Recruiting Binge Has Coaches On High

FAYETTEVILLE -- Mike Markuson's phone started ringing on the fourth hole Monday at Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club. Arkansas' offensive line coach declined to hit several shots, letting his playing partners take his turn while he talked to a potential recruit instead.


Finally, two holes later, Markuson put his phone away. He smiled and grabbed his driver, thrilled to hit his next shot at the Houston Nutt media and car dealers tournament.
The recruit, Marcal Robinson, a cornerback from Alabama, had just become a commitment.
"It has kind of turned into a feeding frenzy," Markuson said. "Having this many committed at this point just hasn't happened for us."
The recent recruiting success has drawn national notice and created a positive feeling around the football team, which reports for preseason camp today. Later in his golf round Monday, Markuson's phone was back out. He spoke with Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and defensive coordinator Reggie Herring, breaking the news and sharing in some brief celebration.
Running back Devin Thomas, of San Antonio, committed on Tuesday, and his pledge was Arkansas' 10th in an 11-day span and 19th overall.
"We were already all hyped up for the season," Markuson said. "This makes it even easier to get excited."
Chris Vaughn, in his fifth season as Arkansas' recruiting coordinator, said the Hogs had hit 19 commitments around early January in previous years. Several factors have led to the increasing trend of committing early, Vaughn said.
Prospects visit college campuses before their senior seasons with growing frequency, and the Internet has allowed universities to get information out about their programs.
"Kids can read about facilities, they can read about academics, they can read about the football program," Vaughn said. "Recruiting has changed so much."
Arkansas changed with the times, using text messaging daily to keep in touch with prospects.
The NCAA's ban on text messaging went into effect on Wednesday, though. Vaughn, who had texted certain recruits every day for six months straight, had to contact them by e-mail.
"I really believe there will be some modification (to that ban)," Vaughn said. "Building relationships with kids through text messaging when we can't contact by phone is a big reason why our commitment list is the way it is."
Jamie Newburg, Scout.com's national football recruiting expert, said he just finished a study in which he analyzed early commitments. He found out that, as of June 1, they were up 500 percent for BCS schools compared with five years ago.
This time last year, Arkansas had only eight commitments. The Razorbacks didn't land their 19th pledge for their class of 2007 until Jan. 20.
"Everyone's going for the early verbal now," Newburg said. "Arkansas has gotten a lot early, and I've been impressed with the class they've put together there. You can already say that this is a very good class by the Hogs, no matter how it ends up.
"This is how the Hogs should always recruit. It's a little surprising it's gone this well, considering the soap opera off the field. But, it just shows that recruits focused more on what they did on the field. They won the West and they had the premiere running back in college football."
Scout.com has Arkansas at No. 17 in its class of 2008 rankings, which change on a daily basis. Newburg complimented Arkansas on landing quality skill position players, mentioning in-state standouts such as Camden Fairview running back De'Anthony Curtis and Warren wide receiver Jarius Wright.
Now, Arkansas' coaching staff can concentrate on a remaining list of prospects that's been dwindled more than ever.
"We've got to get some linebackers and some tight ends," Vaughn said. "We're still looking for one dynamic wide receiver, and we'll always take another defensive lineman. They're always a premium, and we're never going to turn down a great defensive lineman.
"But, to be sure, we're way ahead of where we've ever been."

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