Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Lunney shares Arkansas' in-state offer philosophy
Chuck Barrett (right) talks with Arkansas assistant coach Barry Lunney on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, on the team's signing day results during the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Club Signing on the Hill event at the Holiday Inn & Convention Center in Springdale.
SPRINGDALE There were five Arkansas signees and two blue shirts acquired from within the state in the 2017 class. That means the Razorbacks landed all seven of the prospects they went after.
But a few programs came into Arkansas and signed prospects - Fayetteville quarterback Taylor Powell (Missouri), Fort Smith Northside cornerback Tre Norwood (Oklahoma) and England defensive end B.J. Thompson (Baylor) - that the Razorbacks didn’t offer.
That list also included Fayetteville defensive lineman Akial Byers, who committed to Alabama, but will instead matriculate to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Razorback tight ends coach Barry Lunney, Jr., said Thursday at the Signing Day on the Hill event that he would love to take all the top players from in-state, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
“We have got some good ones and we have been fortunate in the way that we have recruited with the ones that few have identified,” Lunney said.
“There are a lot of great players in this state, a lot of great football players of Arkansas and it is our job and our philosophy that we want to identify every one of them and we obviously start with their athletic ability.
“But it goes beyond that. It goes to the ones that have the best fit for us. It is not about who the best athlete is, but about the best fit for the Razorbacks - whether it be academically, socially or by position.
“Sometimes there are guys that may be at certain position that we don’t have a need for. I think we have done a really good job identifying who those kids are that fit our program and we have been able to recruit them hard and it has been a staff effort that we have been able to get those kids here.”
Lunney, a former Fort Smith Southside and Razorback quarterback, praised head coach Bret Bielema for making his job easier.
Bielema has signed as many as 10 Arkansans in one class in his time, as few as four and has already offered three in-state prospects in the 2018 class.
“As a long-time Arkansas fan as I grew up here and loved following the Razorbacks and spending a lot of times in different parts of the state with my dad being a high school coach and inevitably the relationship the high school coaches have with the coaching staff is really critical and it always starts at the top with the head football coach,” Lunney said.
“We have seen the ebbs and flow with that over the course of our program’s history and we have a guy right now in Coach Bielema who gets it.
“He makes my job easier being the state recruiter, the state liaison because he understands the importance of having these relationships and they are sincere relationships.
“I have to say it starts with him and it has made my job easier by very much understanding the importance of relationships with these guys to feel like we are accessible and more than that for us to know who they have got in their program, who is coming up, who the ninth grader is, who is the junior, who is the transfer in and keeping our ear to the ground and those things can’t happen without relationships.”
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