Recruiting Texas

In his weekly recruiting column, Dudley E. Dawson takes a look at why getting grid prospects in Texas is so key to Arkansas' future success, how the Southwest Classic can help in that regard and how data clearly shows why you can't just do it with in-state prospects alone. This story is free and sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers. Click on the Arkansas Toyota banner.

In a perfect world, the University of Arkansas could line up over 100 of North Texas' finest high school football prospects on its sideline this Saturday night at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

As the home team in the first Southwest Classic against Texas A&M, the Razorbacks had the option of bringing in some unofficial visitors just as Texas and Oklahoma alternate doing during the Red River Shootout.

But the fact that the UA plays at two home sites – Fayetteville and Little Rock – put a crimp in those plans according to Dean Campbell, Arkansas director of high school relations.

"The SEC has a rule that you can only give tickets to players and coaches just once off your campus," Campbell said. "We thought about it a lot and decided that it was more important to be able to have recruits at our first game in Little Rock. So we can not give any tickets to players or coaches for Saturday night. They would have to buy their own."

But there is no doubt in Campbell's mind - or the one of Dallas Cowboys' owner and UA alum Jerry Jones - that playing in Dallas is going to help Arkansas recruiting.

"I don't think there is anything it can do but help us," Campbell said. "Especially when you look at it in terms of exposure. We have had a presence in that area going all the way back to the Southwest Conference days - although it is tailed off somewhat when we defected from the SWC.

"Having this game down there every year gives us a chance to really pick things back up in a Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area that is just loaded with high school football talent," Campbell added. "I think I read that there were some 360 prospects in that area alone that signed Division I scholarships last season. That's just incredible and speaks to the talent of that area."

There is very little doubt that Jones had it on his mind when he came up with the idea of the Southwest Classic at what he is dubbing "Razorback Stadium West."

"That whole North Texas area - which is greatest recruiting area in the country today," Jones said, "…it's critical for our future. It's for the grandmothers and the mothers to know they are going to get to see their sons play in Razorback Stadium West."

Jones said that is one of the biggest reasons he decided to have the game in his stadium.

"This is a strategic move for Arkansas, a strategic move for our fans to support the Razorbacks playing in Dallas," Jones said. "Because that is how you are going to the attention of some of the finest athletes in the country that play football to come up to Northwest Arkansas and play football. It's a big deal. It is not an arm-waving deal. It's a real big deal."

Arkansas has 20 current Texans on its roster, a commitment from 2010 offensive lineman prospect Cam Feldt (6-4, 290) and Cedar Hill kicker Eduardo Camara and would certainly like to add to that number.

The Arkansas assistants will take advantage of being in that Metroplex on Friday nigh according to Campbell, a former Texas player and someone who coached for both the Longhorns and Texas A&M.

"We will certainly have our coaches out Friday night looking at the prospects in that area," Campbell said. "I think we will have six coaches out with maybe Kirk Botkin in the Houston area, maybe taking Reggie Johnson with him. But the rest we will be at games in the Metroplex area.

"It's a great deal to be able to stay in a hotel and know that there are some 360 Division I players no less than two hours from where you are staying," Campbell added. "That is certainly something you take advantage of."

While there is a ton of prospects, there has been a shift in where they are coming from in the Metroplex area according to Campbell.

"A lot of the inner city schools are not producing top players like that used to," Campbell said. "You could always count on Dallas schools like Carter and Kimball to produce a ton of talent. And you could count on schools in Fort Worth like Paschal and O.D. Wyatt, and also schools in Arlington to pump out players every year.

"But now the shift has really been to the suburbs," Campbell added. "While there is good football played all over the area, it is schools like Southlake Carroll and others that are really producing the top players and those kids seem to be going all over the country and becoming big keys in the success of college football programs."

From 2004-2008, Texas produced 974 BCS recruits – not just Division-I recruits, but high major ones – according to recruiting writer Andy Staples.

That was just seven behind Florida, which led the nation in that category with 981.

For reference sake, Arkansas had just 87 BCS signees during that time.

That was dead last in states with an SEC school with Kentucky's 92 the next step up.

Thus showing why the Razorbacks can't compete in the SEC – the nation's top conference - on just home-grown talent alone.

That is something head coach Bobby Petrino knew when he first took the job.

He went right to work in the 2008 class by talking Arkansas native and former Texas High quarterback Ryan Mallett into coming to Fayetteville once he decided he was transferring from Michigan.

He then signed two other 2008 Texas prospects – current starting safety Tramain Thomas and since departed defensive back Chris Raggett.

Petrino followed that up with 2009 signees in tailback Knile Davis, defensive end Ryan Calendar, wideout Cobi Hamilton, defensive end Colton Nash, linebacker Austin Moss, safety Ross Rasner and offensive lineman Travis Swanson – all who are either contributing now or expected to in the near future.

"I think (playing in Texas) is real valuable," Petrino said. "Anytime you can go home and play in front of your relatives it helps a lot with the proximity for us."

Senior safety Matt Harris - one of those 20 Texans currently on the roster – echoed those sentiments.

"It is a huge deal," Harris said. "We are really excited. A lot of emotion, play with a lot of passion this week. Not only going down there a new Texas Stadium, but going against a Texas team, the Big 12 and show off the Texas boys down there and the SEC against A&M."

As for the billion dollar stadium itself, it adds even more to the event.

"..Just huge, just colossal, just like going into the Roman (Coliseums)," Harris said. "It is going to be huge – 100,000 people. Jerry Jones went all out. It is going to be a huge game, a tremendous amount of fans on both sides. It is going to be a crazy game.

"…I have never seen it though, but on TV it looks unreal," Harris said of the stadium. "It looks fake. The scoreboard – it's unbelievable."

For further evidence, there are currently 181 Texas-born players in the NFL – behind only California (194) and Florida (187).

Amazingly there are 15 states that produce 73 percent of all current NFL players – with Arkansas not being in that group.

"You can really have success if you can get in there and get some of the talent," Campbell said. "That is what we are working hard to do."

NCAA rules allow you to have 42 different evaluations from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1 with each game a coach goes to counting as one evaluation.

"We had six coaches on the road on the Friday we played Missouri State, six the following week and then four the next week," Campbell said. "That means we have used 17 of our 42 going into this weekend."

Those evaluation days can be on Thursday, Friday or Saturdays, but you have to use them wisely.

"You would like to save a lot of them for teams that are like playing in the state playoffs and see those games, but then you take a chance on a player you want not being in the playoffs and missing him," Campbell said. "You can also only go to evaluate a kid one time so you have to pick wisely."

Sending coaches out in the Metroplex area this weekend though is simply a no-brainer.

"It's just as good an area as you can be in to recruit in terms of so many players being in one spot," Campbell said. "It is something we are going to take advantage of this weekend and certainly something we continue to take advantage of now that we are going to be playing down there at least 10 years and maybe a lot longer."

Cam Feldt

Eduardo Camara

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