THE RECRUITING GUY:

Offensive linemen big part of Hogs’ plan

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Greenwood quarterback Jabe Burgess looks for a receiver during a 2012 game at Little Rock Parkview.
Photo by Jimmy Jones
Greenwood quarterback Jabe Burgess looks for a receiver during a 2012 game at Little Rock Parkview.

— The hunt for offensive linemen continues for Arkansas.

Less than a month after bringing in one of the best offensive-line classes in years, the Hogs’ wish list includes Natrell Curtis, 6-3, 295 pounds, of Phoenix Mountain Pointe High School, who claims he has 14 scholarship offers, including one from the Razorbacks. Curtis has talked to offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who was named one of the nation’s top 25 recruiters by ESPN.com.

“I don’t know him that well, but our relationship keeps on building and building,” said Curtis, who reports talking to Pittman a couple of times on the phone along with private messages on Facebook. “He’s a great guy. He’s a real good, cool, funny guy.”

The previous coaching staff offered Curtis last spring, and Pittman has let Curtis know the Hogs still want him in Fayetteville.

“He wants me just as bad,” Curtis said.

Pittman and Bielema recruited Curtis’ teammate and fellow offensive lineman Kenny Lacy, who signed with UCLA but strongly considered Arkansas after making an official visit to Fayetteville on Jan. 25.

“He told me it was different from anything we’re used to,” said Curtis, who’s considering a visit to Arkansas. “The fans are just crazy and the atmosphere is great. He said they can win games. That’s what really got him.”

Curtis, who’s considering sociology or special education as a major, said he hopes to eventually teach and help kids.

“I’m a football player, but I actually do have a good heart,” Curtis said. “I just love kids. People treat them different, but they’re special, too . We’re all the same no matter what. I just really enjoy kids.”

LOOKING AT LINEMAN

Isaiah Wynn, 6-2 1/2, 272, 5.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood is another offensive lineman the Hogs like. He said he talked to Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman on Thursday and was told his video showed good athleticism and aggressiveness.

“I feel like he’s sincere,” Wynn said of Pittman, who told him he was impressed with his 1-on-1 film. “He told me he wanted to build a relationship with me.”

Wynn, who reports a 305-pound bench press and a 425 squat, said he has 11 scholarship offers, including ones from Florida State, Vanderbilt, Missouri and West Virginia. He said the Razorbacks haven’t offered.

“I’m still in the process of doing some research about them,” Wynn said of Arkansas, where he hopes to visit in the summer. “Coach [Pittman] did tell me some stuff about them. As I learn more about the coaching staff, I hope to learn more about Arkansas.”

PENNSYLVANIA FLASH

Arkansas is one of 22 schools to have offered a scholarship to speedy Pennsylvania running back Shai McKenzie.

McKenzie, 6-0, 212, 4.42, of Washington, Pa., has received offers from Michigan, Tennessee, Penn State and Pittsburgh as well as the Razorbacks.

“I’ve been getting a lot of looks lately from a lot of schools and I know Arkansas is a SEC team and that’s big-time football,” McKenzie said. “And for me to get an offer from a SEC team it shows a lot of interest in myself and my family.”

McKenzie, who is preparing for track season, recorded laser times of 10.83 seconds in the 100 meters and 22.4 in the 200 last spring as a sophomore. He also showed excellent strength in throwing the shot put 47 feet.

Running backs coach Joel Thomas, who had four 1,000-yard rushers in his four seasons at Washington, is establishing a relationship with McKenzie.

“I know by talking on the phone he’s a nice guy,” McKenzie said. “We joked around a little bit. I’m going to try and keep in touch as much as possible. We’ve had some good conversations. I was comfortable when we talked. Not too nervous.”

GREENWOOD QB TO VISIT

Greenwood quarterback Jabe Burgess, 6-2, 180, will visit Arkansas on Wednesday with his father. He expects to arrive about at 9 a.m.

Burgess completed 219 of 296 passes for 3,128 yards and 36 touchdowns and threw 5 interceptions in leading Greenwood to the Class 6A state title in his first season as a starter. Burgess received his first scholarship offer from Illinois in midDecember and Tulsa offered him Feb. 2.

Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Oregon, Arkansas State are showing interest.

E-mail Richard Davenport at rdavenport@arkansasonline.com.

Sports, Pages 21 on 02/26/2013

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