Making An Impression

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated and The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, Dudley E. Dawson catches up with recruits on hand for the Razorbacks' big win on Saturday. This story is sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. It's free and so is a special offer to attend a Razorback event on the Arkansas Toyota Dealers website. Click on a banner for details.

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There were a lot of University of Arkansas grid recruits on the sidelines Saturday afternoon before the Razorbacks' thrilling 24-23 double-overtime win over Alabama that hope to make plays down the road resulting in the same type of celebrations.

Not to mention a couple of key ones watching on television who could do so just by picking Arkansas over Auburn – the two teams currently tied for first in the SEC's Western Division and a pair that will meet at Auburn on Oct. 7.

"It was an amazing experience and I really loved the atmosphere," Paris tight end and UA commit Grant Freeman said Sunday night. "They never gave up even when it looked bad at times. I was just really proud of all of the players and the coaches. It's a program on the rise."

Freeman (6-7, 245) was one of several UA commits that were on hand including Butler County (Kan.) Community College running back Brandon Barnett (5-9, 190), Monticello offensive lineman Seth Oxner (6-5, 290) and Jonesboro offensive lineman Grant Cook (6-5, 305).

Barnett, who has rushed for 325 yards and 6 touchdowns in four games this season and will have three years left at Arkansas when he arrives, said he can't wait to get in on the fun especially with a more wide-opened offense under UA offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

"Coach Malzahn is a great coach and he has a focus on getting the job done and having all his weapons in the right spot at the right time as you can see," Barnett said. "He brings a whole new package and I can't wait to just get here and play for the Razorbacks and get in on all this fun."

Technically another UA commit was on hand in CAC tight end David Williams (6-4, 245, 4.63), but he didn't make that official until Monday morning when he announced he had chosen the Razorbacks over Oklahoma State.

"I saw a team that didn't quit even when it had its back against the wall and that really was impressive to me and tells me a lot about where they are headed," Williams said. "It was pretty crazy there at the end. But none of the fans left and they all kept believing together. It was great to see all the players and the coaches and the fans so happy after the game. I really enjoyed it."

Both Fort Smith Northside quarterback Kodi Burns (6-2, 190) and Rogers offensive lineman Lee Ziemba (6-7, 295) – regarded as the state's top two players and two of the country's best – were scheduled to be at the game, but conflicts kept them away.

For Burns, it was a sore knee that kept him away after it was repeatedly belted during then No. 2 Fayetteville's 35-27 win over the then No. 1 Grizzlies on Friday night.

"I didn't get to make it up because I thought it was going to rain all day and I was icing my knee," Burns said. "I thought that both teams played well at times, but both caught some big breaks, too. I was real happy for Arkansas and their players and coaches."

Ziemba – also down to Arkansas and Auburn like Burns – was in the middle of the longest halftime of his life. That occurred because Rogers game with Springdale Har-Ber was stopped at halftime Friday night because of weather and resumed Saturday night.

"I got a chance to watch all the game before we started getting prepared for ours," Ziemba said. "I thought both teams were fortunate at times, but it was cool to see Arkansas get the win. They kept staying in there and finally got the win in the end and I was happy for all the coaches."

O o o

The Arkansas basketball program hosted Louisiana prep star Chris Gradnigo (6-6, 200) over the weekend for an official visit.

Gradnigo, who averaged 21 points as a junior while playing last season for Lake Charles (La.) St. Louis, was impressed with that he found at Arkansas while making his first of what will likely be up to five official visits.

"The campus is very big and I like it a lot," Gradnigo said. "I like Coach Heath and all the guys on the team are cool. They look like they are going to be very good in the future. Who wouldn't want to be on a good team like this?"

Grandigo, who has offers from South Florida and Colorado State and interest from Arkansas, Cincinnati and Notre Dame, will play at Lake Charles LaGrange this season.

He will continue to make trips, see which offers come his way and then assess his situation with a hope of inking with someone in the early signing period of Nov. 8-15.

"I am looking for a situation where I can be comfortable with the coaching staff, fitting in with the players and seeing where my game could help them out, basically," Gradnigo said. "I certainly think Arkansas would be a good place for me."

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