Just about this time every year, some Arkansas football fans begin to grumble about Razorback head football coach Bret Bielema being slow to issue in-state offers.
This year is no exception as the Arkansas staff has offered only one 2017 in-state prospect so far in Cabot athlete Jarrod Barnes, who committed to the Razorbacks a week after getting his offer.
There are others inside the state who already have at least one Power 5 offer in Ashdown safety Montaric Brown, Central Arkansas Christian wide receiver Josh Johnson and the Fayetteville duo of quarterback Taylor Powell and defensive lineman Akial Byers.
It’s possible that more offers could be issued on Saturday as Arkansas hosts a Junior Day.
Bielema, who landed all four in-state prospects he offered in the 2016 class, addressed the subject during a Monday press conference to introduce a pair of new assistant coaches in Paul Rhodes (secondary) and Reggie Mitchell (running backs).
“Especially as we get closer to home, I don’t ever want to mislead a kid,” Bielema said. “I can’t imagine being in a position as a head coach and pull an offer at any point that is committed to me after his senior year has started up.
“There are a variety of things that can happen. I had to pull one my first year at Wisconsin because I hadn’t offered him and there is a whole scenario about that.
“…So to avoid that situation from happening we are extremely slow in the offering process.
“I want to have them check off five areas – academics, athletics, social media, I want to be able to have a thorough background analysis of their high school – counselor, high school coach, principal and athletic director.
“And the last thing is that if at all possible I want to meet them. I want to sit down with them, I want to look them in the eye and I want to find out what they are about.
“Because that is so hard to happen here in Fayetteville, it makes it a little bit slower to happen overall, but I feel so much better about it on the back end.”
Bielema noted that there were a couple of athletes who need to pick it up academically before an offer will arrive.
“We have got kids in our immediate recruiting region that have either a test score or GPA that isn’t anywhere near to qualifying and somebody else offers him a scholarship because they can just back out on it or back away from it.
“I just can’t do that and sleep at night. That is probably why we are a little bit slower and is the number one reason we are slow.”
Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney, Jr., is the chief in-state recruiter for the Razorbacks.
“We want to know everything we can about a young man before we extend that offer,” Lunney said. “We want to do our due diligence and be absolutely sure about the student-athletes we are bringing into the program.
“It is much better to make sure on the front end that there won’t be any issues on the back end. It certainly doesn’t mean we don’t love the young man and we make sure they know that upfront.
“We want our offers to guys – especially in our home state – to be ones that there are no questions about whatsoever.
“There may be some schools out there that throw out a lot of scholarships, but they may or may not be committable.
“When we offer one, it is a 100 percent one and we are ready to take your commitment right away. It is a bond that won’t be broken between this coaching staff and the student athlete.”