History Suggests Hog Fans Prepare For National Signing Day Sorrow.
I haven’t cared this much about what teenagers thought of me since I was an actual teenager.
The biggest difference 25 years post adolescence is that now, instead of wondering if the subtle adjustment to my bangs will hide the emerging Mt. Vesuvius sized pimple on my forehead, I find myself fretting over an offensive tackle’s perception of the strength and conditioning facilities at the University of Arkansas.
This is the sad existence of many a major college football fan in late January, weeks past the national championship game, when the real battles in college football occur—the murky, hyper competitive and fascinating world of college football recruiting.
Perhaps it’s Arkansas’s perennial bridesmaid status in the quest for landing the best of the best recruits has made me extra jaded about the whole grimy recruiting process. Well before “Dime Bag” Dorial Green Beckham ripped our hearts out on signing day 2012, the Hogs have had their advances spurned on countless other occasions, and it seems like I’ve been ringside for almost all of them. This year the names may be different, like Collins, Kirkland and Lacy, but I fear the results may be the same.
Here is something to remember Hog fans as you calibrate your National Signing Day expectations: If a player has an elaborately choreographed signing day press conference with multiple baseball hats on the table, there is a pretty good chance he ain’t picking the one with the Hog on it. Just a bit of harsh reality from someone who has borne witness to more than his share of these charades in both basketball and football. Some I suffered though in person, several others were viewed on TV and another was relayed to me over the airwaves from Randy Rainwater as I sat disgustedly shaking my head in drive time traffic (I’m looking at you Jerald Honeycutt.)
There have been a few notable exceptions, like the Joe Adams signing day flip from USC a few years ago, or Calvin Barnett picking the Razorbacks over the favored and nearby Oklahoma State, but those are exceedingly rare. Generally speaking, if a truly great player picks the Hogs, he does so well before National Signing Day. I’m thinking of guys like Felix Jones, Darren McFadden, Shawn Andrews and Hunter Henry to name a few.
Here is a look back on the who’s who of signing day failures in losing a prized recruit during my years following the Hogs, with the relative degree of pain each inflicted me and other fans.
DeAngelo Williams RB – This Arkansas prep phenom spurned the the U of A on signing day in 2002, opting at the last minute for the University of Memphis. Reports are that he actually faxed back a letter or intent to Arkansas with the word, “No,” written on it. If anyone can corroborate this, I would love to hear it. This one was painful at the time but was only exacerbated as he obliterated records at Memphis, becoming the NCAA leader in all time 100 yard games. The pain only intensified over the years as he torched NFL defenses with similar success.
Pain equivalent: Icy Hot in the jock strap. It keeps burning and burning.
Jerald Honeycutt PF – This guys was a hoops recruit during the heyday of Hawgball. Randy Rainwater, with radio crew in tow, broadcast this press conference so all of Arkansas could experience this pre-internet heart breaker. He opted for Tulane. At the time this one hurt pretty bad because he picked friggin’ Tulane. He had a decent college career but nothing too amazing, which eases the discomfort of this one somewhat.
Pain equivalent: Biting your own lip.
Cedric Houston RB- This guy was a great high school running back from Clarendon, who was coveted by the Razorback staff and gave us the Heisman stiff-arm on his way across the border to the University of Tennessee. Fortunately, Houston didn’t have a career worthy of an actual Heisman Trophy, which took some of the sting out of it. But at the time, it sucked. Big time.
Pain equivalent: Ball Peen hammer meets thumb.
Bret Smith WR – This Parade All-American publicly face palmed the UA as well, also opting to go to the University of Tennessee. At the time, there was public outrage that his high school coach at Warren, Bo Hembree was actually steering guys away from the U of A. Turns out, with what we know now about the clown car that was the Houston Nutt regime, Bo Hembree was pretty damn smart. This one hurt because it was another loss to Tennessee, at a time when those were plentiful both in recruiting and on the field.
Pain equivalent: Molten pizza cheese fusing to the roof of your mouth.
Othello Harrington C – Hogs lose the press conference yet again, this time in hoops, on a can’t miss center from Jackson, Mississippi name Othello Harrington. While this one wasn’t pleasant, the fact that Arkansas landed Corliss Williamson a year later made this one almost forgettable. That coupled with the Hogs dispatching a Harrington led Georgetown in the 1994 NCAA tournament make this even easier to get past.
Pain equivalent: Plucking a nose hair.
Dorial Green Beckham WR - Dorial put the mother of all daggers into the hearts of Hog fans this time a year ago, when after a three year bromance with Arkansas, he donned a Mizzou hat on Signing Day with a national ESPN audience watching. The sheer duration of the wooing, coupled with the fact that DGB was probably the most high profile player ever recruited at Arkansas, made this pill extraordinarily hard to swallow. With one season in the books, DGB hasn’t turned in to MegaTron yet, so the jury is still out on the long term level of discomfort.
Pain Equivalent (pending): Somewhere between a stubbed toe and a line drive to your nether regions. Time will tell.