It was clear Saturday from the Razorbacks' group of 2012 signees on hand at the Red-White game that they are solid to Arkansas.
All of the players interviewed by Hawgs Illustrated said they couldn't wait to get on campus this summer despite the firing of head coach Bobby Petrino.
North Bergen (N.J.) standout and Parade All-American linebacker Vin Ascolese perhaps summed it up best as he stood on the sidelines before the game, which was attended by a school-record Red-White crowd of 45,250 fans.
"At first, I was little upset that they fired our coach, but then I thought about it and I thought about what a great staff we still had," Ascolese said. "All my worries went away after I thought about that. Plus I signed with Arkansas and our fans, not Bobby Petrino."
Olive Branch (MS) wideout De'Arthur Cowan echoed those same sentiments.
"It was a shock what happened with the head coach, but I signed with the school, not the coach," Cowan said. "I am just happy to be a part of the Razorback program."
Hebron (Texas) defensive end Deatrich Wise made it clear where he stands.
"I am a Razorback," Wise said. "And I am proud to be one. This is a great atmosphere today and just an example of why I signed here. I did not sign with the head coach."
It helps that Wise is being told that the staff will remain intact.
"They told me everything is going to stay the same, nobody is going to leave from the staff," Wise said. "That's what sold me plus I am committed to the University of Arkansas. I am a Hog for life."
Memphis Ridgeway defensive end Brandon Lewis said the fans need not worry about him.
"I feel good," Lewis said. "I feel like everything was taken care of the way it should have been and they will do the same from here on out. I love it here today."
Fellow defensive end Taiwan Johnson of Manvel, Texas was one signee who expressed doubt right after Petrino's ouster, but says he is firmly back in the Razorback camp now.
"I can tell you that with everything happening, it is just good to see the fans come out and still supporting the players," Johnson said. "Like Coach Long said, I mean Mr. Jeff Long, no one person is bigger than the program.
"This crowd today shows how much support the school I am going to and how great the fan base is," Johnson added. "It makes it easier for me to know this is the place I want to be in. I love the school, I love the city, I love our fans and this team has done great things and is going to continue to do great things."
Johnson was accompanied by teammate Austin Bennett, a 2013 Razorback prospect who de-comitted after Petrino was fired.
"My current feel with Arkansas now is that I am still in love with the school," Bennett said. "I still love the fan base and the facilities and Arkansas is still at the top of my list. It is still looking pretty good for me to end up at Arkansas.
"From what I have heard from the coaches, they are going to keep the same coaching staff," Bennett said. "I hope that they do because I love this coaching staff with all my heart."
Bennett's brother Aston – a 2012 prospect – still intends to walk on at Arkansas.
"After the head coach got in trouble and got fired, my family and I sit down and talked and I still feel Arkansas is the best place for me," the older Bennett said. "The coaching staff they still have is great and I love the offense, which they are still going to run. I think I will be able to succeed in that offense."
Ascolese said that the players have been told not to buy into fan or media speculation about a head coach – or hiring an interim for that matter.
"They have told us not to bother with all that talking and not listen to all those so called experts," Ascolese said. "That we were going to have the same staff and that the goal was still the same – winning championships."
Cowan said that the coaches promised they would get word to the signees as soon as a decision is made.
"They told us that when they make a decision, they will call us and we'll get it going from there," Cowan said.
Ascolese is clearly a player that the fans have fallen in love with as he signed many autographs on Saturday and has a legion of twitter followers from Arkansas.
"I'm from Jersey, I'm a different type of kid, but I play hard and they love that," Ascolese said. "They all took a lovin' to that."
Many of the signees will be on hand in early June, but Ascolese won't be able to be here until July.
"My school graduates at the end of June so I will be here July 2nd," Ascolese said. "Then I am going to show up here and help us win a national championship."
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