Hogs could use strong late push

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --02/02/2013-- University of Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema addresses the Razorbacks basketball fans during a time out in the first half of Saturday afternoon's game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS --02/02/2013-- University of Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema addresses the Razorbacks basketball fans during a time out in the first half of Saturday afternoon's game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

— Arkansas’ football recruiting efforts picked up steam Monday after it received an oral commitment from highly regarded running back Alex Collins of South Plantation, Fla., and the Razorbacks hope that carries over into today.

Arkansas has 16 oral commitments - five have already signed - heading into national signing day, and Razorbacks Coach Bret Bielema and his staff may not be finished in Florida.

The Razorbacks plucked Collins out of Miami’s backyard, beating out in-state schools Florida and Florida State as well as Wisconsin.

Collins, 5-11, 210 pounds, 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, is rated a four-star recruit by national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports and was named Broward County’s player of the year as a junior after rushing 228 times for 1,786 yards and 28 touchdowns in Class 8A, the highest classification in Florida.

Arkansas will see if it can pull in another south Florida product this morning when Miami Washington offensive lineman Denver Kirkland, 6-5, 320, announces his decision between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on ESPNU. Kirkland is expected to choose among Arkansas, Florida State and Miami.

The Hogs also are waiting to hear from quarterback Damon Mitchell, 6-3, 205, 4.48, of Egg Harbor City (N.J.) Cedar Creek. Mitchell took an official visit to Fayetteville over the weekend and gave it a ringing endorsement. He will make his announcement at 12:15 p.m. today and is expected to decide among Arkansas, Rutgers, Iowa and Georgia Tech.

One top prospect the Hogs aren’t worried about is Pulaski Academy’s Hunter Henry, a member of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s All-Arkansas team who is rated the No. 1 tight end in the nation by Lemming and is orally committed to Arkansas.

Henry’s father, Mark, played for the Hogs in 1988-1991 and earned All-Southwest Conference honors as a center during his senior season. His mother, Jenny, is an Arkansas graduate and her father, Skip Coffman, lettered on the Razorbacks basketball team in 1962-1963.

“I’m just honored and blessed to have the opportunity to become a Razorback like my dad and my grandpa,”said Henry, who is expected to sign with the Hogs at 12:30 p.m. during a ceremony at Pulaski Academy. “Most of my family has graduated from University of Arkansas.”

Arvada (Colo.) Ralston Valley offensive tackle Dan Skipper 6-10, 295, 4.97, and offensive guard Reeve Koehler, 6-3, 315, 5.1, of Honolulu St. Louis High School, are two more four-star prospects expected to sign with Arkansas today.

The Razorbacks are expected to sign three players from Fayetteville. Quarterback Austin Allen, 6-2, 210, 4.7; linebacker Brooks Ellis, 6-2, 218, 4.7; and athlete Alex Brignoni, 6-2, 195, 4.5, are scheduled to sign at noon during a ceremony at the school. Ellis was the Democrat-Gazette’s defensive player of the year. Allen, another Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas player, is the son of Bobby Allen, Arkansas’ director of high school relations, and the brother of Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen.

“After my junior year, I really started loving the game of football and thought about playing in college,” said Brignoni, another Democrat-Gazette All-Arkansas player who could play linebacker or safety for the Razorbacks. “I worked hard my junior and senior year, and I’m so blessed it paid off and I getto play college football with some of my best friends.”

Other in-state prospects expected to sign with the Hogs are Greenwood receiver Drew Morgan 5-11, 185, 4.5; Forrest City defensive end Tevin Beanum, 6-4, 235, 4.72; and Osceola safety Korliss Marshall, 6-0, 190, 4.4.

Morgan, the Democrat-Gazette’s offensive player of the year, said he is excited to follow in the footsteps of former Greenwood standout Tyler Wilson, the Razorbacks’ starting quarterback the past two seasons.

“I actually have a good connection with him,” said Morgan, who is scheduled to sign with Arkansas at about 8:15 a.m. “I text and I can call him. He gives me a lot of advice. I actually went to him when I got the scholarship offer.”

The Hogs have signed five junior college prospects already: offensive guardJonathan McClure, 6-4, 305 pounds, of Butler County (Kan.) Community College in Kansas; linebacker Myke Tavarres, 6-2 1/2, 215, 4.42, of Weed (Calif.) College of the Siskiyous; cornerback Carroll Washington, 5-11, 180, 4.4, of Salinas (Calif.) Hartnell College; safety Tiquention Coleman, 5-10, 194, 4.47, of Georgia Military College; and former North Little Rock product Martrell Spaight, 6-0 1/2, 220, 4.5, a linebacker from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

All but Spaight have enrolled at Arkansas. Spaight plans to arrive at Fayetteville in June.

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/06/2013