Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks have had to deal with their share of disappointing performances on the field during a five-game losing streak.
Some of the frustration has carried over to the recruiting trail as well.
Jermaine Eluemunor, who is rated as the No. 1 junior college offensive lineman in the country, announced via Twitter he has switched his verbal commitment to Texas A&M after visiting the school last weekend. The Scranton (Pa.) Lackawanna Community College lineman, who is rated as a four-start prospect on a five-star scale, made a verbal commitment to Arkansas over the summer.
“I have decided to flip my commitment to the Aggies for more than one reason it felt like home and I like where the program is headed,” Eluemunor said via Twitter.
“I want to thank all the coaches at Arkansas for their time and especially the fans you guys are awesome I hope nothing but the best for Ark.”
The news is a hit to an Arkansas class that currently has 17 prospects who have made verbal commitments. Eluemunor — who also committed to UCLA before changing his mind and choosing the Razorbacks earlier this summer — was among the highest rated members of the group. Verbal commitments are non-binding.
Bielema was asked during Monday’s press conference — which took place while Eluemunor was announcing his change of plans — if it has been challenging to keep verbal commitments during a trouble time. He said “not so much.”
“One of the driving forces coming to Arkansas was to give people something they’ve never had before, which is an SEC championship, and obviously that is a very real and alive thing,” Bielema said. “The more you can stress that and kids that want to do that, they kind of gravitate to this situation.
“There will be a couple that will obviously waver and go through some transition or listen to some outside voices. You just keep taking a day to day approach.”
Eluemunor’s switch to Texas A&M came a day after Arkansas received a verbal commitment from Springdale Har-Ber’s Jake Hall. The defensive end is rated as a three-star prospect by Scout.com and a two-star prospect by Rivals.com.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall didn’t finish the Tigers’ 45-10 win against Florida Atlantic because of a shoulder injury. But Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Marshall practiced with the Tigers on Sunday night.
“Nick was out there,” Lashlee told the media in Auburn. “He was able to do some things. He’s sore, but he’s a tough kid. Everything from me knowing about him, and that we know so far, tells me he should be OK. Other than educating him a little on times trying to get down a little bit, I think he’ll be all right.”
Freshman Jeremy Johnson replaced Marshall last Saturday and completed 10 of 16 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Marshall has been key to Auburn’s success, completing 83 of 144 passes for 1,148 yards with 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Marshall also has rushed for 461 and 5 touchdowns as part of a ground game that leads the SEC with 315.4 yards a game.
“They’re No. 1 in the SEC in rushing,” Bielema said. “He’s a valuable part of that, whether it’s a read zone or a quarterback run game or he makes the right call on where the ball needs to be handed off and he’s very efficient. A guy that, again, I think he’s gotten better every game. You can see him gaining confidence.”
Off week work
The Razorbacks enjoyed their first free Saturday of the season last week.
It didn’t mean everyone was idle during the day off.
“We had 16 kids go to Habitat for Humanity from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday and help build a home,” Bielema said. “We got four guys signed up on Thursday and that showed me that there’s a lot of guys that want to give up their free time to do that. (Defensive tackle) DeMarcus Hodge went to a 5K run for breast cancer awareness at 8 in the morning on his only Saturday off. So, that’s a great indicator to me that the arrows are up. It may sound silly, but I guarantee it’s all tied together.”
Arkansas is preparing sophomore D’Arthur Cowan to take over as the team’s punt returner after senior Javontee Herndon handled duties through the first eight games. Bielema is hoping Cowan — who could also step in on kick returns — will help Arkansas “get a lot better” in the return game. … Bielema said freshman Korliss Marshall has been dividing his time between running back and defensive back the past few weeks. Marshall has two carries for 24 yards and is averaging 16.1 yards on 11 kickoff returns this season. … Kickoff for the Arkansas-Ole Miss game on Nov. 9 has been set for 11:21 a.m. The SEC Network will televise the game.