Hogs Need To Land Recruiting Bonanza

FAYETTEVILLE Because they pay me to cover football recruiting among other things, I am asked often about what this year's subpar and now bowl-less season is going to do to the 2006 recruiting class. Comes with the territory.

My standard answer is simply "I don't know for sure."

Nobody does, not the staff, not the fans, not the administration, although each one has their opinion as to what might happen.

Don't get me wrong. I would love to have all the answers and because I have talked to just about everybody the Razorback staff is recruiting, many on numerous occasions.

I do have some educated guesses:

w I am under the assumption that Houston Nutt will remain the coach at Arkansas.

I have heard nothing of substance to indicate he will not be, although, yes I am well aware there are some screaming from the mountaintop that think otherwise and everybody and his brother have an opinion and a source and so on.

Not saying any of those are wrong, but those inside the program that I trust are just singing the tune that there will be no change at the top.

I think they are in line to have a very good recruiting class, but there again there are so many variables between now and the time the crop is harvested, so nothing can be said with any absolute certainty.

I do think this team is set up to succeed next season under anybody by adding a few parts -- ones that could help them turn the close losses they have had this season into close wins.

For all the acrimony over playcalling, playing true freshmen, etc., those five SEC losses have come by an average of just over 7 points per game.

The Razorbacks had a chance to win them all -- and should have won at least two of them for sure -- in my humble opinion.

Those needed parts? You have got to get a lot of the following names, many of whom were at Saturday's 14-10 loss to South Carolina.

w Springdale's contingent of quarterback Mitch Mustain, electrifying wideouts Andrew Norman and Damian Williams (6-2, 180) and gifted tight end Ben Cleveland (6-4, 230) to start with. The first two are committed to Arkansas, the last two to Florida.

I don't see Springdale offensive lineman Bartley Webb flipping from Notre Dame and you might not flip Williams and Cleveland, but you sure keep trying to run the table.

w You also need to lock up other high schoolers like North Little Rock linebacker Van Stumon (6-3, 230) and Birmingham, Ala. West End defensive DeAntwan "Peanut" Whitehead (6-4, 245) and Milwaukee, Wis., Rufus King wideout and track star Lance Kendricks (6-4, 205) to name a few.

Or at least some like them in those positions.

Kendricks, who took an official visit to Arkansas this past weekend and even went to watch Mustain play, was shocked at what he found.

"I like it a lot," Kendricks said. "I really didn't know much about the school, but I came down here and was just blown away by everything they have to offer. I was really surprised. It's cool. I like everything I saw."

w You need to hold the commits of huge offensive linemen Myron McKinney (6-3, 305) and Jim Hart (6-7, 305) as well as Texas athletes Torian Wilkins and Chip Gregory.

w You've also got to raid the junior college scene this season for guys that can make an absolute immediate impact.

Guys like hard-hitting North Dakota State College of Science safety John West (6-2, 193), a preseason first-team All-American, who will be here for his official visit on Dec. 3-5.

"I've never been down there to Arkansas, but I am excited about what I have found out about them," West said. "They have a great program in the SEC, a lot of fan support since they are the only team there and have sent a whole bunch of safeties on to the NFL. I'd be crazy not to be interested."

Wideouts such as Coffeyville Community College wideout Devin Thomas (6-4, 215) and/or Fort Scott CC's Cedric Houston (6-1, 180), both big time playmakers.

A defensive end like NEO's Chris Wade (6-6, 255), whose season is down due to a meniscus tear and some of his talented teammates like lineman Lee Tibbs (6-4, 310).

"Arkansas is by far and away my number one team," Wade said Saturday before the game on his unofficial visit. "I have other schools, but this is where I want to be."

A linebacker that tears heads off and eats nails for breakfast.

A defensive tackle like UA commit Freddie Barnett (6-3, 305), who will do the same.

The future of this football program will be more effected by what happens during the on-campus official recruiting weekends of Dec. 2-4, Dec. 9-11, Jan. 20-22 and Jan. 27-29.

Forget the November to remember, it needs to be December and January to remember.

If I'm not sure of anything else, I am sure of that.



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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