Nutt recruiting Hog juniors

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt knows that his next move is critical for the 2007 season.

t was clear that Houston Nutt's mission is clear over the next several days before he can go to the coaching convention; he's hitting the road to recruit.

Of course, this is a dead period for high school recruiting, but it's clear that the key thing Nutt must do for the 2007 season is to try to keep some of the Hogs' juniors from jumping to the NFL a year early.

In Nutt's season review on Thursday morning, he said he had his bags packed and was ready to jump in his car to hit the road to make some stops with families of the six juniors that may be thinking about declaring for the NFL draft.

Nutt said he's already got appointments with some of them, and is in the process of finalizing some more visits. He wants to talk to Jamaal Anderson, Peyton Hillis, Marcus Monk, Chris Houston, Marcus Harrison and Matterral Richardson in the next couple of days.

"They are being talked to (by agents and runners of agents), so I've got to go talk to them," Nutt said. "You can't imagine how many people are talking to them and their families right now, so I have to get in their homes and tell them the truth."

Nutt said he is gathering the truth from NFL scouting services and will give them realistic thoughts on if or where they would be drafted if they went early. He said if he gets information that they will be early picks in the first round, he would encourage them to leave early, just as Shawn Andrews and Batman Carroll did when they were first-round picks several years ago.

If not, he's going to show them how they can protect their future by coming back for their senior year with an insurance policy that would not require any premiums to be paid until after their senior year.

"That's the number one job I have right now, get to these juniors and with their families," Nutt said. "I've got to try to get them to stay. I don't want them to go."

Nutt said he had plans Thursday to meet with Anderson's family on Thursday and then later in the day to the Harrison family, and also has a visit set on Saturday with the Monk family. He said he has already talked to Richardson and expects him to return.

"I've had good visits with some of the players," he said. "I had several very good visits with Peyton at the bowl site. Since he wasn't practicing, I had a chance to stand and talk with him. He wanted to talk to me.

"The main thing he wanted to tell me first off was that he was hurt and that he wanted to play. I feel good about the visits I had with Peyton, but I want to get in front of his family, too. I want to talk to them in their living room."

Nutt said one of the best things the Hogs can do to help their passing game -- ineffective the last three games of the season, all losses -- is to get Hillis back on the field.

But that he knows the Hogs have to do much more to improve the passing game. Part of it is experience at quarterback and wide receiver.

"I saw some of the teams we played and the experience they had at quarterback and we will get better with experience, but we've got to work harder, too," he said. "We've got to have our quarterbacks and wide receievers spend more time together. I saw JaMarcus Russell and his wide receivers last night. Russell knew where his receivers were at all times and he got the ball to them on a line.

"I thought we would be better in the bowl game with our passing game. We worked extremely hard on the passing game in our practices and I thought we were better. But we didn't make plays. We didn't get the ball to our receivers and they didn't make the plays. In defense to Marcus Monk, he was sick for the practices and the game. He tried, but he didn't make the plays, the coverages catches, that he'd been making.

"Our quarterbacks have to get better. Our wide receivers have to get better, too. They've all got to get to work and compete to get better."

Nutt said neither quarterback performed well in the bowl. He thought both had practiced better than they played in the game.

"You look at Casey Dick and he has to hit the curl, but he didn't," Nutt said. "Mitch missed some, too, and he made some mistakes. He went the wrong way on one pass. He was supposed to go to Monk and he was open and he instead tried to force it to Ben Cleveland."

Nutt said he was so disappointed in the performance in the bowl that he has yet to watch the film.

"I haven't wanted to," he said. "I was just sick over it. I thought we had some calls that went against us that I couldn't find on the big screen, just didn't see them at all. But I haven't watched it yet."

Nutt suggested that it is his decision to keep his coaching staff intact, but he knows that many are going to come calling for some of his assistants, especially Reggie Herring, Tracy Rocker and Alex Woods.

He went through his staff position by position and praised all of them. He said all made valuable contributions and said that new contracts for both Herring and Malzahn, his two coordinators, will be finalized "very soon."

He said he was "disappointed" with the way the season ended and felt that the Hogs could have easily been "13-1 and playing for the national title."

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