Signing leaves staff all smiles

By: Jeremy Muck
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/BENJAMIN KRAIN --2/7/2013--
New Razorback football coach Brett Bielema meets media before a fund raising program highlighting new recruits Thursday night at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/BENJAMIN KRAIN --2/7/2013-- New Razorback football coach Brett Bielema meets media before a fund raising program highlighting new recruits Thursday night at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.

— The drama surrounding five-star tailback Alex Collins ended happily for the Arkansas football staff Thursday.

Collins, from Plantation, Fla., officially signed a letter of intent to play for Arkansas on Thursday, a day after what turned out to be a bizarre national signing day for the Razorbacks.

Collins was set to sign with Arkansas on Wednesday but surprised many when he backed out of signing day festivities. Multiple reports said the running back’s mother, Andrea McDonald, made off with Collins’ letter of intent because she wanted him to reconsider his choice of colleges. Collins, 5-11, 204 pounds, had made an oral commitment to Arkansas on Monday night on Fox Sports South.

Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who was the Razorbacks’ lead recruiter for Collins, said Thursday before Arkansas’ Signing Day in the Rock festivities at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock that he and Coach Bret Bielema reached out to the South Plantation High School standout and tried to support him.

Bielema speaks on 2013 recruiting class

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Chris Ash spoke to reporters about the 2013 recruiting class, his first as coach, prior to a Signing Day in the Rock event at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock. (By David Harten)
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“All we expressed to him is, no matter what you choose, we want what’s best for you, no matter what. We believe in you as a young man. We want you at Arkansas. We want what’s best for you,” said Partridge, who recruited Collins while at Wisconsin before following Bielema to Arkansas. “He knew all along after his visit here that this is where he wanted to be. It was a matter of coming together and having him today.”

McDonald released a statement through her lawyer Thursday saying she was only concerned about her son and wanted him to make his decision without “any outside and inappropriate influences.”

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Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema (left) talks with Dennis Welch on Thursday during the Signing Day in the Rock event at Verizon Ar... + Enlarge

Bielema said he and his staff have nothing to hide from Collins’ recruitment and worked with Arkansas senior associate athletic director John Fagg when it came to Collins’ commitment.

“I know she threw some scenario out there,” Bielema said. “I know I’m confident in what myself, what my coaches and my university [did]. We dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. The people that are around him and surround him on a daily basis felt good enough to get to where he is.

“I know this: A mother’s love is strong, and you don’t ever want to get in between that.”

Collins is the highest-rated prospect in this year’s Razorbacks class. He is rated the No. 57 prospect in the country on the ESPN 150 list, the No. 1 all-purpose back by 247Sports.com and the No. 3 tailback by Scout.com.

Bielema first met Collins two years ago while Bielema was still at Wisconsin. He said he doesn’t believe the controversy surrounding Collins and his family will affect the running back oncehe arrives in Fayetteville.

“The one thing that you will see is that he’s mature beyond his years,” Bielema said. “I think that anybody that is privy to the information that truly went on in that scenario, he had thought all of that out, every detail. Every scenario was well planned not only by him, but our lead coach, Coach Partridge, during the recruiting process, his head coach and his principal and administration.”

Collins, who originally committed to Miami before backing off his oral commitment in November, made an official visit to Arkansas on Jan. 25 with his family. Bielema said the visit went well.

“Obviously, things changed,” Bielema said. “The part I enjoy as a head coach is every scenario is different. Every story is unique to each individual recruit.This one hopefully ended up in a happy spot,and we’re going to be excited about the future.”

Maybe the only person who was more happy than Collins that the running back signed Thursday with the Razorbacks was Partridge.

“I was relieved for him,” Partridge said. “I have a strong, long-term relationship with this young man. I knew it was a hard 24 hours. I was relieved that it was over and complete for him.”

Sports, Pages 19 on 02/08/2013

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