While the 2005 Springdale football team is loaded, perhaps no one has had a better summer and improved his stock more than senior-to-be wideout Andrew Norman.
Over and over again during 7-on-7 competition and various camps this summer, Norman (6-2, 180, 4.55) has found his way into the end zone, made the routine catches, but also come up with tough catch after tough catch.
Many of those have been of the diving variety when the pass looked uncatchable.
"I think this has been the best summer I've ever had," Norman said. "I am just really focused, seeing the ball well and my concentration has just really been good. There have been some balls that I might not have gotten to without diving, but I can't see any good reason for not going ahead and diving. You need to practice like you intend to play."
The great summer has Norman pondering whether to make a decision before the 2005 regular season begins - something Springdale head coach Gus Malzahn has suggested for his five D-1 prospects with numerous offers - or waiting until after it concludes.
He already has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Kansas and Michigan State while South Carolina has picked up its interest lately.
"I think Coach Malzahn prefers for us to either get it out of the way early or just put it completely off until the end of the season," Norman said. "One day I think I may do it before the season, the next I think I might way. I would say today I am leaning toward waiting and getting some more recognition, but I just don't know."
Norman is certainly aware of the speculation that he might follow Springdale quarterback Mitch Mustain, the nation's top-rated signal caller, to Arkansas or some other place.
"That is certainly something that we have talked about and would be something that we would love to do, but we also know that if we have to do what is the best fit for us as individuals," Norman said. "It is definitely something we are considering."
Norman was Mustain's leading receiver last year when he hauled in 44 passes for 535 yards and 5 touchdowns and also rushed 10 times for 78 yards and another score - despite playing in just 32 of Springdale's 52 quarters due to its numerous blowouts.
"We have been playing together since the eight grade and have been running the same offense during that time," Norman said. "We know what each other is thinking and he knows where I am going to be and I know that the ball is going to be there."
Norman, who caught 25 passes for 475 yards and 7 touchdowns as a sophomore, said he has a top two of Arkansas and Louisville right now.
"Arkansas is definitely up there at the top because I like the school a lot and it's a great program," Norman said. "I would say that Arkansas and Louisville are my top two right now. I kind of want to see what South Carolina is going to do and kind of check it out and see what Steve Spurrier has planned for the program and if they are going to offer."
Norman is enjoying the slight break before his team begins practice for the season next Monday on Aug. 1 after a busy last two weeks.
The Bulldogs competed in 7-on-7 national events in Los Angeles and Hoover, Ala., the past two weeks.
Springdale went 1-1 in the Nike Elite Passing Championhip in Los Angeles, losing when their foe took advantage twice of rules that allow you to score after time has run out in a half if you are inside the 20.
"I think we would have won the tournament if not for that rule, but that's the rules they had out there and everybody played by the same rules," Norman said. "We did have a lot of fun out there, got to go to the beach and do some other things."
Springdale then went 11-2 while trying to defend its title at Hoover, losing to the hosts in the championship game, which was the fifth consecutive game the Bulldogs had to play in oppressive heat.
"It was extremely hot and humid down there," Norman said. "You would get out of the car and it would be like stepping into a summer. We had a couple of guys who really had problems with it and got overheated and dehydrated. We played really well, but the heat just got to us in the end and Hoover is a great team."
Springdale will open the season Sept. 3 when it travels to face Shreveport Evangel in a 4:30 p.m. game at Independence Stadium.
It will be a rematch of the Bulldogs' 38-14 thrashing of Evangel in Springdale last season. Both teams were in Hoover last weekend, but didn't match up.
"I think they are definitely going to be gunning for us because of what happened last year," Norman said. "They are a great team and are going to be tough to handle. That's why we have to be ready to go from the first game on."
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