Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
The Recruiting Guy:
Defensive lineman wooed by UA's fans, facilities
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman's ability to lure top linemen to Fayetteville continued with the addition of highly regarded Jalen Merrick.
Arkansas was hoping to make a good impression on junior college defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter and his parents during his official visit, and it appears they did.
"It makes the decision tougher now since I been here and they showed me a good time," said Ledbetter, who wrapped up his visit Friday.
Ledbetter, 6-4, 265 pounds, 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash, plays for Hutchinson Community College in Kansas and is considered one of the top junior college prospects. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Miami are among the schools that have offered him a scholarship already.
"It was very, very impressive," said Ledbetter, who plans to graduate in December and enroll at his new school in January. "From the facilities, to downtown and to the people of Arkansas, it's very nice."
Ledbetter and some teammates visited Arkansas for a spring scrimmage in April, but he experienced something on this trip that he didn't in April.
"What I really found out, the people of Arkansas are really diehard Razorback fans," he said. "That's one of the things that's really impressive. Going out to eat and they do the little call, the woo, Pig sooie, I liked it."
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman is Ledbetter's lead recruiter. Defensive coordinator Robb Smith and defensive line coach Rory Segrest also are involved.
Ledbetter originally committed to Oklahoma State in June 2013 and intended to sign with the Cowboys for the 2014 season but fell short of qualifying.
He took an unofficial visit to Miami on Monday and another to Florida in May. He plans to officially visit the Gators during the season.
Ledbetter's father, Weldon, and his mother, Sharon, are on board if their son should decide to be a Razorback.
"We thought Oklahoma State did a great job recruiting, and these guys have taken it to a whole new level," Weldon Ledbetter said. "It's just the coaching staff, they're very genuine. You can tell they really like Jeremiah and want Jeremiah to be a part of the program."
Weldon Ledbetter said he is impressed with Coach Bret Bielema's plans for the program.
"He has developed and brought in the right coaching staff," Weldon Ledbetter said. "He has a tremendous academic department that's really focused on the players. He seems like he has tremendous vision to bring a championship program to Arkansas."
The visit allowed Sharon Ledbetter to gain trust that Bielema and his staff will do what they have been saying they're going to do for her son.
"My son is the youngest one," Sharon Ledbetter said. "He's my diamond."
It appears the Hogs have a good shot of gaining a commitment from Ledbetter.
"It's possible," said Jeremiah, who along with his parents had dinner at Bielema's house Thursday night. "I still want to wait and see how things go first. I want to take my official to Florida and see how that goes. The decision should be made a week after that."
Arkansas has offered a scholarship to highly recruited running back Nyheim Hines of Garner, N.C., and Hines, who reports offers from more than 20 schools, said he is looking forward to learning more about the Hogs.
"I need to do my research on Arkansas," said Hines, who has offers from North Carolina, North Carolina State, Florida, Georgia, Clemson, Tennessee and Notre Dame.. "I don't know much about them, haven't really seen much of them. I remember being a big fan of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but since then I really don't know much about Arkansas."
Hines, 5-9, 187 pounds, 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash, rushed for 3,150 yards and had 50 touchdowns as junior and had 8 touchdown receptions. ESPN rates him the nation's No. 12 running back and the No. 147 overall prospect.
Hines has best times of 10.52 seconds in the 100 meters, 21.49 seconds in the 200 and 14.27 seconds in the 110 hurdles. He also runs the 400 relay.
"My dad ran a 10.2 in college, so I got my speed from him," Hines said.
Hines and Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas have been talking, and often their conversations turn to golf.
'He golfs, and I like to golf," Hines said. "We're building our relationship."
Hines has a 3.9 grade-point average and is looking at majoring in engineering or communications. If the Hogs are able to convince him to visit, he said they will have to show him how he will flourish in Fayetteville.
"I'll be there playing football, so I want to see what I can get from the University of Arkansas if I were to go there for four years," Hines said.
Hines said he hasn't set a firm timeline for making a decision.
"I planned to make a decision sometime in September or October," Hines said. "This process is stressful, so I might make it earlier, but right now I plan on taking my five official visits."
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Sports on 06/29/2014