THE RECRUITING GUY: Klenakis,TE understand mothers know best

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, April 19, 2011

— Winning over the mother of a prospect is important during the recruiting process and sometimes isn’t easily done. But Arkansas offensive line coach Chris Klenakis has garnered the support of Natasha Gittens, the mother of tight end Blake Jackson, in a short period of time.

Jackson, 6-4, 230, 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College, has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Pittsburgh and Toledo while drawing interest from Texas A&M, Purdue, Arizona State and others. He and his mother, who holds a doctorate in business administration and teaches marketing courses at Lamson College in Tempe, Ariz., visited Fayetteville on Saturday for the Red-White game.

Jackson said he was surprised to see Klenakis win his mother’s approval so quickly.

“It’s crazy,” said Jackson, who received his offer from the Hogs on Saturday. “It even surprised me just sitting there and listening to them talk to each other. I even sat back, because my mom reads people very well and she can really tell a good person that’s out for my best interest. For her to only know Coach K that long, she picked up quick that he was a great guy. It really made me a lot more receptive to Arkansas.”

Jackson, who recorded 33 receptions for 540 yards and 9 touchdowns last year, said he had a great visit to Fayetteville.

“Arkansas was everything I expected it to be,” said Jackson, who earned All-Region 1 first team honors last season. “It couldn’t have been any better.”

Arkansas’ emphasis on academics was one of several things that stood out to Jackson.

“They stress education just as much as football,” Jackson said. “And everyone in the town was so friendly and how big football is in such a small town. I really loved the atmosphere of the game.”

Jackson said he wants to make his decision before the start of his football season, and his visit has him closer to making an announcement.

“Arkansas made a great impression on me and I’m getting really close to my decision,” Jackson said. “There will probably be more offers on the way for me to review, but I’m definitely leaning towards Arkansas. They’re my No. 1.” BIG DECISION

Quarterback Zeke Pike, 6-6, 230, 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Edgewood, (Ky.) Dixie Heights will announce his decision on Wednesday. He has approximately 50 scholarship offers and is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.

In a text message on Monday, Pike said his the four finalists were Arkansas, Michigan, Purdue and Auburn.

He visited Arkansas earlier this month.


Before visiting Arkansas on Saturday, linebacker Dalton Santos, who’s orally committed to Oklahoma State, didn’t have high expectations.

“When I went down to Arkansas, I really wasn’t expecting too much,” Santos said. “I honestly had a great time. Arkansas just knocked my socks off. It’s beautiful there. The facilities were awesome. That place is on the rise big time. It helps that they’re in the SEC. It was a really great experience to see.”

Santos, 6-3, 246, 4.60 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Van, Texas, has approximately 28 scholarship offers, including offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Michigan.

“Right now, I’m an Oklahoma State Cowboy, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Santos said. “For sure, Arkansas moved up. It’s going to be a hard decision.”

Sants said Arkansas and Texas A&M are tied for second behind Oklahoma State, with Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech rounding out the top six.

The idea of playing in the SEC is enticing to Santos.

“The SEC is a big-time plus,” said Santos, who reports a 430-pound bench press and 550-pound squat. “If you play in the SEC, you can play on Sundays. The SEC is the toughest conference there is. There’s no doubt about it. The third best team still goes to a BCS game.”

His lead recruiter, defensive tackle coach Bobby Allen, is in constant contact.

“He’s funny, he cracks me up,” Santos said. “He’s a pretty good guy, no doubt about it. He’s supposed to be coming down sometime in the spring. We’re pretty close.”

Santos said he hopes to make a final decision before his senior year.


Add Arkansas to the list of scholarship offers for Lorenzo Phillips.

Phillips, 6-2, 204, 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Patterson, La., had scholarship offers from LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama, Tennessee and others before visiting Arkansas for the Red-White game Saturday.

“I enjoyed watching the backs and see what they were doing,” Phillips said. “That’s mainly what I was coming to do. I enjoyed meeting the coaches.”

The visit went so well, Phillips elevated the Razorbacks to the top of his list.

“I have Arkansas No. 1 now,” Phillips said. “They jumped to the top quick. I loved what they do with their linebackers. They’re not looking for real big linebackers.

They really want speed. The linebacker coach explained to me how he would utilize me, and I really liked that too.”

Phillips, who has visited LSU and Texas A&M with plans to visit Houston, Nebraska and Alabama, is looking to make a return trip to Fayetteville, possibly this summer.

E-mail Richard Davenport at

Sports, Pages 21 on 04/19/2011