Razorbacks benefit when they shop local

By: Nate Allen
Published: Saturday, May 3, 2014
Arkansas running back Korliss Marshall runs the ball for a touchdown during the Red-White game Saturday afternoon at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas running back Korliss Marshall runs the ball for a touchdown during the Red-White game Saturday afternoon at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - Before speaking April 23 at the Texarkana Razorback Club and with his assistants fanning out for the spring recruiting period, Bret Bielema researched differences in Arkansas’ three football teams that reached the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and the Razorbacks team he inherited that skidded to 3-9 in 2013.

A major difference was homegrown talent. Bielema said of the 22 players generally regarded as starters on Danny Ford’s 1995 SEC West champion Razorbacks, 14 hailed from Arkansas.

Houston Nutt’s 2002 SEC West champion Razorbacks regularly started 13 Arkansans. Nutt’s 2006 SEC West champion Razorbacks started 13 from Arkansas plus the kicker, Bielema said.

Bielema had only seven Arkansans as regular starters last season.

As the spring evaluation unfolds, those statistics provide Bielema additional incentive to make doubly sure that he and his staff give Arkansas recruits a thorough evaluation before passing any over.

Because his popularity had plummeted considerably by December 2007 when the UA’s “golden handcuffs” bequeathed him parting gifts upon his departure to Ole Miss, it was popular to belittle the Razorbacks’ talent that Nutt left for Bobby Petrino in 2008.

Actually, Nutt, with a huge assist from former assistant Tim Horton, left Petrino in better shape than the combination of players Petrino and John L. Smith left for Bielema when he arrived in December 2012.

Arkansas’ best defensive players for Petrino, end Jake Bequette of Little Rock Catholic and linebacker Jerry Franklin of Marion, were inherited.

Warren receivers Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Chris Gragg committed to Nutt’s staff before Petrino’s arrival.

Two Arkansans who Nutt didn’t get committed but Horton knew to pursue as a holdover assistant, quarterback Tyler Wilson of Greenwood and receiver/punt returner Joe Adams of Central Arkansas Christian, became first-team All-SEC players for Petrino.

Harold Horton, long before he was also known as Tim Horton’s dad, was signed unheralded out of DeWitt but lettered for Frank Broyles’ first three Southwest Conference championship teams. As an assistant coach, Harold recruited some of Arkansas’ best for Broyles and Lou Holtz. He was the recruiting coordinator who assembled Ford’s 1995 SEC West champions and bequeathed the gist that Nutt coached to a 9-3 debut in 1998.

Harold always maintained Arkansas kids tend to have intangibles when it comes to playing for the Razorbacks that can’t be measured by a stopwatch or their bench press.

Arkansas’ current running backs - Jonathan Williams of Allen, Texas; Alex Collins of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Korliss Marshall of Osceola - define the best of all works when it comes to the Razorbacks’ recruiting.

Always recruit hard in Arkansas’ border states, particularly Texas.

If Arkansas has a great tie-in to a faraway place, as Bielema and assistant head coach Randy Shannon do in South Florida, by all means go after some great ones there.

But never, ever neglect your instate gem that recruiting services overlook.

Marshall, the little afterthought from little Osceola, could shine as big and as bright as those big, bright stars from Miami and Texas.

Sports, Pages 20 on 05/03/2014