Talented visitors

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated and The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, Dudley E. Dawson catches up with Springdale grid prospects Mitch Mustain and Ben Cleveland.

The University of Arkansas football program is expecting some 30-plus prospects in for another Junior Day on this upcoming Saturday, but at least three standouts made it in a week early to get a look at the Razorbacks.

The Springdale duo of quarterback Mitch Mustain (6-3, 200) and tight end Ben Cleveland (6-4, 230) were on hand for last Saturday's scrimmage as was quarterback Christian Ponder (6-3, 207) of Colleyville (Texas) Heritage.

Mustain had actually been scheduled to go to Texas' Orange-White game, but a scheduling conflict kept that from happening and left him with some free time to go over and check out the Razorbacks.

"I figured it would be a good time to come down here and see Arkansas in person again," said Mustain. who passed for 2,169 yards and 20 touchdowns last season with a 63 percent accuracy rate despite not playing after halftime in a lot of games due to routs.

Mustain is now up to 17 total offers with Arkansas State being the last program to offer after Notre Dame had handed out No. 16 on a spring break trip to see the Irish and three other schools that had already offered.

"I went to Louisville, Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State on spring break," Mustain said. "They are all nice programs. You are really not going to find one that isn't nice. It's nice to get to see them and throw out a couple of perceptions you might have of them."

Arkansas was the first school to offer and he now also sports scholarship opportunities at Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Kansas, Houston, and South Carolina as well as the aforementioned schools.

"The recruiting can kind of get overwhelming and I know there are going to be a bunch of coaches up here to watch us during spring practice," Mustain said. "But you just deal with it and feel honored."

Springdale head coach Gus Malzahn may have as many as seven players sign D-1 scholarships, including wideout Damian Williams and offensive lineman Bartley Webb - who have also got double digit numbers of offers so far.

But each one speaks of the team and not himself when discussing recruiting and next season.

"Once the summer starts we really have to get focused because we have some big competition coming up," Mustain said. "Like every year, our goal is to win the state. If you have a bunch of egos flying around, it's not going to happen. But we're not like that and we understand that. We are focused on the team - that's the main goal."

Mustain was injured during the second quarter of the state semifinal loss to eventual champion Little Rock Central.

"Rehab is pretty much over with," Mustain said. "I just do a little bit of shoulder conditioning. I am back to throwing and lifting with the team - full speed throwing and trying to spread the field. I am pretty much done with it although I have a little bit of strength to get back into my shoulder and a little bit velocity."

He's certainly been getting back in throwing shape with the help of Cleveland, who joined Mustain in chatting with UA quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke on Saturday after the scrimmage.

"Every morning we are there at 7 and get a little bit in - not a whole lot - but a little bit," Mustain said. "Since I am not playing baseball this year, it gives me a lot of time to do that. We've got a couple of other of our wide receivers that are coming back out there."

Cleveland, who had 17 catches for 242 yards last season, got his first two offers last week from Arkansas State and Tulsa.

"Arkansas, Clemson, Colorado, Colorado State, Miami Florida, Alabama and Duke are some of the others sending stuff," Cleveland said. "It's nice getting the attention."

He also had to rehab from an injury, this one suffered in mid-season.

"A big guy landed on it kind of wrong," Cleveland said. "That was kind of tough, but I feel great now and am looking forward to next season.

Cleveland moved to Springdale from Arkansas City, Kan., after his dad fell in love with the Red Bulldogs program while thinking of a move to Northwest Arkansas.

"He asked around who had the best football program and they said Springdale," Cleveland said. "Dad went up to the high school, talked to Coach Malzahn and fell in love with him. Then dad told me about all the facilities and I was like ‘shut up, dad, that's a college, not a high school."

He quickly became friends with Mustain, Williams and wideout Andrew Norman - who has offers already from Louisville and Kansas - and is excited about next season.

" We are just going to get better and work hard," Cleveland said. "We are not going to left anyone outwork us."


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