The Arkansas football program is eligible and would love to sign 25 prospects when national signing date rolls around in February 2006, but that's just not going to happen.
Because the Razorback coaching staff has done a good job of keeping players around and in school and you can only have 85 total players on scholarship when the 2006 season rolls around.
That's why -- at least right now -- that number is more like 15 expected signees for 2006, a number up from 13 since offensive lineman Matt Gilbow was kicked off the team and defender D'Nerian Wrighter didn't make his grades.
"As of right now, we are probably going to sign 14 or 15 and that's why we are being very selective in offering scholarships this year," UA recruiting coordinator Chris Vaughn said. "We have a good core of players on campus here now and the kids we bring in this year we want to be impact guys, one that can come help right away if needed."
It's one of the reasons this weekend's UA Seniors Camp in Fayetteville is so important to some in-state kids as well as a few that live outside the borders of the home state of Jermain Taylor, the new middleweight boxing champion of the world.
Some 275 or so prospects will be here on Friday night and Saturday morning for the camp, one held inside Walker Pavilion and an event that has elicited a few offers in the past.
"Anytime you can get a student-athlete on your campus, whether he has already been here or not, it's a wonderful opportunity for both the kids and the coaches," Vaughn said. "A kid gets to see the facilities and be around his position coach who gets a great look at him and what he can do."
The campers will register at 5:30 p.m. and will be measured and then tested in the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, the shuttle drill and the bench press as well as going over some academic matters.
They'll return early Saturday morning for offensive and defensive drills and some 1-on-1 work with kickers also getting a chance to show their abilities.
There are seven in-state prospects who have already been offered scholarships by the Razorbacks: Wynne defensive tackle L.T. Walker (6-4, 300), North Little Rock linebacker Van Stumon (6-2, 230) and the Springdale 5 of quarterback Mitch Mustain (6-3, 200), wideouts Andrew Norman (6-2, 180, 4.5) and Damian Williams (6-1, 180, 4.4), tight end Ben Cleveland (6-4, 230) and offensive lineman Bartley Webb (6-7, 285).
With the possibility of Walker, none of those will be on campus this weekend as Springdale is playing in a 7-on-7 tournament at Hoover, Ala,, and Stumon said Sunday night that he would not be able to make it.
Of course, with offers in hand it's not that big a deal for those players, who have already been on campus this spring and summer either one or more times.
But for guys like Pocahontas offensive lineman Jim Hart (6-7, 295), Blytheville defensive lineman Kit Coleman (6-3, 285), Batesville offensive lineman Drew Hilton (6-4, 295), Hazen linebacker Nathan Campbell (6-3, 215), Little Rock Parkview wideout-safety Erick Stone (6-3, 190) and Shiloh Christian split end Eric Shaffer (5-9, 160, 4.4), a good performance could net one or more of them an offer.
"Our actual needs this year are receivers, tight ends and defensive ends," Vaughn said. "But we will never ever turn down a great in-state player and we have some guys up here this week end that will be evaluated and could earn those offers."
Former Texarkana star and current Trinity Valley Community College (Athens, Texas) defensive Freddie Barnett (6-2, 230) is the only 2006 commitment that Arkansas has on the table at the moment.
At this time last year, Arkansas had three commitments -- Pulaski Oak Grove running back Darren McFadden and the Allen, Texas tandem of defensive lineman Marcus Shavers and quarterback Casey Dick.
By the time the season rolled around, the Razorbacks had 10 pledges and there will likely be some movement soon after this year as well.
There's just not as many spots on the bus to fill this year . A list that once had 5,000 names on it is down to just around 400 or so according to Vaughn.
"We would love to have the ability to sign 25, but the reason we won't is because we have so many players right now who are getting it done on the field and off," Vaughn said. "That makes the limited amount of scholarships a nice problem to have. Now we just have to make the best of the ones we do put out there."
DUDLEY E. DAWSON IS A STAFF WRITER FOR HAWGS ILLUSTRATED, A STEPHENS MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH TUESDAY. E-MAIL: DEDSPORTS@AOL.COM
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