FAYETTEVILLE — Bret Bielema has secured a verbal commitment from his first high-profile player since becoming Arkansas’ coach on Dec. 4.
South Plantation (Fla.) High running back Alex Collins announced his plans to sign with the Razorbacks on national signing day. Collins revealed his college choice during a live television broadcast on Fox Sports South on Monday night.
“I like the fact that they run the ball,” Collins said during the television show after announcing his decision. “I personally know the coaches. I’ve been recruited by them for two years, so I think I can trust them. I think they can get me to where I want to be at the next level academically and athletically.”
Scout.com rates Collins as a five-star player on a five-star scale and also ranks 5-foot-11, 207-pound Collins as the nation’s No. 3 running back. Rivals.com rates Collins as a four-star prospect and the No. 13 running back in the country. He is rated as a five-star prospect by 247Sports.com and the nation’s No. 1 running back.
Collins chose Arkansas over Miami, Florida, Florida State and Wisconsin.
Arkansas landed Collins after making a late push for the back, who didn’t consider the Razorbacks until Bielema was hired. He originally made a verbal commitment to Miami, but opened up his recruitment to look at other options.
Collins said the Arkansas coaching staff — which also includes defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and running backs coach Joel Thomas — was one of the primary reasons for his selection. Bielema and Partridge recruited him while at Wisconsin.
“I’ve known the coaching staff for two years,” Collins said during the Fox Sports South broadcast, referring to the former Wisconsin coaches. “They’ve been recruiting me since my junior year. So I took interest when they decided to go over to Arkansas and I decided to see what was going on out there. So I took an official.”
Collins will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact at Arkansas next season, which is expected to shift the focus of its offense from a pass-oriented attack to a power run game under the new coaching staff. The Razorbacks, who do return Jonathan Williams, Kody Walker and Nate Holmes, are trying to replace veterans Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo Jr. next season.
So the impact of Collins’ decision was evident on Twitter moments after the news.
“Arkansas makes a living surrounding an Elite player with a bunch of hard working blue collar kids. Hawgs just got an Elite Player,” Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Fox Sports Next, said via Twitter.
Arkansas’ coaches aren’t permitted to comment on perspective student-athletes until they have signed the national letters of intent. But Bielema’s excitement was clear when he tweeted: “Wooooo pig sooooie! Great night to be a Razorback!”
He wasn’t alone. Partridge, who is a South Florida native and has worked the area extensively as a recruiter, added: “WOW!! Lets Go Hogs!! #WPS”
Collins is the 16th verbal commitment in Arkansas’ 2013 class and the third player from South Florida, which was a key area for Bielema’s teams at Wisconsin. The Razorbacks also have signed five junior college players earlier this winter.
Three commit Sunday
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas hosted four football prospects during the final weekend of official visits before Wednesday’s national signing day.
Three of them made verbal commitments to the Razorbacks on Sunday.
Osceola High athlete Korliss Marshall, Bellaire (Texas) High running back Denzell Evans, and South Oak Cliff (Texas) High wide receiver Melvinson Hartfield announced their intentions to sign with Arkansas.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Evans is rated as a three-star prospect on a five-star scale by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He had been committed to Houston before changing his plans Sunday. Evans should get an opportunity for playing time in an Arkansas backfield trying to replace Knile Davis, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo.
Hartfield was verbally committed to Kansas State, but changed his mind after the weekend visit as well. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver is rated as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com and a three-star player by Scout.com. Receivers coach Michael Smith, who left Kansas State for Arkansas, recruited Hartfield.
Marshall is an in-state prospect who played running back in high school, but is projected to line up at safety for the Razorbacks according to Hawgs Illustrated. The 6-foot, 185-pound Marshall is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.