Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
The Recruiting Guy:
Pandemic puts strain on Hogs' 2021, 2022 work
The coronavirus pandemic is causing recruiting issues for college football programs such as the University of Arkansas.
Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman and his staff had about two months to put together a 2020 class while other schools had most of their classes completed and were focusing on the 2021 and 2022 classes.
National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network said schools such as Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and others with new coaches are playing catch-up with the Class of 2021.
"There has to be some concern because the coaching change means their evaluation started around Christmastime, and they couldn't get out until January to just finish the 2020 class," Lemming said. "Like in Arkansas' case, with the changing of the coaches you really weren't able to go after the '21 guys until you secured your '20 class."
Pittman has said he learned "recruiting on steroids" while at Georgia under Kirby Smart. A similar approach is needed to close the gap on the 2021 class.
"He's known as a good recruiter, and Georgia is known as fanatical in recruiting," Lemming said of Pittman.
Lemming said Georgia was losing top in-state talent before Smart and Pittman showed up.
"They were losing a lot of the top players to Clemson, Florida State, Alabama and Auburn, and now they're not doing that," Lemming said. "So with Pittman coming from Georgia, he understands work ethic. I'm sure because he's known as a recruiter. He knows what to do."
Since Smart arrived at Georgia in 2016, the Bulldogs have had a top-10 recruiting class every year, including the top class in 2018 and No. 2 classes in 2019 and 2020.
Having a strong support staff in recruiting is a must.
"How good is your support staff?" Lemming said. "If you have a good support staff, you're not going to be hurting nearly as bad as you would be if you had a bad support staff.
"It all comes down to who works the hardest, like it always does."
Pittman brought some of the Bulldogs' recruiting mentality with him to Arkansas by hiring Tyler Butler and Jesse Stone to work in player personnel.
Butler was a recruiting analyst who worked with Pittman at Georgia. Stone, a Little Rock native, was a graduate assistant at Georgia for three seasons before going to Miami in 2019 as an offensive quality control analyst.
Both are crucial in evaluating prospects and getting video to Pittman and his assistants in a timely manner.
"That's when it comes down to how good are your inside guys, not the 10 coaches, but the people that actually help evaluate all these hundreds of films before the coaches actually see them," Lemming said.
Arkansas has been aggressive in recruiting the upcoming class while also laying groundwork for the 2022 class and beyond. The coronavirus pandemic forced the NCAA to implement a dead period March 13 that is slated to end April 15, but it's expected to be extended. The dead period doesn't allow prospects to visit colleges.
Arkansas' support staff will play a big role in getting the Razorbacks back on track.
"The team that has a good support staff will get the edge in recruiting, which could make a difference in how long it takes for the school to get back to normal," Lemming said. "The more they have contacted the top prospects, the more likely they are to land them. It's that simple."
Email Richard Davenport at [email protected]
Sports on 03/31/2020
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