Commentary

Arkansas going hog wild

Razorbacks might get overshadowed in SEC, but are building a solid class

Updated: August 11, 2011, 5:14 PM ET
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

Life can be tough and somewhat cruel in the Southeastern Conference. It's easy to get overshadowed by West division rivals Alabama, Auburn and LSU, not to mention Florida and Georgia over in the East division.

Case in point: the Arkansas Razorbacks.

No matter how good the Hogs do, it might not ever measure up to those teams, but don't overlook what is happening in Fayetteville right now as the Razorbacks are sitting on 15 commitments.

"I think right now, like everyone else, we are all doing well in recruiting," said Tim Horton, Arkansas running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. "We are very specific in the things we look for. Left tackles have to look a certain way. Same with defensive ends and running backs. All the positions we recruit have to be a certain way. I feel we are off to a good start and getting the right people for us."

Arkansas recruits to its scheme, a key to long-term success, as well as anyone. That's why 5-foot-11, 195-pound Norman (Okla.) High School running back Donovan Roberts is a perfect fit.

"Their scheme is great," the three-star RB said. "Their offense is like mine in high school. It's a mix between a little spread and a little power. I am familiar with it and can really hit the ground running. I am an every-down back and have been since the ninth grade."

Of course, that was not the only reason Roberts picked the Razorbacks over Pitt, Michigan and Arizona.

"I felt like everybody was on the same page, especially with the stuff the coaches do for the players," Roberts said. "It's all the little things and how in sync the players are with the coaches. Arkansas is building to get to the next level. I feel really comfortable with my decision to commit to Arkansas."

The Razorbacks, like most programs these days, make every effort to get as many prospects on campus as early and as often as possible. Roberts made two unofficial visits to Arkansas before making his decision.

"Camps and unofficial visits for Arkansas are vital mainly because we are not as close to as many recruits or people as other programs in our league," Horton said. "The summer is when many kids are taking trips and families taking vacations. That's really important because kids are deciding earlier. It's important to get them on here. It was a good year for getting guys to camp and being able to evaluate those kids."

ESPNU 150 WR D'Arthur Cowan (Olive Branch, Miss./Olive Branch), the highest-rated Arkansas commit, camped with the Razorbacks and committed shortly thereafter.

"There were a bunch of big reasons why I committed to Arkansas," Cowan said. "First, it's not too far from home. Arkansas has a great atmosphere and campus. Coach Bobby Petrino has a great coaching staff and I love their offensive system. As a receiver, that's just a great system for me and that really stuck out to me. The way I look at Arkansas is that they have the best of everything for me."

Cowen leads a strong wide receiver group headed to Arkansas. Joining him in Fayetteville are Jalen Cobb (Warren, Ark./Warren), Jared Collins (Tulsa, Okla./Booker T. Washington), Keon Hatcher (Owasso, Okla./Owasso) and Eric Hawkins (Longview, Texas/Longview). Offensive guards Jeremy Ward (Pottsville, Ark./Pottsville) and Cordale Boyd (Memphis, Tenn./Ridgeway) anchor the OL to date. With 10 spots still available, the Hogs have plenty of options.

"We have always tried to recruit everything. Every assistant coach is pleased," Horton said. "We are going to get a player at every position, and we like to recruit kids that can play both sides of the ball, maybe a wide receiver but [he] could look better at defensive back. When they get here, they just want a chance to play. We want to take a little bit of everything and we want to recruit length, speed, toughness and character."

The following prospects are on Arkansas' wish list: offensive linemen Jordan Diamond (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) and Alex Kozan (Castle Rock, Col./Valor Christian); defensive linemen Marrick Charles (Destrehan, La./Destrehan), Bryan Singleton (Destrehan, La./Destrehan), Bryce Cottrell (Plano, Texas/West) and Taiwan Johnson (Manvel, Texas/Manvel); linebacker Harding Harper (Montgomery, Ala./Carver); and a host of cornerback and safeties. The Hogs aim to close well as they continue to build Petrino's program in the stacked SEC.

"I believe with the recruits we have coming in we can one day soon win it all," said Boyd, Arkansas' three-star OG commit. "It's the power of the Hogs. We have a really good recruiting class that we are putting together that is joining a great set of players on campus. We have to work hard and come together. It's a tough conference, the best conference, and it feels great to be a part of the Razorbacks. We are going to do big things at Arkansas."

Spence cuts list to seven schools
Five-star defensive end Noah Spence (Harrisburg, Pa./Bishop McDevitt), who is No. 4 in the ESPNU 150 and the No. 2 DE, has narrowed his school list to seven schools, according to his father, Greg. Those schools are Penn State, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame and USC. Spence and his father will visit the Nittany Lions on Friday.

London leaves lasting impression for QB
Three-star quarterback Greyson Lambert (Jesup, Ga./Wayne County) committed to Virginia last weekend, and it was an unusual talk with the coach that might have sealed the deal.

Lambert, his father and cousin visited Charlottesville on July 30, and the signal-caller from south Georgia was blown away. It was a great trip, even though UVa coach Mike London wasn't in town. Of course, that didn't stop Lambert from seeing the coach as London made a 10-minute video presentation directed toward Lambert and his father. Let's just say that left a lasting impression.

"We went into the film room and watched some team film," Lambert said. "When that was finished, up pops coach London on film addressing me and my dad. It was a 10-minute video of him sitting behind his desk. He wanted to get some points across and explain some of his rules and philosophies. He talked about his staff and past experiences. It was really neat. It was as if he was there."

Lambert and his father were stunned that London took the time to tape something specifically for them.

"We couldn't believe he took the time to do that," Lambert said. "My dad even asked them to play it again so he could record it on his phone. It was kind of special to me, to us. We both walked out of there kind of stunned that he had done that."

I'ts little things like that that can push a team over the hump in landing key prospects, especially ones on the fence. Last season the Cavs finished No. 20 in the class rankings, and UVa currently sits at No. 22 with this group of 21 commitments.

Hilton ready to do it all for Ole Miss
Mike Hilton (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) committed to Ole Miss a few days ago and is willing to do anything once he gets there.

"I love the love I got from the coaches at Ole Miss," Hilton said. "I know the coaches take care of you wherever you go but I really felt the love there. I felt like part of the family. I committed to Ole Miss over Mississippi State and Kentucky and after seeing all three schools I just didn't have the same feeling with Mississippi State and Kentucky. It was just different."

Hilton, 5-9 and 193 pounds, is being recruited as an athlete. He played a variety of positions for Sandy Creek, including running back, receiver, linebacker, safety and cornerback.

"Ole Miss is recruiting me as an athlete," Hilton said. "I will play wherever they need me. If it's offense it will be running back and if it's defense it will be cornerback."

TE down to four
ESPNU 150 tight end Kent Taylor (Land O'Lakes, Fla./Land O'Lakes) has just narrowed his school list down to four college football programs -- Florida, Georgia, Penn State and Alabama. He will officially visit the Nittany Lions on Sept. 9 and the Crimson Tide on Nov. 14. Taylor is the nation's No. 4-rated tight end.

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.