FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas has continued to recruit hard despite no on- or off-campus visits allowed due to COVID-19.
Sam Pittman currently has six commitments for the Class of 2021 from the state of Oklahoma. He was asked about his success in that state on Thursday during a Zoom conference.
“It is one of our regional states,” Pittman said. “Right now, if you were sitting there and couldn’t go out and visit, your parents are probably going to be a little more comfortable if you commit to a school they can drive to with the convenience of being able to get back and forth from games. I’m from Oklahoma. I wasn’t one of those guys that Arkansas offered a scholarship to, by the way. I wanted them to, but they didn’t. But I’m still from Oklahoma. It’s just been kind of ironic that we’re doing pretty good in the state of Oklahoma. Missouri borders us. Louisiana borders us and all that. Jon Cooper is from Oklahoma. I’m from Oklahoma. Barry Odom is from Oklahoma. So we have some ties there that’s helped us.”
With the coaches able to go out in spring for the evaluation period and then no camps it has caused more recruiting from highlight films. Pittman addressed all the uncertainties with this recruiting cycle.
“I think the reason people want camps — and I’m not saying in COVID times, I’m not saying that — I’m saying the reason that you want camps in the summer on a regular basis is so you can evaluate prospects,” Pittman said. “And there’s a difference in a highlight tape and actually what he is. Sometimes he’s better than what his tape looks like, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes he’s about what you thought.
“So I do think there’s going to be, more than ever, surprises that you thought you got this particular athlete, and you were surprised one way or the other because you didn’t actually get to see them in a specific skill set that you wanted. I think that’s across the board with everybody. You might go back to sophomore when they were at camp, you look at speed, how do you really know how fast they are unless you have a verified time? All that kind of stuff you can get done on your own campus. We’re not able to do that.
“The other thing certainly is if they keep early signing date and there’s no official visits, it’s kind of hard for a kid to make a decision, to me. So we have to really love them up, we have to get to know them, because right now if it’s not about anything other than the personal relationship with the people that’s recruiting them, then we have to be better than anybody else at it.”
Pittman and his staff currently have a combined 16 scholarship offers out inside the state for the 2021-23 classes. They have five for 2021, nine in 2022 and two more in 2023. He also talked about how they are continuing to have success with all the restrictions in place.
“Recruiting is hard (even) if you have them on campus and call them all time,” Pittman said. “It is hard regardless of what because of who you are competing against. But we are pleased where we are in recruiting right now.
“We are well aware our state is very talented and we are trying to get our kids to stay home and play for the Razorbacks.”
One signee, defensive end Jaqualin McGhee, ended up not reporting to Arkansas. When he didn’t report then Pittman moved Blayne Toll, who was recruited as a defensive end, back to the line. He was moved to tight end in the spring.
“I guess you could call it a change,” Pittman said. “He never practiced at tight end, but Blayne Toll moved to tight end on paper. We never had him practice (at TE) or anything before we started practicing. Not practicing, but walking through and all this. We moved him back to defensive end. We thought that he could help us over there after being able to watch him run a little bit and seeing what his size was. We thought he might rush the passer over there a little bit for us, so we moved him back over to where we originally recruited him at.”
Did the move of Toll back to defensive end come as a result of McGhee not reporting?
“100 percent,” Pittman said. “When Jaqualin decided that he didn’t want to play football anymore, then we moved Blayne Toll that day.”
While Pittman can’t comment on it, the Razorbacks are set to add to its commitment list today.