National Signing Day Arrives

The University of Arkansas finds out today just how good a job it has done on the recruiting trail as national signing date arrives and the faxes start pouring in.

FAYETTEVILLE — Bobby Petrino didn't have the luxury after being hired as Arkansas' new football coach on Dec. 11 to relax and ease his way into the job.

After all, the other coaches in the Southeastern Conference had almost a one-year headstart on Petrino when it came to recruiting.

He, on the other hand, had less than two months to strike up a relationship with recruits, sit down with their families and hopefully get them to commit to the Razorbacks.

Along the way, Petrino used up plenty of minutes on his cell phone and logged thousands of miles on Arkansas' private plane. It has all led up to today — National Signing Day.

"It's been a grind for about six weeks," Tim Horton, Arkansas' recruiting coordinator and running backs coach, said Monday night during another long day.

Petrino won't know until the end of today as to how well his first recruiting class at Arkansas turned out, and whether all those days on the road paid off.

Arkansas' coaches are holding out hope that they can pick up a few more players at the last minute and cap off a recruiting class that was ranked No. 28 nationally by Scout.com on Tuesday.

Today is the first day football recruits can sign with a school.

"Really, I think (Petrino) has done better than what most coaches do when they're hired on that late of a date," said Greg Powers, a recruiting manager for Scout.com. "I mean, when you're hired on Dec. 11, that's right up against the dead period (when coaches are not allowed to talk to recruits).

"He not only shored up some of the other commitments that were on the fence, but he did a pretty good job of going out and re-establishing Arkansas ties with Arkansas prep head coaches, as well as establishing a recruiting base it seems like in Louisiana and Georgia."

Almost immediately after Petrino was introduced as Arkansas' coach, he and Horton — a holdover from Houston Nutt's staff last season — traveled around the state on the university's plane.

During a three-day stretch, they visited with around 12-13 recruits, who had committed to the Razorbacks before Nutt resigned Nov. 26.

Commitments are non-binding, though, and recruits can change their minds.

"Thank God for the university plane because basically we would just fly and fly from here to here to here to here to here and get out and go see a kid, a parent and maybe a high school coach and then get back in the plane and go to the next town," Horton said.

Petrino and Horton had no choice but to cram in so many visits in such a short period of time. A dead period was about to begin in December, so it was critical that the new coach talk to recruits while he still had the chance.

"I really think it brought a sense of — oh, not closure — but hey, we do have a coach," Horton said. "I think if we hadn't done that, it would have really been a difficult, difficult situation because it would have been dead and (recruits) would not have gotten a chance to meet the new head coach before the Christmas holiday."

Horton said he won't know for sure until today, but he believes there is a chance that every recruit he and Petrino visited during those hectic three days will sign with the Razorbacks.

At first, Horton and Petrino handled most of the recruiting for Arkansas. But as Petrino hired assistants to his coaching staff, they helped talk to recruits and try to make up for lost time.

"There are a few (recruits) on the fence still, but as far as a whole, I think that they (the coaches) really salvaged a pretty good recruiting class," Powers said. "It started off as a good recruiting class, and I think it will end that way, as well."


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