By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ Defensive Coordinator Barry Odom works hard at recruiting as he knows that is the lifeblood to a program.

However recruiting has changed a lot even in recent years. The schools are offering prospects earlier and earlier. Odom talked about how recruiting offers are going out earlier and earlier and how that can lead to some mistakes.

“It’s going faster and faster, as you say, and I don’t think it’s ever going to slow down, so you’ve got to have things that you believe in, your core philosophy or belief of what you’re looking at in the evaluation process,” Odom said. “And if you have that check list and you really live by it and you don’t go off of things you hear or the rankings, but you really evaluate what you need out of that position, and you look at it and you do your homework and you try to outwork people in recruiting, it can be done. You can find guys.

“I’ve made many mistakes. I have. But also I look back on the mistakes I’ve made in recruiting and there was a reason. There was always, I knew it and I’d say, ‘Well, he’s good enough in this area.’ So I think you’ve got to be thorough. You’ve got to be hungry to recruit because if you don’t, you won’t survive and you won’t last, especially in this league.”

Odom talked about how one can evaluate well and cut down on many of the mistakes.

“So the evaluation process, if you can ever see a prospect live and in person, that’s the best evaluator,” Odom said. “And then you better do as much information seeking that you can from assistant coaches, the high school head coach, to the secretary, to the biology teacher, to everybody that you can, and then it’s about relationship building. You’ve got to be involved with their family in every which way because I look at recruiting as I make promises in recruiting. I make them a promise they’re going to graduate from college. You better be able to uphold that and show them how you’ve done that in previous years. Recruiting has changed, but the evaluation process and the relationship building, I don’t really know that that part has changed. It has sped up, for sure. And I’m seeing it in my own house in the recruiting process, how early it happens for some positions.”

Odom being an assistant coach was able to go out on the road in the spring evaluation period. That is something he couldn’t do as the head coach at Missouri.

“Spring recruiting, as a head coach you could go out every time except spring recruiting,” Odom said. “I got that time on the road, so I was familiar with that. The spring recruiting part, the evaluation at summer camps. The 2020 year (COVID-19) was different for everybody, but I felt like, and I’ve learned a lot from Coach (Sam) Pittman being here, and I’ve learned recruiting department structure and some of those things.

“In a lot of ways I’ve grown and I’m a heck of a lot better coach right now than I’ve ever been before. I’m saying a coach, a teacher, a recruiter, all the things that go into that. You learn from your experiences. You’re going to have setbacks, and you learn from those and continue to move forward. In recruiting, I think we’ve got a pretty specific way that we do things here as a program. I think it works. I’m excited to have a chance to recruit to the University of Arkansas, because I believe in what we’re about and what we’ve got going. It’s pretty exciting.”

Arkansas has 23 commitments for the Class of 2023. Of the 23, 13 are scheduled to play defense. That includes four defensive linemen, three linebackers and six defensive backs.