Don’t close the book on Arkansas’ 2016 football recruiting class just yet and get ready to watch 2017 recruiting explode across the country.
That was the word Thursday from Razorback head coach Bret Bielema, who has already added a pair of new players since national signing day in February and notes he is still a couple of scholarships under the NCAA limit of 85.
“Absolutely,” Bielema said. “We've got a couple of scholarships open. We've had some people visit. I've had some inquiries. I've specifically waited until after spring ball.”
One of those players is Costa Mesa, Calif., Orange Coast College offensive line prospect Alex Losoya (6-4, 300), who visited Arkansas last month.
“I just talked to them again today,” Losoya said. “Yes, sir, they are still in the mix.”
Losoya has already taken visits to Colorado State, Texas Tech and Arkansas and has plans to visit Auburn this weekend and Arizona State the weekend after that.
Bielema is also looking at some graduate transfers – an area he has success with in the past.
That includes current Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson while he was at Wisconsin and Denver Broncos offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson at Arkansas.
Both now have Super Bowl rings.
“You think about Cameron Jefferson,” Bielema said. “Here's an O-lineman that came in and played and now he's got a Super Bowl ring. The opportunity that provided
“… And Russell Wilson is always going to give me instant street credit for us to bring in a guy. He's really changed his life for a long, long time. Our lives together. He changed mine as well.”
Arkansas tailback Denzel Evans will graduate this summer after three years and has decided to become a graduate transfer with two years left to play.
“The grad transfer thing, I think is, again the NCAA will come to a point at some point where it's going to change that,” Bielema said. “You're getting these one-year windows that have a tremendous impact on programs that really have been able to run free right now. I'm sure they're going to come under monitorization as well.”
Since the national signing date back in February, Arkansas has added defensive back signee Britto Tutt (6-2, 185) of Ventura, Calif., College and former Jacksonville wide receiver D’Vone McClure (6-3, 190), who will walk on after playing baseball in the Cleveland Indians’ minor league system.
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Arkansas’ coaches, who have nine 2017 pledges, have been on the road for the last two weeks and still have a couple for spring evaluation.
“Our guys are out on the road recruiting right now and we have got it worked out where they are going to come back out off the road at the end of next week and we will kind of regroup, gather up and I knew with the satellite camps/recruiting there was going to be a lot of transition,” Bielema said.
“So we will come in next week and make some decisions in that regard and then play out the last two weeks of recruiting and jump into June and July and the added thing there is obviously satellite camps. So some changes coming our way.”
The coaches will go over their plans for camps that the Razorback staff plans to have in states like Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Texas and cities like Chicago, New Orleans, Houston, Arlington, Texas and even places like the Bahamas and Europe.
“We are going to mix and match,” Bielema said on Thursday morning’s SEC Spring Teleconference. “We had a good plan, I thought, as we were preparing for them to become legal. Obviously after the first order came through we kind of went our own direction and tried to straighten out things here at home but now it has opened up a whole new door of opportunities.
“This latest ruling has a couple of things that are very intriguing as you can basically take a Bret Bielema camp and go to every high school in the State of Arkansas if we want to, which obviously from an accessibility/general recruiting branding of our brand will be huge.
“Not only in the United States but we are looking at a few global opportunities as well. I think it’s going to be interesting. I think for us here at Arkansas it has given us a chance to have more exposure. I think programs that have a national brand and already obviously it’s a different ballgame, but for us and what we have in store for us and our recruiting it’s a different ballgame.”
Bielema believes the NCAA’s overturning the band of satellite camps was for opportunities and there is no doubt that is going to happen.
“You're about to get multiplied on opportunities,” Bielema said. “Yesterday I think we had 84 camps that have popped up in the last week that we've been invited or inquired upon to attend,” Bielema said.
“If you have the ability to - now that you can do it in these high schools - and a high school can have an SEC coach come to their school exclusively and maybe give a 10-minute speech at the end of camp and draw 100s of participants and the money that's going to be exchanged.
“We obviously won't charge anything to come there to attend. But the exposure our brand will get, what's going to happen, it'll go on now. It's awesome. We wanted opportunities, we've got opportunities now. It's going to be impressive what happens.”
Of course, there will be a cost to this new frontier of college football and Arkansas athletic director and Vice Chancellor Jeff Long is stepping up to help Bielema.
“That's a two-fold answer,” Bielema said. “First, the budgeting, it's an unforeseen account. I've met with my athletic director We have a certain number we get to follow. For me here at Arkansas we have a system that I think is about half of the SEC. I have to run the camp myself through an LLC. That's locally.
“When we go globally here I'm not going to be able to incur those costs. So there has been - Jeff has set up a fund that we have allocated to do that. Even though it's not recruiting, it's branding, exposure.
“You look at a high school program. You've got a satellite camp that's going to a high school. It's an exclusive deal and that high school looks to make somewhere - if you've got 100 campers, 100 bucks a camper, if you've got 300 campers, that's $30,000 that high school can make. That's a lot of money man.
“That's going into that high school program where that high school coach, obviously that coach has influence on recruits.
“ I mean there's a whole dynamic that got opened here that is unchartered waters. It's the wild, Wild West. We're going on what I call the HogWild Tour 2016. Just gonna go where we need to go. We're setting up agreements right now and we'll see where the cards fall.”
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