Richard Davenport is a recruiting columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Arkansas top school for Louisiana running back
Arkansas Assistant Coach Joel Thomas works with the Razorbacks during practice on Saturday, March 30, 2013 in Fayetteville.
Arkansas came close to adding a fifth commitment to the 2014 class when running back Sione Palelei visited the Hogs for the Red-White spring game on Saturday.
"Everything about that place is amazing." Palelei said.
Palelei, 5-10, 197, 4.35 seconds on the 40 yard dash , of Gonzales, (La.) East Ascension reports scholarship offers from Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana -Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, Utah and Brigham Young while drawing interest from Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State.
"I liked it more than I expected," said Palelei, who admitted he almost committed to the Hogs while on the trip. "It opened my eyes and I liked it so much that I want to go back. I'm actually trying to go back in July."
As a junior, Palelei rushed 111 times for 828 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine games as a junior whole also recording 20 receptions for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Class 5A Spartans.
Unlike other coaches, running backs coach Joel Thomas let him know how the Razorbacks would use his talents.
"Usually when I talked to a coach he usually doesn't go into detail about how I'm going to fit in," Palelei said. "They're usually straight basic but not them they went into detail and gave me info on what they're going to do with me, how I fit in."
A native of Utah, Palelei, who's half Samoan and half Tongan, said Thomas spoke well of his running style and believes he can give the Hogs a change of pace.
"I have speed," Palelei said. "I'm not afraid to lower my shoulders. I have great hands. He said I would get some playing time if I were to commit and come play for them"
His father made the trip with him and is also sold on Arkansas.
"He's on board with me too." he said.
Palelei said if might pull the trigger and commit when he makes his return trip.
"I'm going to think about a little bit more and let them know when I come back out there in July," Palelei said. "I'll let them know if I'm going to commit or not. If I commit I'll have my family with me for the moment."
Palelei did see one familiar face after the game when he spotted linebacker Robert Atiga, who played against his older brother back in Utah. He praised Thomas for being able to relate to him.
"He's a really cool guy, Palelei said. "He knows a lot about my background and not many coaches know about Polynesians. They might have some but really don't know."