Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He appears weekly on The Red Zone w/ JB on 92.1 FM Fayetteville, The Morning Rush w/ Tye & Tommy on 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home, 99.5 FM in Fayetteville and The Zone w/ Justin & Wess on 103.7 FM in Little Rock.
The Recruiting Guy:
Arkansas' genuine staff, run game has Baxter high on Hogs
Cedric Baxter, Jr.
ESPN 4-star running back target Cedric Baxter Jr.’s visit to Arkansas has the Razorbacks in his top five, and he plans to return for an official visit.
He arrived in Fayetteville on Thursday has been able to spend considerable time with Coach Sam Pittman, running backs coach Jimmy Smith, special teams coordinator Scott Fountain and other staff members.
“Great people, real people,” Baxter said Friday evening. “Everything feels genuine. It doesn’t feel fake. You can’t really describe real, you just feel it. From Coach Pitt to the strength and conditioning coaches, they’re all real.”
Baxter, 6-1, 215, of Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater, has offers from Arkansas, Florida, Southern Cal, Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech and numerous other programs.
He visited the Razorbacks last July and attended their victory over Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. Seeing Arkansas lead the SEC and Power 5 schools in rushing caught his attention.
“The last time I came the season hadn’t started because I came in the summer, but I watched them this year and they led the SEC in rushing and the Power 5 in rushing,” he said. “I’m a running back, so I want to run the ball.”
Pittman’s background as an offensive line coach also helped the Razorbacks' cause.
“Then on top of that, Coach Pitt (was an) O-line coach, so you know he wants to run the ball,” said Baxter, who plans to leave Saturday morning.
The statewide focus on Razorback athletics was evident when he and his family attended the first part of Arkansas’ baseball game against LSU with Smith and Fountain.
“I just went to the baseball game and people there knew me,” Baxter said. “They were walking up shaking my hand and saying hey and stuff like that.”
The fan support is another selling point for the program.
“It means a lot because that shows they pay attention to football and recruits and recruiting,” Baxter said.
ESPN rates him the No. 4 running back nationally. Baxter rushed 202 times for 1,718 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior.
He announced on Twitter he was down to five schools during today’s visit, with Arkansas holding one of the spots. Baxter is unsure when he will release his other top four schools.
He explained why the Razorbacks are one of his top schools.
“Like I said, they’re real,” Baxter said. “Coach Jimmy Smith has been recruiting me since Day 1 and he never stops.”
Smith has numerous family members and friends in South Florida and his wife, Quanisha, is from Miami. Baxter’s connection with Smith and Fountain are key reasons for Arkansas being in good standing with him.
“Coach Smith, we’re both from Florida, so I can relate to him,” Baxter said. “I keep saying real but he’s a real person, too. Coach Fountain, my coaches know him. Our OC knows him. He tells me a lot about him and what a great person he is.”
Baxter doesn’t have a definite timeframe for his college decision.
“When the time is right. When God tells me the time is right,” he said
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