Arkansas expects star-studded haul

Bolstered by the commitment of Little Rock Parkview's Marc Winston on Tuesday, the Razorback football program looks for an answer from Little Rock Central's Fred Bledsoe today and expects to sign around 30 players as national signing date arrives.

FAYETTEVILLE - Speculation ends today when Arkansas coach Houston Nutt announces his Class of 2004 signees during a 2 p.m. press conference.

Despite a handful of undecided prospects, this year's bunch should rank among the top 25 signing classes nationally, especially after the Hogs gained a verbal commitment from Little Rock Parkview tight end Marc Winston on Tuesday.

Little Rock Central defensive end Fred Bledsoe Jr. and linebacker Fred Fairchild also appear to be undecided. But according to sources, they're both expected to sign with the Razorbacks during a 3 p.m. press conference in Central's gym.

The remaining uncommitted prospects who likely will end up being placed at junior colleges are Paducah (Ky.) Tilghman tailback Joe Casey, Beaumont (Texas) Central athlete Ivory Williams and Waco (Texas) University offensive lineman Ryan Young.

So regardless of which school they sign with today, Arkansas may simply have recruit the prospects again in two years.

Once all the smoke clears, it will possibly be the best of Nutt's seven signing classes, although a strong argument can be made for the 2001 group which included Shawn Andrews, Matt Jones, Ahmad Carroll, DeCori Birmingham, De'Arrius Howard, Jared Hicks, Marvin Jackson and Jeb Huckeba, among others.

This year, more than most, the Hogs needed to assemble a solid class as 15 starters on both sides of the ball were either lost to graduation or declared early for the NFL draft.

A huge void in the secondary will be filled with a mix of Texas prepsters and junior college signees led by Vidor, Texas, cornerback Rick Culbert and Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College safety Randy Kelley.

Also in the mix are Euless (Texas) Trinity cornerback Desmond Williams, Sweeny, Texas, cornerback Shedrick Johnson, West Hills (Calif.) Community College cornerback Darius Vinnet and Marlin, Texas, safety D'Nerian Wrighter and cornerback Matterial Richardson.

Listed as athletes, Fayetteville's Woody Wilson and Atlanta, Texas, High's Dallas Washington could also help out in the secondary.

The Hogs are expected to sign a few solid linebackers in Fairchild, Searcy's Weston Dacus and Tulsa Union's Zac Snider, regarded by many as the top defender in Oklahoma.

Another Okie, Tulsa Washington's Michael Tate, is expected to make an immediate impact on the defensive line. Bledsoe and Newnan, Ga., defensive tackle Ernest Mitchell Jr. could also contribute as true freshmen.

Hargrave Military Academy's Marcus Harrison is another to watch on the defensive line. He originally signed with Arkansas a year ago out of Little Rock Mills.

Texarkana noseguard Freddie Barnett likely will impact down the road, but has some work to do academically before qualifying.

Another strength of the class appears to be at receiver where the Hogs appear to be bringing in tall, speedy targets to replace last year's starters George Wilson and Richard Smith.

Fayetteville's Cedric Logan is the speedster (4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash) while the size belongs to East Poinsett County's Marcus Monk (6-foot-6), Mississippi Delta Community College's Anthony Brown (6-6) and Parkview's Jamaal Anderson (6-5).

Add in Winston's 6-7, 235-pound frame and Fairburn (Ga.) Landmark Christain quarterback Alex Mortensen should have plenty of big targets to choose from in his class.

The backfield also appears to be solid led by Conway fullback Peyton Hillis, arguably the top prospect in the state this year.

The tailbacks are a mix of the shifty running of Texarkana, Texas, High's Korey Sutton and the power running of West Memphis's Kyle Payne, who verbally committed late Monday.

On the offensive line, the Hogs should haul in three, 300-plus pounders in Pulaski Academy's Jonathan Luigs, Cullman, Ala., big man Cody Green and Hargrave Military Academy's Jeremy Palmoore, who signed with the Hogs in 2003 out of Memphis Hamilton.

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