February 13, 2007
Fayetteville, AR (CSTV U-WIRE) -- There were no high-profile names like Mitch Mustain or Damian Williams headlining Arkansas' 2007 recruiting class released last week.
There wasn't a slew of skill players highlighted by seven wide receivers and the nation's top-rated quarterback.
This year, Houston Nutt and the Arkansas Razorbacks focused on linemen and defensive players, hoping to fill defensive slots that either under performed or were left with gaping holes after a pair of 2006 Razorbacks bolted early for the NFL.
After finishing last season 10-4 with a trip to the Capital One Bowl, the Razorbacks raked in the nation's No. 33 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, and were ranked No. 9 in the Southeastern Conference.
Of Arkansas' 27 signees, there were five defensive backs, three linebackers, three defensive tackles, two defensive ends, four offensive linemen, a kicker, three tight ends, one wide receiver, three running backs and two quarterbacks.
"We are excited," Nutt said last week. "We have never been more excited to be Arkansas Razorbacks. I wish you could hear the voices of the young men that we were on the phone with all last night. There are young men that are very excited to be Razorbacks. We are very proud of them."
Arkansas' recruiting process, for the second consecutive year, wasn't as smooth sailing as Nutt would have liked.
After Mustain committed to the Razorbacks prior to last season, he rescinded his commitment only to recommit later in the Spring after the Razorbacks hired his former high school coach, Gus Malzahn, to be the offensive coordinator.
Both Mustain and Malzahn have since left the team. Mustain plans to transfer to another school at the end of the semester, while Malzahn took a co-offensive coordinator and associate head coaching position at Tulsa. The changes launched Arkansas into a tailspin of rumors and questions shortly before signing day.
But of the 18 players who were committed to play for Arkansas at that time, only one decided to change his mind, Nutt said.
"We had 18 committed at one time and there was a little bit of negativity that went out," Nutt said. "I am happy to say that of those 18, only one slipped off to Alabama. The other 17 stayed very firm and so committed to being an Arkansas Razorback." The Razorbacks signed five defensive backs in response to the loss of cornerback Chris Houston, who, as a junior, declared for the NFL draft after the Capital One Bowl. The five defensive linemen, likewise, come in response to the early departure of junior defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who also declared for the draft.
But perhaps just as important, the Razorbacks signed Alex Tejada, a kicker from Springdale High. Tejada's highlights include a school-record 55-yard field goal and a state record 174 career PATs.
Tejada could add to a position that has struggled for the last several years at Arkansas. This season, kicker Jeremy Davis converted on just 6-of-13 attempts.
"I have been watching him since the seventh grade and the ball comes off his foot," Nutt said. "He has done a great job lately kicking without the tee. You have to make sure he doesn't wear out his leg because he loves to kick. I'm excited about Alex."
The Razorbacks also signed a pair of quarterbacks, Joe Chaisson and Nathan Dick, the younger brother of Arkansas' only other scholarship quarterback, Casey Dick.
On the downside, the Razorbacks were unable to secure any of the consensus top three players in the state - Rogers offensive lineman Lee Ziemba, Fort Smith Northside quarterback Kodi Burns and Pulaski Academy running back Broderick Green. Ziemba and Burns signed with Auburn, while Green is headed to Southern California.
(C) 2007 Arkansas Traveler via CSTV U-WIRE