Surviving Green-Beckham (and other signing day observations)

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College football fans who were glued to ESPNU’s wall to wall coverage of national signing day didn’t see Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. On a day when Texas coach Mack Brown was lauded on camera (by a talking head from The Longhorn Network) for another top signing class Petrino was somewhere in the Broyles Center talking with Alabama commitment Darius Philon about making a place for him at Arkansas after Alabama had told the kid he’d have to greyshirt if he wanted to end up in Tuscaloosa.

Lots of college coaches were on TV last Wednesday grinning about their lofty top 25 recruiting rankings. Petrino came across like a man who was fully aware that such rankings don’t win football games. Asked about his lack of visibility in ESPNU’s coverage Petrino said simply, “I don’t think it was ever an option for me.” I detected a slight smile on his face when he said it.

Petrino understands how to recruit. Rivals, ESPN & Scout know the process too but they also know how to make money from fans who dwell on every aspect of college football recruiting.

If you turn the entire process into a contest and name winners and losers you’ve created an off season TV event that sucks in fans from schools all over the country.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreet offered some sensible advice in the middle of this made for TV extravaganza.

Check out Arkansas, he suggested. You won’t find them high in the recruiting rankings. You’ll just find them high in the real rankings at the end of the season.

Some Razorback fans were distressed when the number one national recruit picked Missouri over Arkansas. Dorial Green-Beckham is a can’t miss future NFL receiver, we’ve all been told.

My attitude about Green-Beckham is simple. Missouri needed him a lot more than Arkansas. Petrino spreads the ball around in his passing game. There is no “go to” receiver in his offense.

Most Hog fans have never heard of Longview, Texas High’s Eric Hawkins. He wasn’t a 5 star recruit like Green-Beckham. A buddy of mine who lives in Texas has seen a lot of E-Hawk (as he’s called by his friends). “That kid is the fastest high school player I’ve ever seen,” he told me last fall.

I called a coach I know in East Texas to get a second opinion. He confirmed that Hawkins is a speed burner with good hands and an ability to make extra yards after the tackle. “He’ll get you some first downs against Alabama,” the coach said. ‘Ya’ll seem to have trouble with that.”

Hawkins is just one of four receivers who signed with the Hogs. You can be sure that Petrino is high on every single one of them because he would not have offered them scholarships otherwise.

Three or four years from now Green-Beckham may indeed be headed for the NFL but I’d lay down good money that Arkansas will be sending a receiver or two from this class to the league as well.

Overall Hog fans seem to have a good understanding of how Petrino recruits. Instead of moaning about the players Arkansas didn’t sign most of them seem to be excited about the ones who are coming.

Linebacker Vin Ascolese out of North Bergen, New Jersey was a big hit when he suggested on signing day that he was making a mental list of players who had picked other schools over Arkansas. He said he was looking forward to playing against some of them.

Welcome to Fayetteville, Vin. You’ll fit right in.

Norman, Oklahoma High School running back Donovan Roberts admitted that the Sooners made a late run at him in the recruiting process. He said he never considered backing out of his commitment to Arkansas because he had given his word to Petrino. He also referred to the University of Oklahoma as, “the school up the street.”

You gotta a love a kid like that if you are a Razorback fan.

Then there is Memphis Ridgway High School offensive lineman Cordale Boyd. I met Cordale last spring at a Razorback football camp. On campus TV interviews with recruits are frowned upon by the NCAA so I took Cordale across Razorback Road to a parking lot. He told me later that it was his first ever TV interview.

Afterward, with his parents looking on, Cordale and his younger brother called the Hogs on Razorback Road.

Amost a year later he told a signing day audience in Memphis, “We (the Razorbacks) are a deadly weapon and we’re gettin’ ready to explode.”

Razorback fans are gonna love this kid too.

I pay almost no attention to the recruiting wars. I am not interested in spending a lot of time talking about kids who have never played a down of college football. Recruiting day for me comes six months after national signing day. That’s when Petrino opens August camp with a couple of newcomers-only workouts. That’s when I’ll get to see the 2012 Razorbacks recruiting class in a real world situation, as college and not high school football players.

I’ll get back to you with how that goes come the first week in August.

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