Hogs commit 7 as 'preferred walk-ons'

By: Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, February 8, 2018
Bryant's Cameron Vail scores a touchdown during a game against Fort Smith Southside on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Bryant.
Photo by Jimmy Jones
Bryant's Cameron Vail scores a touchdown during a game against Fort Smith Southside on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Bryant.

— In addition to the 16 players who have signed scholarships, Arkansas will add at least seven players as preferred walk-ons in 2018.

Preferred walk-ons are players who are recruited but are not offered scholarships.

Players who have committed to the Razorbacks as a walk-on this year include two from the state of Arkansas - safety Cameron Vail of Bryant and running back Thomas Muldrow of Prescott. The others are receiver Peyton Ausley and athlete Nathan Parodi of Austin, Texas; punters Chad Stephens of Dodge City Community College and Reid Bauer of Magnolia, Texas; and punter/kicker Matthew Phillips of Brentwood, Tenn.

“It’s not just about the 85 that are on scholarship,” said Mark Smith, Arkansas' defensive backs coach who also serves as director of off-campus recruiting. “You can look at every roster in the country and see guys that are making an impact on teams that started out as walk-ons, including a Heisman Trophy winner (Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield) this past season."

“We evaluate those guys just as thoroughly as some who are on the 85-scholarship roster. We are excited about those walk-ons, too.

Vail (6-1, 185 pounds, 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash) is the stepson of former Fayetteville High School coach Daryl Patton and had scholarship offers from Air Force, Navy and several Division II programs. He recorded 49 tackles as a senior at Bryant and also rushed for seven touchdowns out of the Wildcat formation.

"What he brings to a football team is unmeasurable — leadership on the field and in the dressing room is unmatched," Bryant coach Buck James said. "I think whichever team gets Cameron, they'll get a winner and really good athlete."

Muldrow (5-11, 193, 4.42) accounted for 30 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a senior at Prescott as a dual-threat quarterback.

Ausley (6-3, 175), who played at Vandergrift High School in Austin, had 946 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. At nearby Lake Travis High School, Parodi (5-8, 156) was used mostly on special teams and defense, and recorded 90 tackles, 7 interceptions and 29 yards per kickoff return, including 2 for touchdowns.

Parodi also had an invitation to walk-on at Wisconsin.

“I think my fit with Arkansas was better,” Parodi said. “I love Wisconsin and I love those coaches and they have a really great program over there, but I felt that Fayetteville was a better fit for me.”

At Lake Travis, Parodi played for Hank Carter, a former player and longtime assistant coach to Arkansas' Chad Morris.

“There is no coach I would rather play for than Chad Morris,” Parodi said. “He is one of the most incredible men I have ever met and is something special.

“The staff at Arkansas made me feel at home and a part of the family, as they truly care for their players, and that’s what brought me to Arkansas. The fans, coaches and players are all family and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Stephens (6-0, 205), an Owasso, Okla., native who will have three years of eligibility at Arkansas, had a 37.8-yard average and downed 12 of 50 punts inside the red zone last season at Dodge City. He also made a 22-yard field goal and kicked three extra points. He was a high school teammate of Courtre Alexander, a defensive lineman who signed with the Razorbacks on Wednesday.

Bauer (5-11, 195) averaged 41.3 yards per punt with a long of 62 yards, and had 10 of 27 punts downed inside the red zone as a senior. According to 247 Sports, Bauer visited Arkansas last April and also took unofficial visits to Michigan, Purdue, Missouri, Mississippi State and Texas State. He was a high school teammate of receiver Mike Woods, who signed with Arkansas in December.

Bauer attended the popular kicking camp hosted by Jamie Kohl the past two years.

"Bauer has extremely powerful leg and should be a very sought after punter in the 2018 class," Kohl wrote on his website. "Bauer always seems to perform well in pressure situations. He is someone that we trust will handle the pressures of playing in college!"

Phillips (5-11, 183) kicked only one season in high school after backing up Tucker Day, who is now at Mississippi State. He had scholarship offers from Army and Western Kentucky, as well as some programs at smaller levels. He reports the ability to consistently hit field goals from 50 yards.

"His leg strength continues to improve and he also has the ability to hit his 'A' ball when under pressure," Kohl wrote. "Phillips is a very athletic player who plays multiple positions. He does have a clean swing through the football as a punter. His athleticism makes him an interesting prospect."

Phillips attended an Arkansas camp last summer and took unofficial visits to Fayetteville for games against TCU and Mississippi State. Phillips said he grew up an Arkansas fan.

"My dad would take me to the games and I've been calling the Hogs ever since," he said.

Richard Davenport and Dudley E. Dawson contributed

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