The 2006 Razorbacks will be led by experienced returners such as infielders John Henry Marquardt, Brian Walker, Danny Hamblin and Ben Tschepikow and outfielders Craig Gentry, Jake Dugger and Chris Hollensworth.
Add to the mix several newcomers, most of whom have the speed and talent to play either in the outfield or infield, and the Razorbacks should be right back in the Southeastern Conference race by season's end.
"That's why we look for guys who are athletic and versatile," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "If they don't fit in at one position, there's always going to be a spot for them to contribute somewhere on the field."
In looking at the incoming class, the coaches are plenty pumped about Tulsa Washington shortstop Kevin Carby (6-foot, 175 pounds). He was drafted in the 18th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, but has decided to go to college.
"The first thing we liked about Kevin is that he's got a lot of action," said Hogs hitting coach Matt Deggs. "He's got good hands, he's got good feet and he's a solid average thrower. Plus, he's a switch hitter with some impact power. He's definitely an intriguing player with a lot of tools."
Ville Platte (La.) Scared Heart third baseman Taylor Ardoin (6-0, 210) also has a ton of potential, especially as a power hitter. He hit 12 homers with 49 RBIs and batted .472 this season.
"Ardoin is a big kid that has real heavy hands at the plate," Deggs said. "What I mean by that is he has strong hands and forearms and a lot of power at contact there. But he shows soft hands in the field with good arm action."
Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers' Logan Forsythe (5-11, 170) has the speed and athleticism to play either in the outfield or in the infield. He hit .527 this season to lead Christian Brothers to the state championship in its classification.
"He can run, he can hit and he can hit for power," Deggs said. "He's going to be a kid that will come in and press for playing time right away either in the infield or outfield and we'll look at him as a third baseman first.
"He's an exciting player. He looks like an SEC player right now."
Jerrod Carroll (5-10, 180) is a middle infielder from Abilene, Texas, who also played linebacker on his high school's football team, earning defensive player of the year honors in his district two years in a row. He also was named The Associated Press' Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year.
"He runs on jet fuel ... That's the book on him," Deggs said. "He's a guy that can fly and makes good, solid contact at the plate. He's got really good hands and feet and is another guy that can press to play early either in the infield or the outfield."
The Hogs will bring in two more Texas-raised infielders in The Woodlands Wayne Hrozek (5-9, 180) and Beaumont's James Ewing (5-11, 185), who is one of those players who "does everything right" according to the coaches. Hrozek is another two-sporter who has yet to tap into his full potential.
"(Hrozek) has a lot of tools and is a guy that has always played football," Deggs said. "The coaches, his high school and summer league, say that once he dedicates himself to baseball, his skills will really shine."
Besides Bryant left-handed pitcher Wood and Fayetteville pitcher Chad Coldiron, the only other in-state signee is Pine Bluff shortstop Nick Makris, a 6-foot, 175-pound switch hitter who hit .406 with nine doubles this spring.
"He's a kid that has some bat speed and some pull power," Deggs said. "He has an above average arm and is very athletic. He's a kid that's going to need some seasoning, but he may be the surprise of the whole thing."
Another surprise could come from Claremore shortstop Mitch McQuistion, a left-handed hitter with excellent bat speed. He hit .415 with nine homers for the state champion Zebras.
"Mitch is a very interesting kid that was overlooked," Deggs said. "His hands are tremendous for his age. He's a guy that expects to come in and play next year. He's got that type of attitude."
UA Baseball: Looking Ahead To 2006
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