-yard touchdown in Hillgrove’s 40-24 victory over Harrison.