Tom Murphy has covered the Razorbacks for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette since 2007. He has more than 25 years experience covering college athletics in Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas.
Mother cuts off back for no gain
One of the nation's best running backs, Alex Collins has committed to Arkansas.
FAYETTEVILLE There was a notable empty space at the No. 23 spot on Arkansas’ national signing day board in the Miller Room at the Broyles Athletic Center.
The Razorbacks hope five-star tailback Alex Collins fills that spot soon, and sources close to the program remain confident that will eventually happen. Collins, who had been committed to the University of Miami until re-opening his recruitment in November, told NBC 6 out of Miami that he planned to join the Razorbacks today after he failed to sign his binding national letter of intent during a bizarre Wednesday at his school in south Florida.
Arkansas scored a splashy oral commitment on Fox Sports South from the highly recruited 5-11, 204-pound tailback Monday, but Collins backed out of signing day festivities Wednesday at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla. Multiple online sources, including ESPN’s Recruiting Nation, reported that Collins’ mother, Andrea McDonald, made off with Collins’ letter of intent because she wanted him to reconsider his choice.
“It’s a signing day night-mare, and it happens,” said ESPN analyst Derek Dooley, the former Tennessee head coach.
Collins’ older brother, Johnny, told the Miami Herald: “I would prefer him to go to Miami too, because it would be a better program for him, a better environment. He could get home faster, and it’s more convenient if Mom wants to go to a game, instead of having to fly to Arkansas.”
Collins, rated the No. 57 prospect in the country on the ESPN 150 list, would be the highest-rated prospect in Arkansas’ class. He is rated as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the country by 247Sports.com and the No. 3 tailback by Scout.com.
“The thing you have to respect is it’s a family decision,” said Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, Collins’ lead recruiter. “I think you have to respect the fact that it’s not an easy decision, and that while today is national letter of intent day, this is not the deadline.
“You have to respect that this is a life-changing decision for these guys, respect things and things tend to work out the way you hope they will.”
Partridge recruited Collins for Wisconsin before following Coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas. Collins also was recruited by Florida, Florida State, Louisville, South Florida and others.
ESPN’s Rece Davis asked Bielema to compare Collins with his long roster of backs at Wisconsin before Bielema responded that he couldn’t comment on players who had not signed.
Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas related a story about when he was Purdue’s lead recruiter on Jerico Nelson, a former Arkansas linebacker and a defensive captain as a senior.
“We were doing a home visit and he forgot to tell us he was taking his trip up here,” said Thomas, who wanted Nelson as a running back.
Arkansas’ other signees were eager to see Collins officially choose the Razorbacks.
Quarterback Austin Allen, who was well aware of Collins’ postponement in south Florida, was asked what he thought of Arkansas’ class following the noon hour signing ceremony at Fayetteville High School.
“Minus Alex or with Alex?” Allen replied. “I feel like the class is great already as it is. Denver Kirkland committing today and Hunter Henry, the top tight end in the nation, and a lot of other great players. But Alex is a one-of-a kind running back, and once he gets all of his situation figured out and he gets up here, I feel like the class will be top 25 in the nation.
“We’ll be ready to go.”
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/07/2013