Petrino Has Easier Time

FAYETTEVILLE — Tim Horton was like a traveling salesman, going from city to city trying to sell recruits on the idea of signing with a school that didn't have a football coach.

Horton wasn't even sure if he'd have a job at Arkansas after Houston Nutt's replacement was hired. But he thought the best thing he could do at the time was get on the road and recruit for the Razorbacks.

In the three weeks between Nutt's resignation and Bobby Petrino being hired as Arkansas' new coach on Dec. 11, 2007, Horton visited every recruit who had committed to the Hogs.

He tried to convince them not to look elsewhere. And he did his best to answer their questions, even though he didn't know who the next coach would be or when he'd be hired.

"It was probably different than anything I'll ever be involved with again," said Horton, whom Petrino later named as his recruiting coordinator and running backs coach.

Not surprisingly, the buildup to today's National Signing Day has gone much smoother than a year ago.

Petrino's first recruiting class at Arkansas was assembled on the fly. He had six weeks to get to know recruits. And it was no surprise during official visits that some of his new assistants had a hard time figuring out which players were the recruits and which ones were already on Arkansas' roster.

But when Petrino introduces his second recruiting class at a 2:30 p.m. news conference today, he'll show how much having one year with the Razorbacks has helped him in recruiting.

He's no longer a stranger in Arkansas. He has built relationships with recruits and high school coaches, and his assistants have helped the Hogs get into states they traditionally don't recruit well.

"I'm not sure it gets any easier, but it's not a mad scramble. A year ago, you're scrambling, flying around chasing rumors, sometimes chasing ghosts," Petrino said. "You're not even sure about a young man and you hear something and go do it, and you sometimes worry that you didn't get to know him well enough, didn't get to see everything."

Arkansas was allowed to bring 62 recruits on-campus for official visits this year, and Horton estimated that around 55 of those visits were used. That was an increase from a year ago when around 20 official visits went unused.

And when a recruit was brought onto Arkansas' campus for a visit last winter, the player who hosted that prospect couldn't necessarily tell him what to expect if he signed with the Razorbacks.

"They (now) can tell them what it's really going to be like at Arkansas, as last year you really didn't know because it was a new team, a new staff, a new head coach, a new everything," Horton said. "And so that's something that's different and so much better."

Almost immediately after Petrino was hired last December, he and Horton boarded Arkansas' private plane and visited those recruits who had already committed to the Razorbacks.

For the most part, they were more concerned with keeping those recruits than targeting new prospects. But this year, Petrino and his assistants have been able to cast a much wider net and target recruits out-of-state.

Four-star running back Ronnie Wingo (St. Louis) and three-star wide receiver Cobi Hamilton (Texarkana, Texas) are expected to sign with Arkansas today — the first day recruits can sign letters of intent.

And thanks to their ability to pick up big-name instate recruits like five-star defensive back Darius Winston of Helena-West Helena Central, the No. 24-rated prospect nationally by Rivals.com, the Razorbacks will welcome a recruiting class that's ranked 15th nationally by Scout.com.

Recent history has shown that college football coaches often have more success with their second recruiting classes than the first ones at a new school.

Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow highlighted Urban Meyer's second recruiting class at Florida, and Alabama surprisingly went 12-2 last season thanks in part to a strong freshmen class that coach Nick Saban signed last February.

Tom Luginbill, ESPN's national recruiting director, said it's easy to see why Year Two seems easier for new coaches.

"You're not coming in, scrambling with six weeks to go to Signing Day and having to get out and shake the hands and introduce yourself to the players that have verbally committed to you — who you probably didn't recruit," Luginbill said. "And then (there are) the high school coaches that you've got to get familiar with if you already don't have a relationship.

"You're a year removed from that. You have an entire staff in place, your philosophy is in place, everybody is on the same page. You've established roots, relationships and everybody is buying into it. It just makes your world so much easier."



At A Glance



2009 Arkansas Football Commitments

Player Pos. Ht. Wt. 40-Time School

Alvin Bailey OL 6-5 300 NA Broken Arrow, Okla.

Neal Barlow WR 6-7 200 4.55 Pulaski Academy

Colby Berna OL 6-4 275 NA Fayetteville

Jahron Brown FB 6-0 225 4.55 Dallas (Ga.) East Paulding

Shauntez Bruce OL 6-5 285 NA Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln

Ryan Calendar TE-DE 6-7 220 NA Caddo Mills, Texas

Rudell Crim CB-S 6-1 180 4.4 Butler County (Kan.) CC

Knile Davis TB 6-1 210 NA Fort Bend (Texas) Marshall

David Gordon CB 6-1 180 4.4 Tulsa East Central

*Broderick Green TB 6-2 235 4.57 Pulaski Academy (USC)

Cobi Hamilton WR 6-3 190 4.5 Texarkana, Texas

John Henderson DT 6-2 280 NA College of the Sequoias

Rickey Hughey DE 6-6 225 4.7 Lafayette County

Ricky Johnson WR 5-11 175 4.45 Lafayette (La.) Carencro

Anthony Leon S 6-4 205 4.5 College of the Sequoias

Kevin Lowery DT 6-3 285 NA Gainesville (Fla.) High

Brandon Mitchell QB 6-4 220 NA Amite, La.

Jerry Mitchell Jr. S 6-2 198 4.5 Mandeville, La.

Austin Moss LB 6-3 210 4.64 Rockwall-Heath (Texas) High

Colton Nash DE 6-6 240 NA Sulphur Springs, Texas

Anthony Oden OL 6-8 295 NA Hargrave Military Academy

Ross Rasner LB 6-1 200 4.5 Waco (Texas) Reicher

Lance Ray WR 6-3 200 4.34 Havana (Fla.) East Gadsden

Will Secord QB 6-2 212 NA Frisco (Texas) Wakefield

Andru Stewart CB 5-11 190 4.4 Visalia (Calif.) College of the Sequoias

Travis Swanson OL 6-5 288 NA Kingwood, Texas

Austin Tate TE 6-5 230 NA Harrison

Robert Thomas DT 6-2 311 NA Muskogee, Okla.

Zhamel Thomas OL 6-5 335 NA Navarro (Texas) College

Terrell Williams LB 6-4 220 NA Tulsa (Okla.) Union

Turell Williams RB-LB 6-2 215 NA Helena-West Helena Central

Ronnie Wingo TB 6-3 212 4.4 St. Louis, Mo.

Darius Winston CB 6-1 180 4.38 Helena-West Helena Central



*Southern California transfer.

Note: Verbal commitments are non-binding. National signing day is today.




FIVE PROSPECTS TO WATCH FOR





Name: Darius Winston

Rating: Five Stars

Position: Cornerback

School: Helena-West Helena Central High

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 180

How He'll Help: Winston, the jewel of the class, gives the Razorbacks one of the nation's top high school cornerbacks. Arkansas has only a handful of corners returning, meaning the in-state star will have every chance to be on the field right away. He is talented enough to do it.



Name: Ronnie Wingo

Rating: Four Stars

Position: Running Back

School: St. Louis University High

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 212

How He'll Help: Arkansas was looking for "big" backs and found one of the best in Wingo. He is rated as the 12th-best back in the nation by Scout.com and should get his hands on the ball. Wingo could be big, pun intended, in the short-yardage situations that plagued the Hogs in 2009.



Name: Colby Berna

Rating: Four Stars

Position: Offensive Guard

School: Fayetteville High

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 275

How He'll Help: The local product was the first prospect to orally commit to Arkansas and he hasn't wavered. Berna's senior season was plagued by injuries, but the lineman has a big frame and the potential to be a key cog in the years to come. Gaining weight will be Berna's top priority.



Name: Anthony Leon

Rating: Three stars

Position: Safety

School: College of the Sequoias (Calif.)

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 230

How He'll Help: Nicknamed "Juice," Leon is a big, athletic junior college transfer that plays safety like a linebacker. Size was an obvious concern for the Razorbacks in the secondary last season, so Leon, who originally signed with Florida State, will get a chance to make an impact this fall.



Name: Cobi Hamilton

Rating: Three Stars

Position: Wide Receiver

School: Texarkana Texas High

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 198

How He'll Help: Hamilton had a scholarship offer from Texas, but told the Longhorns, "No," this winter. Now he'll join the likes of Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Lucas Miller and London Crawford in a receiving corps that should be deep, talented and impressive.

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