Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook. Today, we discuss competition for Arkansas’ top commit, a commit pushing for others and a signee who once wanted to give up football.
Arkansas TE commit Luke Ford receiving visits from several top programs
Arkansas tight end commit Luke Ford has made Carterville, Ill., a popular destination for many top programs during the current evaluation period.
Ohio State checked in on Ford (6-foot-7, 250 pounds) last Monday. Georgia did the same Thursday, followed by Iowa a day later. Illinois stopped by the previous week. LSU and a surprise visit from Texas came this Monday. Visits from Alabama and Florida are also expected this week.
The Razorbacks have been prepared for the onslaught from other schools. Arkansas’ staff has visited Carterville twice in the past three weeks, most recently on Monday.
Ford has rapidly emerged as one of the top recruits in the 2018 class, receiving his first FBS offer — from Arkansas — in late January. He committed to the Hogs following a visit to campus two months later. He’s rated as a 4-star prospect, No. 1 in Illinois, the No. 7 tight end and No. 183 overall by 247Sports composite rankings. ESPN rates him as the No. 2 tight end in the country.
All this after he was, for the most part, off the radar of the recruiting services during his junior season. The ascension has come as he’s impressed in camps and during evaluations.
This spring, he’s received and accepted invites to The Opening finals and Under Armour All-America Game. With a Georgia assistant present to evaluate, Ford put up 20 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. That’s the same weight lifted at the NFL combine each year. Ford’s 20 is more reps than seven of the 14 tight ends who lifted at the 2017 combine.
Though Ford is grateful for the opportunities coming his way, Hog fans shouldn’t be too concerned about losing him. His message to all other schools who have inquired since March has been simple: “I’m 100 percent committed to Arkansas.”
QB commit Connor Noland still recruiting, even when he probably shouldn’t
Arkansas gained an added bonus when 2018 quarterback Connor Noland committed last July — an additional recruiter.
Noland, a 4-star prospect from Greenwood (Ark.), has been highly active reaching out to other top recruits about potentially joining him in his pledge to the Hogs. He’s continued those efforts this spring, even in moments he probably shouldn’t have.
“I’m always on the phone,” Noland recently told SEC Country. “I hate to say it, but even in class I’m talking to guys. We’re trying to build something special in Fayetteville. I think it takes a lot of dedication to do that. It’s definitely something different. Most guys don’t really recruit constantly, but there’s a lot of fun involved with it for me.”
No worries, Arkansas fans, Noland is still focused on maintaining his grades in the classroom. He has a 4.0 GPA and scored a 26 on the ACT.
Father of RB signee Chase Hayden steered him away from specialization
If Arkansas 2017 running back signee Chase Hayden had his way as a sixth-grader, he never would’ve played football again. He had his sights set on a future in basketball.
His father, former Tennessee running back Aaron Hayden, insisted that not be the case. Six years later, Chase developed into one of the top running back recruits in the country.
“I wanted to focus on just basketball,” Chase Hayden recently told SEC Country’s Jason Kersey. “My dad always told me to play [other sports] all the way up until college. He said you don’t need to specialize because he felt like playing as many sports as you can keeps you active. It helps you with so many different things. Basketball helps you with your agility. Football helps you with your toughness, taking bumps and fouls. It goes hand in hand. He always pushed me to do both.”
Though Chase remained a standout basketball player throughout high school, he stands 5-10. It’s unlikely he would’ve received many Division I opportunities in hoops at that height, and almost certainly not the same type of attention he garnered as a football recruit.
“I’ve never believed in specialization because you never know how big you’re gonna be,” Aaron Hayden told SEC Country. “So, let’s say you specialize in basketball and you end up 5-5. What’s the chances of that happening? I wanted him to do everything. I always told him not to worry about all that because it’ll take care of itself. The sport will choose you.”
Chase is still considering playing basketball for the Razorbacks. He’s previously been in contact with assistant Scotty Thurman and has toured the facilities. If he does opt to take up hoops again, he says it’ll be after his freshman season. At the advice of the football staff, he’ll spend a full year with the football program to get acclimated.
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