Bielema open to early signing period

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Friday, March 14, 2014
Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema speaks with reporters Wednesday March 5, 2014 during the 2014 Pro Day at the Walker Family Training Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema speaks with reporters Wednesday March 5, 2014 during the 2014 Pro Day at the Walker Family Training Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

BENTON - Talk about an early signing period for college football is heating up, and Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema sees some pluses in the idea.

Basketball, baseball and other sports have an early signing period in November while football signs prospects on the first Wednesday in February.

“I think it would be very cost effective for a lot of schools,” Bielema said Wednesday evening before speaking to the Saline County Razorback Club. “You spend a lot of time in January recruiting guys that have been committed to you for a number of months, and sometimes things can get a little turbulent during that time.”

Bielema said he believes in-state prospects could benefit from an early signing period.

“A lot of kids in state that have known they’ve wanted to go somewhere for a long time and they just want to get it over with, it might be able to make a lot of tough decisions a little bit easier,” he said.

Prospects aren’t allowed to take official visits until Sept. 1 of their senior year. That would most likely change if an early signing period were approved. That would allow recruits to take earlier visits and have time to evaluate the schools before signing. August and November have been mentioned as possibilities for an early signing period.

“I think it would have to be at the end of the summer,” Bielema said. “Or the date I’ve also heard thrown out quite a bit is December, the same as the junior college signing date.”TIES THAT BIND

One of the fastest and better playmakers in nation, receiver/return man Ryan Newsome of Aledo, Texas, received a scholarship offer from Arkansas on Monday.

Newsome, 5-9, 170 pounds, 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash, rushed 83 times for 826 yards and 8 touchdowns and had 21 receptions for 532 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season.

Newsome also has strong ties to the state. His mother, Cheryl, was born in Little Rock and his aunt, Lana Nayles, lives in the city.

“I’ve been watching Arkansas for a while, ever since Felix [Jones] and Darren McFadden, both of them in the backfield,” said Newsome, who plans to visit Arkansas in the spring.

Newsome reports scholarship offers from 21 other schools, including Oklahoma, Baylor, Oregon, Texas, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Texas Tech. Newsome, who has a 3.0 grade-point average, said he plans to major in broadcast journalism.

“My brother just recently got a job at ESPN working as a production assistant,” Newsome said. “I already have one foot in the door, just a matter of me taking care of my business.”

Newsome, who was timed at 10.54 seconds in the 100 meters as a sophomore, knows the importance of networking and will put a premium on a school’s ability to help him beyond football.

“It’s about who you know,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that is going to factor into my decision, the connections of the alumni base at the specific school. I can get my foot in the door when I graduate, like internships and things like that.”

His lead recruiter at Arkansas, receivers coach Michael Smith, has impressed him.

“I can’t wait to go down there and meet him because he sounds like he has a lot of swagger,” Newsome said.

He also was recruited by Arkansas defensive backs coach Clay Jennings when the coach was at TCU

“They were the first school to offer me,” Newsome said of the Horned Frogs. “Coach Jennings was already telling Coach Bielema we have to offer this kid real quick.

“I love Coach Jennings, he’s a great guy. I can’t wait to talk it up with him again.” STAYING IN CONTACT

Arkansas defensive backs coach Clay Jennings also recruited highly regarded cornerback Holton Hill of Houston Lamar while still working at TCU, and Jennings has kept up a relationship with Hill even though the coach is now in Fayetteville.

“Coach Jennings wants me to come down there and visit the campus,” Hill said. “I’m going to try to make my way up there probably sometime in the spring or summer.”

Hill, 6-2, 185, has scholarship offers from 16 schools, including Arkansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Alabama and Florida State. He said he is confident in his ability to shut down receivers.

“I’m a press, man-to-man corner,” Hill said. “I can stay with the receiver all day, harassing the whole game. I can break on all the balls.”

Hill, who has a 3.7 grade-point average, said he is comfortable around Jennings.

“He’s like a real nice guy, easy to talk to,” Hill said. “He’s easy to carry a conversation.” E-mail Richard Davenport at

Sports, Pages 20 on 03/14/2014