Luke Ford describes his de-commitment from Arkansas as one of the toughest decisions he’s had to make.
A 4-star tight end in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports composite rankings, Ford made the decision last month. He initially pledged to the Razorbacks in mid-March. He’d built strong relationships with the coaching staff since. He was excited about following in the footsteps of past Razorback star tight ends like 2015 Mackey Award winner Hunter Henry, whom the coaching staff had compared him to in the past.
That’s what made it so tough when he picked up the phone and let coach Bret Bielema know he was de-committing. But it was something Ford felt he had to do and fully believes he made the right decision.
“Nobody wants to de-commit,” Ford told reporters Friday at The Opening in Beaverton, Ore.
“But I just tried to do it the most respectful way possible and not affect [Arkansas’] class.”
The initial plan for Ford wasn’t to de-commit, though. He just wanted to make sure he did himself the service of taking an up-close look at his options.
Ford, who is from Carterville, Ill., had only visited Arkansas and Illinois before he announced his commitment to the Hogs. His recruitment picked up significantly during the spring with many top programs inquiring about his availability. So, he wondered, why not go check out programs like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Ohio State?
“I didn’t want to be the first time I see LSU and Alabama being when I play them,” Ford said. “I wanted to go check out other schools.”
So, Ford first called Bielema about the possibility of visiting elsewhere: “Hey coach, listen, how do you feel about me checking out other schools since I’ve only been to two schools?”
Bielema responded by letting him know the program wouldn’t divert from its “no other visits” policy. In the majority of cases, the policy is in place to not allow commits to visit other schools without being considered de-committed. That’s when it became clear to Ford he’d be retracting his pledge to the Hogs was the best route for him to take.
Ford admits if not for the rule against visits he’d still be committed to Arkansas. However, he understands why Bielema has the rule and holds no ill will toward the Razorbacks as a result.
“Me and [Bielema] are good,” Ford said. “He was fine with it. The only way I could [visit other schools] is to de-commit. [Visiting while committed] would look bad for the program and I didn’t want to hurt the program or the recruiting class.”
Arkansas remains a possibility for Ford even after his trips to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU the past few weeks. The Crimson Tide stand out as his top choice with the Hogs and several others in a dead heat close behind.
“[Arkansas] is in it,” Ford said. “I love the coaches there and we still have a good relationship. They just kind of took a break with me after I de-committed, but it’s started back up.”
Ford may no longer be certain of his college coach, but he does know he won’t rush to a decision this time around. He expects to wait until signing day in December or possibly even February to commit. He wants to see for himself if programs are using tight ends as advertised to him during the 2017 season.
If there’s a silver lining for Arkansas, that’s definitely it. Even without a standout at the position, it’s a virtual certainty Bielema’s team will be using its tight ends often, and likely with success, this fall.