The Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel High head coach has produced two current Razorbacks and has one commit and another recruiting target on his roster this year.
Thanks to Arkansas wide receivers coach and former New Orleans-area high school player Michael Smith, Roth has developed a relationship with Bielema.
“He’s a very approachable person,” Roth said. “I really enjoy visiting with him. He’s a good guy.”
Bielema made an even bigger impression on Roth last year, when he called him during the season to talk about a pair of his former players in their first year at Arkansas: linebacker Dwayne Eugene and defensive back Henre’ Toliver.
“I’ve never had a head coach pick up a telephone and call me during the season and say how much he appreciates our kids and what they’re doing,” Roth said. “Never have I had a major college head coach call me up on the phone.
“I see why the kids love playing for him.”
While Eugene and Toliver are already in Fayetteville, Roth still has a year with one – possibly two – future Razorbacks on his team.
Three-star defensive tackle Briston Guidry committed to Arkansas in April and will anchor a defensive line that will be without Tyrell Jacob, who signed with Missouri last year.
Roth said he is confident that Guidry will be a leader on the defense as a senior.
“As a younger guy, he was very talkative, like all young kids are,” Roth said. “This year, I see more of a serious approach to his senior season, which I’m kind of liking right now.”
The new approach should translate to more success on the field for Guidry, who is already a two-time All-State player in Louisiana.
The work he put in over the summer, including gaining weight and getting stronger, should also help him this season.
“He started practice in great shape,” Roth said. “He can move. He can run and cover ground east-west. He’s very athletic. I’m expecting really good things from him.”
Being the Raiders’ best defensive lineman, Roth said he could use him in more areas, but he’s nervous to so.
“Believe it or not, he covered kicks last year,” Roth said. “There’s no doubt he can help us in all kind of different ways, but he’s so valuable that I really don’t want to use him in certain parts of the game to risk any type of injury that might keep him out for a play or series.”
Guidry is not the only blue-chip recruit for Rummel, who is the preseason No. 1 team in Louisiana, according to The Times-Picayune.
Kristian Fulton, a four-star cornerback, missed most of last season after having shoulder surgery, but returned for the final six games and intercepted 11 passes, earning All-State honors.
“He might be one of the best players to ever come through here when it’s all set and done,” Roth said. “He’s not vocal. You have to pull words out of him, but he’s a good kid on and off the field. He just leads by example.”
While Roth has developed a relationship with Bielema, he said he would not push Fulton – who has offers from Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Texas, among many others – to sign with the Razorbacks.
“I’ll give advice when they ask,” Roth said. “I provide everything the colleges ask for, but I don’t try to push them in one direction or another.”
Roth said he expects Fulton to return punts and kickoffs, as well, because he is “smooth” with the ball in his hands.
If he does decide to come to Arkansas, it will the second time in three years Arkansas has signed a pair of players from Rummel, as Eugene and Toliver signed together in 2014.
Both played as true freshmen last season, but Toliver received significant playing time in the secondary.
He intercepted a pass against Texas in Arkansas’ bowl game and held Heisman Trophy finalist Amari Cooper to a season-low two receptions and 22 yards.
“We play a lot of Saturday games, so I did not get a chance to see him play, but I’m not surprised by what he did,” Roth said. “The coaches speak highly of him. I hear he held Amari Cooper to two catches for 22 yards and when you look at it, you don’t see anybody close to holding him like that.
“That says a lot about what he did as a freshman.”
With that type of freshman performance, Roth said he thinks Toliver will continue to improve as a sophomore.
“I’m sure his confidence level is (high),” Roth said. “Any time a young man can contribute as a freshman and feel good about what he did, you have to be confident going into the second year.”
Eugene played mostly on special teams last year, collecting six tackles, but Roth thinks that was because of his position change from safety to linebacker.
“He was one heck of a sized safety, but he’s a nice sized player at linebacker,” Roth said. “I think that might have slowed his progress a little. I know he’s doing pretty good and the coaches like what they see in him, also.”