THE RECRUITING GUY:

Florida 4-star running back mulls Arkansas visit

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Sunday, December 23, 2012
Arkansas assistant coach Charlie Partridge recruited Florida well while at Wisconsin, who has 11 Floridians on the roster, and will bring those ties to the Razorbacks football program.
Photo by Ross LaDue, University of Wisconsin
Arkansas assistant coach Charlie Partridge recruited Florida well while at Wisconsin, who has 11 Floridians on the roster, and will bring those ties to the Razorbacks football program.

— If highly recruited running back Alex Collins takes his fifth official visit, Arkansas stands a good chance of getting it.

Collins, 5-11, 210, 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Plantation, (Fla.) South, is rated a 4-star recruit by national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network. The one-time Miami commitment has made official visits to Florida and Florida State, as well as Wisconsin, when new Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was with the Badgers.

Collins, who plans to play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif., on Jan. 4, has set Jan. 18 as his date to visit Miami.

“He has a fifth visit left,” Plantation South Coach Doug Gatewood said. “He had a good relationship with Coach Bielema when he was at Wisconsin. That relationship doesn’t die just because the person changes schools. If he were to take a fifth visit, Arkansas would probably be the place.”

Collins rushed 228 times for 1,786 yards and 28 touchdowns in Class 8A, the highest classification in Florida, as a junior after not playing as a freshman or sophomore. He burst onto the recruiting scene as a junior, taking Broward County Player of the Year honors.

“When you watch some of these kids’ highlight videos, they go 50 yards against a good team and against a 2A team run for 300 yards,” Gatewood said. “Every team we play against has 50 kids on the team, the school has 2,000. 3,000 students, so the yardage he’s getting is against good quality teams. Last year, he ran for almost 200 yards in every game.”

Gatewood said Collins, who missed three games because of injury, still rushed for 1,400 yards during his senior season.

Collins, who played at 180 pounds as a junior, added 30 pounds to his frame and became a more physical runner during his senior season. Gatewood used the analogy of a baseball pitcher adding to his repertoire to describe Collins’ transformation.

“Well, Alex’s third pitch was becoming a big back where he can actually run over people too,” Gatewood said. “He always ran with heart, and he would try running over people. But at 180 it doesn’t always happen. At 210, it does.”

Bielema’s presence in Broward County during his time as linebackers coach at Iowa helped fuel the Hawkeyes resurgences.

“When that program rebounded from Hayden Fry’s last year, if you look at it, there’s eight or nine starters from Broward County on the defense,” Gatewood said. “And that’s pretty much because Coach Bielema got them out of Broward County. So he knows my kids, he knows the kids down here.”

Bielema’s straightforward and personal touch has served him well in South Florida.

“He goes into some pockets of neighborhoods of South Florida that are 100 percent black, and he feels 100 percent comfortable in that situation.” Gatewood said.

GOOD, GETTING BETTER

El Dorado Coach Scott Reed said junior defensive lineman Bijhon Jackson, who orally committed to Arkansas Thursday night, is not only a dominating on the field but all an outstanding person.

“He’s a good kid, a very humble, hard working and appreciative of things,” Reed said. “He’s going to get better. He has a lot of talent. I’m very proud of his work ethic.”

Jackson, 6-2, 325, 5.1 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is rated the nation’s No. 95 junior prospect by national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network. Jackson picked the Hogs over scholarship offers from Ole Miss and Arkansas State while drawing interest from numerous others.

His explosiveness along with his speed and strength separate make him an elite defensive lineman. He recently benched pressed 380 pounds.

“He’ll be over 400 pounds in the bench press this spring,” Reed said. “His power clean was 330 the other day. Not bad after a season.”

FAMILIAR TERRITORY

Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who’s from Plantation, Fla., is going back to his hometown and hoping to lure defensive lineman Monty Nelson to Fayetteville.

Nelson, 6-3, 310, 5.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Plantation High School said he received a scholarship offer from the Hogs earlier in the week.

“I thanked him for the opportunity to go there and possibly be a commit.” Nelson said.

Nelson, who reports bench pressing about 385 pounds and squatting 495, said he will make an official visit to Arkansas in January. He also has an official visit set for Indiana and is planning to set dates for visits to Pittsburgh, Ole Miss and Louisville.

“He’s a great guy,” Nelson said of Partridge. “He’s a great coach, too. He seems like a coach you would like to meet and be close to. I can see myself being coached by him and playing at Arkansas.”

THREE HOURS NEEDED

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema said on Saturday that Hogs signee and linebacker Martrell Spaight of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College will likely have to wait until June to enroll at Arkansas because of a glitch involving his academic standing.

Spaight, 6-0 1/2, 220, 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, could’ve enrolled at Kansas State, where he was headed before being offered a scholarship last Saturday during Bielema’s in-home visit.

But Spaight said he needs to take one more class because of an SEC requirement of having three credit hours of transferable math on a transcript.

“I think it gives you a great indication of how bad he wanted to play in his home state, how bad he wanted to play at Arkansas,” Bielema said. “Because he could have went to other schools, could have gone there immediately without taking that class and he chose to delay his admittance and take his class because he wanted to be a Razorback.”

E-mail Richard Davenport at

rdavenport@arkansasonline.com

Sports, Pages 34 on 12/23/2012

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