Arkansas football recruiting coordinator Tim Horton was not sure what kind of reaction the Razorbacks would get on the spring recruiting trail after their former head coach at least temporarily derailed his career by ending up in roadside ditch.
But just over halfway into the spring evaluation period, Horton and his fellow Arkansas assistants have been pleasantly surprised.
"Even with the head coach not being here anymore, we are getting a great reception from the coaches we have visited with and the recruits that we have talked with on the phone or facebook," Horton said. "I have to tell you as a coaching staff, we have really been excited about that.
"I think a big reason is that we have such a great university and great football program to sell," Horton added. "And our (2012) head coach John L. Smith has done a great job of jumping in and working hard and his energy and personality really has the coaches and players excited about talking to him on the phone."
The Razorbacks are allowed 24 evaluation days, the 15th of which will be today. The NCAA does not allow head coaches out on the road in the spring.
"The first week we really hit the junior colleges because they were still in the school," Horton said. "We have since been hitting all the high schools that we recruit, including all the ones in Arkansas just as we have always done in the spring evaluation period."
Some fans have worried that the 2013 recruiting class will take a hit because of the ouster of the former head coach and the fact that Smith is only working on a 10-month contract.
Horton believes that the current staff is – and will continue to – work hard to make sure that there will not be a dramatic drop-off.
"I can't stress again how great the reception has been," Horton said. "We are also preparing for our football camps this summer and we have had so many kids register since all this went down. We are going to have the best numbers that we have ever had."
The Razorbacks lost two commitments after the former head coach was fired, but picked up a pledge from Denham Springs (LA) tailback Kaleb Blanchard (6-1, 210) the following week and added Patterson (LA) tight end Deondre Skinner (6-3, 230) on Thursday night.
Arkansas had five commits at this time last season and 16 entering the season.
"From what we are seeing and hearing, we are probably going to have six to eight commitments by the time our camps are over and a few more going into the season," Horton said. "Then when we definitely know who is going to lead the program into next season, things will really pick up in December and January."
Arkansas obviously would love to add the top in-state players it has already offered scholarships - Pulaski Academy tight end Hunter Henry, North Little Rock tailback Altee Tenpenny and the Fayetteville duo of quarterback Austin Allen and linebacker Brooks Ellis.
The Razorbacks are also known to be interested in Fayetteville safety Alex Brignoni, Bentonville tailback Tearris Wallace and tight ends Nick Bryne of Springdale Har-Ber and John Hunton of Fort Smith Southside among others.
"You always look in your back yard first and there are some players in our state that we would love to add," noted Horton, a close friend and former Razorback teammate of Henry's dad Mark.
"I can tell you one thing about this staff," Horton added. "We are dedicated to doing every thing we can, working as hard as we can to make this a great season and continue to build this program. The assistants here have worked hard doing that to this point and they'll be no letting up."
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