New Arkansas coach Bret Bielema looks to find hidden gems on area recruiting trail
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
by Jeff Greer
Benny Sapp pushed and pushed, but Bret Bielema simply wouldn't bite.
The young Iowa assistant coach refused to seriously recruit Sapp's friend at Boyd Anderson High in Lauderdale Lakes.
Asante Samuel, now a three-time All-Pro cornerback, did just fine at UCF, an example of the depth of the South Florida high school football talent pool.
"You can find a diamond in the rough. Or two. Or three." said Bielema, now the head coach at Arkansas.
Bielema, who left Wisconsin for his new job in December, hopes his staff can find under-recruited area prospects this winter. Florida kids, he said, can jolt programs. The Razorbacks had one Floridian on their 2012 roster and finished 4-8 after starting the season in the top 10. They could use a talent infusion.
Bielema put together a staff of veteran South Florida recruiters, including former Miami coach Randy Shannon and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who spent five years with Bielema at Wisconsin. George McDonald, the ex-receivers coach under Shannon at Miami and a big area recruiter, was also on Bielema's staff for a month before he was named offensive coordinator at Syracuse.
They plan to hit the area hard for prospects.
"We really thought there'd be a huge spike of interest, and there has," said Bielema.
The pitch: You'll play in a powerful SEC division that's produced five of the last six national champs. The added bonus: occasionally getting a shot at Florida. The two teams play Oct. 5 in Gainesville.
Arkansas is already chasing three Palm Beach County class of 2013 prospects, and there could be more in the coming weeks. The Razorbacks only have 13 verbal commitments for this year's class with three weeks to go before national signing day on Feb. 6.
American Heritage quarterback Marcus Davis, whom Arkansas is recruiting as a defensive back, received a scholarship offer two weeks ago and will visit the Fayetteville, Ark., campus this weekend.
He was the first area prospect Arkansas chased, and his signing would be a late-but-pleasant surprise for Bielema. Davis, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound athlete, won a state title with American Heritage and is considered the top uncommitted athlete in Palm Beach County.
On Wednesday, Arkansas visited Palm Beach Gardens receiver Frank Brown. Over the past two seasons in Florida's largest classification, Brown totaled more than 1,500 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns for a resurgent Gardens program.
Ke'Tyrus Marks, who set the single-season sacks record at Suncoast this past fall, received a scholarship offer from Partridge last week. After he arrived at Arkansas, Partridge called Marks.
While he was still with Wisconsin, Partridge didn't have any more scholarships to offer defensive linemen, no matter how much Marks's highlight tape impressed him.
He has room at Arkansas.
"My mom always has tons of questions (for recruiters)," Marks said. "After Coach Partridge's PowerPoint presentation, she had no questions.
"Arkansas sells itself."
Pahokee grad commits: Former Pahokee basketball star Nate Willis tried his luck at football at Arizona Western Community College, and it's paid off. The JUCO sophomore cornerback verbally committed Wednesday to play for Kentucky.