Bielema eyes nation’s top recruits


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said during his introductory press conference one of his primary goals in recruiting is making sure the state’s top prospects sign with the Razorbacks.

Arkansas signed seven high school players from the state last Wednesday, including elite tight end Hunter Henry and quarterback Austin Allen. But Bielema admitted during his signing day press conference Arkansas wasn’t perfect in its goal.

“We didn’t get everybody we wanted,” Bielema said. “The part that we want to make sure that we can correct from this point forward is establishing what that means.”

The most visible prospect who did get away was North Little Rock running back Altee Tenpenny, who will attend Alabama. The Razorbacks worked to convince Tenpenny to break his long-standing verbal commitment with the Crimson Tide, but the running back remained firm and signed with Alabama last Wednesday.

Bielema doesn’t want similar scenarios to play out in the future with the state’s top prospects, though.

“You can tell here at Arkansas that to come here from the state of Arkansas and play and letter, and get a degree, it’s a gift for the rest of your life,” Bielema said. “If you are a kid that leaves the state, you are going to be the kid that left, and you’ll always be remembered as that guy, and your glory will never be the same.

“That’s not to slam anybody or to do anything to the people that leave, other than we need to tell our kids and make that be reinforced from their recruitment process all the way forward that is the fact of life, and that’s reality, and that’s what life is.”

Bielema said he and the new staff did make important progress in familiarizing itself with high school coaches around the state the past two months. In fact, Bielema said he was “blown away” by the reception when the Razorbacks were on the road.

Tight end coach Barry Lunney, Jr., said he was impressed by the prospects who did elect to stay in state despite the turmoil the program recently went through. The former Bentonville High offensive coordinator knows what it means after staying in state to play for the Razorbacks during his career from 1992-95.

“I have a lot of respect for those guys, because I know it runs deeper for them,” Lunney Jr. said. “I think all of our in-state guys are in that boat. … These guys had a lot of choices, and it was tumultuous time here, and they stuck with it.

“Those guys knew the University of Arkansas is their home.”

Six To Combine

Six former Arkansas players have been invited to participate in the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

The selected group: Quarterback Tyler Wilson, running back Knile Davis, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, tight end Chris Gragg, offensive guard Alvin Bailey and punter Dylan Breeding. The NFL Combine — where players will take part in interviews, physical exams and position drills over a four-day period — will be held from Feb. 20-26 inside the Lucas Oil Stadium.

Other draft-hopeful Razorbacks like running back Dennis Johnson, defensive end Tenarius Wright and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith did not receive invitations to what is considered one of the NFL’s premier pre-draft events. Johnson’s absence was rated No. 2 among the top 10 snubs by NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang.

“Although he didn’t receive the same hype as Knile Davis (who did receive an invite), Johnson is a quick-footed runner with the balance and toughness needed for the position and leaves Arkansas as the school and SEC all-time leader in kickoff return yardage,” Rang wrote.

The Razorbacks not selected will have an opportunity to work out for scouts during an on-campus pro day in March.

Bielema Show Set

Bielema will hold a radio show, “On The Air with Bret Bielema,” live from the Catfish Hole in Fayetteville at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Bielema will discuss his first Arkansas signing class and preview spring practice during the hour-long show. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and defensive coordinator Chris Ash will join Bielema on the radio show.

The show will be carried live throughout the state on the Razorback Sports Network. Fans can purchase tickets for $25 and includes all you can eat catfish, boiled shrimp and chicken.