Richard Davenport is a recruiting columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Shorter closing in on decision day
STAFF PHOTO ANTHONY REYES University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema during a press conference Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.
Highly regarded running back Kevin Shorter will announce his college decision noon on August 17 but how he’’ll make the announcement is still up in the air.
Shorter, 6-1, 190, 4.38 seconds in the 40 yard dash, of Newton, Texas had more than 20 scholarship offers but will choose from Arkansas, Texas or Texas A&M. He and Coach W.T. Johnson were on yesterday’s Recruiting Thursday radio show.
“We haven’t decided yet,” Johnston. “I’m going to let him to decide and tell me by Wednesday and what he wants to do is what we’re going to try and set up. If he wants to do it over Twitter or if he wants to have a news conference we’ll do that. We’ll leave it up to him.”
Shorter had 1,810 yards on 151 rushes for an average of 12 yards per carry while scoring 31 touchdowns as a junior. After visiting Arkansas three times, he’s a fan of the Hogs’ coaching staff.
“They’re down-to-earth and don’t beat around the bush,” Shorter said. “They speak truthfully and I can see myself being there and that’s why it’s one of my top schools.”
The upcoming decision is one of the more talked about topics on message boards among Razorback fans. Johnston, who’s a Hot Springs native, said he gets plenty of questions from family members in the Natural State.
"Every time I talk to them they’re wanting to know where he’s going to go and want to tell him where to go,” Johnston said. “I’m not going to do that. I’m going to leave that up to the kid but they’re all trying to get an inside scoop.”
Johnston doesn’t care to know Shorter’s thinking.
“I don’t know,” Johnston said. “He hasn’t told me and I’m not asking.”
Coaching a highly recruited athlete like Shorter can keep one busy with college coaches and reporters calling all hours of the day.
“Sometimes they start at six in the morning,” Johnston said. “Yesterday, I was getting calls at six in the morning from coaches and internet services and newspapers and it will pretty much last all day.”
Shorter hasn’t had a phone for awhile and that’s led to the increase calls to Johnston.
“He doesn’t have a phone right now,” Johnston said. “I kind of wish he did it would take pressure off me. That’s part of it. He’s handled this really good. He’s been real mature in the process. He’s shown me he’s grown up a lot because there’s been a lot of people pulling on him. He’s handled it really well."
The recruiting process has had it’s challenges.
“It’s been very hard trying to handle it,” Shorter said. “Because some of the coaches want you to call the same day but you have to tell them you have other things going on.”
Shorter’s cousin, freshman cornerback D.J. Dean has received praise from defensive coordinator Chris Ash in the first few days of fall camp. Shorter has lived with the Dean family since the seventh grade.
“Every now and then he’ll tell me I need to be a Razorback,” said Shorter of Dean. “He’ll send a message to me on my iPad on my Twitter and say Woo Pig Sooie or talk about how he did in practice.”
During his visits to Fayetteville, Shorter said he’s gotten to know several Hogs, including Ke’tyrus Marks, Damon Mitchell, Denver Kirkland and Alex Collins.
“It feels like I’ve been knowing the guys forever,” Shorter said.
Johnston said Shorter’s speed and size makes him different from others he’s coached through the years.
“We’ve had some kids as fast as him but maybe not as big,” Johnston said. “That separates him right there but the main thing about Kevin what he can do what the other kids can’t is catch the ball. He could be a receiver as easy as he could be a running back.”
Shorter’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is what college coaches often comment on.
“They have to take a back out to throw with him because he can do both,” Johnston said. “He’s a really good runner. He’s a physical runner and he can run around or run over you and not a lot of kids can do that.”
Coach Bret Bielema is known to be a straight shooter when it comes to recruiting. Shorter has noticed that during times he’s spoken to the head coach.
“Coach Bielema is a great guy ,” Shorter said. “He’s going to tell you the truth. He’s not going to beat around the bush about anything. He gets straight to the point.”
Should he become a Hog, Shorter will be taught by running backs coach Joel Thomas.
“We joke around,” Shorter said. “He tells me about the offense and how I can be used in it and how I’m a great fit it.”