The Recruiting Guy:

Lineman's previous bonds enhance UA's shot

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Jimmy Smith, an assistant coach with the University of Arkansas football team, speaks with members of the media Thursday, February 6, 2020, inside the Fred W. Smith Football Center on the campus in Fayetteville. Ten football assistants participated in the interview process. Check out nwaonline.com/200207Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Jimmy Smith, an assistant coach with the University of Arkansas football team, speaks with members of the media Thursday, February 6, 2020, inside the Fred W. Smith Football Center on the campus in Fayetteville. Ten football assistants participated in the interview process. Check out nwaonline.com/200207Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.

Prior relationships with University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman and running backs coach Jimmy Smith helped the Hogs make the recent cut for defensive lineman Cameron Ball.

Ball, 6-5, 295 pounds, of East Point (Ga.) Tri-Cities had 36 scholarship offers, but he narrowed his list to Arkansas, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Boston College, Illinois, Mississippi State, Minnesota, Arizona State and Georgia Tech.

Cameron Ball highlights

arkansasonline.com/0428ball/

Smith was the head coach at Cedar Grove High School in Georgia, where he went 67-14-1 in six seasons and won two Class AAA state titles before joining the staff at Georgia State in March 2019.

"I knew about him then, and then he moved on to college football at Georgia State and he recruited me at Georgia State, and when he went to Arkansas he brought me along with him," Ball said.

While at Georgia, Pittman also recruited Ball.

"That right there by itself means a lot," Ball said. "They really want me. I give them the same energy they give me."

Ball was looking to make an unofficial visit to Fayetteville in the spring, but the coronavirus pandemic spoiled that when the NCAA implemented a dead period on March 13 that forbids visits to college campuses. The ban has been extended to May 31, and there's a chance the dead period could last into the summer.

"It messed up my last summer a lot because I wanted to take a couple of visits and attend a couple of prospect camps," Ball said. "I wanted to get out to Arkansas, and I wanted my first official visit to be at Arkansas. At the moment, I can't set up anything because I don't know when all of this will blow over."

A starter on varsity since the ninth grade, Ball played on both sides of the ball last year. He recorded 57 tackles, 6 sacks, 8 quarterback hurries, 3 forced fumbles and a recorded fumble as a junior while also having 28 pancake blocks on the offensive line.

There's speculation there might not be college football played in the fall or that it could be delayed until later this year or early 2021. If there's no football in the fall, it's unlikely that unofficial or official visits will be allowed.

Ball has a Plan B if he's unable to visit colleges before the early signing period in December.

"I'll go off what I see off the internet and take people's opinions of what they think about a certain campus and basically the relationships I have with the coaches," Ball said.

"Can I picture myself playing there the next three, four years? Is that the best position to get me to the draft or the NFL?"

A couple of years ago, Ball watched Greater, the movie about the late Brandon Burlsworth, who was an All-American offensive lineman at Arkansas and was drafted in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

Ball recently watched the movie again

"So when I watched the movie last week, there was a scene where he stepped into the stadium for the first time -- and this is the honest to God truth -- when he stepped into the stadium and I looked, I got chills for some reason," Ball said. "I don't know why."

Pittman has told Ball he can play on either side of the ball at Arkansas.

"When he was at Georgia, he was recruiting me for O-line. When he got to Arkansas, he said: 'I don't care what you play, you can play offensive line or defensive line, we just want you here. You have a chance to play early,' " Ball said. "He asked me what I like to play, and I said defensive line, and he said: 'Well, you can play defensive line. We really don't care.'

"He just wants me there."

Email Richard Davenport at [email protected]

Sports on 04/28/2020

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