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:
Coach connection led RB to UA
Arkansas assistant coach Jimmy Smith speaks Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, alongside running back Raheim Sanders during practice at the university practice facility in Fayetteville.
University of Arkansas running backs coach Jimmy Smith's relationship with running back commitment Jadan Baugh and his coach helped the Hogs seal the deal with Baugh.
Baugh, 6-1, 215 pounds, of Decatur, (Ga.) Columbia High School had more than 20 scholarship offers before picking the Hogs over his other finalists of Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia Tech and Louisville on May 19.
"I trust the coaching staff at Arkansas and I know they're going to have the best interest for my kid and he's going to fit in very well," said Columbia Coach Greg Barnett.
Barnett got to know Razorback Coach Sam Pittman during his time on staff at Georgia and Smith, who coached at nearby Cedar Grove High School before he entered college coaching.
"Jadan is just a great kid overall," Barnett said. "He's very mature for his age. He has an idea of what he wants. He's just one of those kids that was touched by the man of above. He's just a man amongst children out here and I'm just glad to be his coach."
Barnett said Baugh, a team captain, is leader by his actions.
"He exemplifies everything you want in a player," Barnett said. "He's not a rah, rah type of guy but more so leads by example. A lot of the kids seem to follow his lead which has led to a player's led team which is every coach's dream."
Baugh had 27 receptions for 442 yards, 5 touchdowns, and rushed 15 times for 306 yards and 3 touchdowns as a junior. He recorded 54 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 2 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and 1 recovered fumble on defense.
Three recruiting services rate him as a 3-star prospect while Rivals list Baugh a 4-star recruit and the No. 27 athlete in the nation.
Smith isn't just a friend, but a mentor for Barnett since their days of coaching against one another.
"He's always one that would always reach back and help out in giving information, so I would always be a sponge," Barnett said. "I just appreciate our relationship because in this coaching industry, it's all about relationships and when he came around as a recruiter he saw Jadan and he said 'Man, I love this kid' and that established their relationship then and formed a lot of trust. It did help me and Jimmy had a relationship in the past."
When Smith took over Cedar Grove, the school had very little tradition. He soon turned the program around by winning Class AAA state championships in 2016 and 2018 and having a 67-14-1 record in six seasons before joining the Georgia State staff in March 2019.
"He was trail blazer," Barnett said of Smith. "They're still one of the top programs in our county. He would show me his practice schedule and how he would have guys flying around like a collegiate schedule. He was always an innovator and always a forward thinker and I just admired that about him. Those are some of the qualities I've taken from him as I try to build my program at Columbia which also has an upward trajectory."
One of the highlights for Barnett earlier in his career was as the offensive coordinator at Columbia when the Eagles defeated Smith and Cedar Grove 21-0 a year prior to Smith winning his first state title.
"I'll never forget that," Barnett said. "He was so upset after that game. Jimmy is my guy for sure. He's my guy. Every now and then, I have to remind him of that."
He said Smith quickly squashes any talk of the game.
"If you know Jimmy, he's a fast talker, so he'll shut that down real quick," said a laughing Barnett.
Barnett, who has visited Fayetteville, knows Baugh will flourish at Arkansas.
"I just know he's going to do well there, on the field and off the field," Barnett said. "He's going to have the support. I look forward to seeing what he's going to do."
Email Richard Davenport at firstname.lastname@example.org
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