Jim Harris: Hog Fans Welcome Alex Collins, Say ‘Bye’ To Tenpenny

Surely as classy as North Little Rock’s Altee Tenpenny has handled his recruitment and expected departure from Arkansas for Alabama on national signing day, he couldn’t have been feeling a little left out of the party Monday night when Razorback fans were celebrating the commitment of Florida five-star running back Alex Collins, could he?

Certainly Tenpenny wasn’t trying to spoil any of the Hog fans’ good fun to remind everyone he’s “100 percent committed to Bama” via Twitter, right in the middle of Arkansas fans’ collected “OMG” tweet explosion after Collins’ nationally televised announcement, was he?

Tenpenny simply had to be reassuring ’Bama fans he was all aboard the Nick Saban express, right? It’s just a coincidence he happened to tweet his news — which wasn’t really breaking news because he’s been 100 percent committed to Alabama for a year — during all the Collins-to-Arkansas hoopla. Tenpenny also said, via Twitter, that he’d told Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema of his intentions earlier Monday, but he apparently couldn’t get that tweeted out until late Monday night.

It doesn’t matter now. While a double-barreled signing of Collins AND Tenpenny for Arkansas on Wednesday would be akin to the Hogs landing Felix Jones and Darren McFadden in 2005, and quite a coup for Bielema and staff, the commitment of Collins, out of South Plantation, Fla., is big-time enough, especially with the little time the new staff had to put together this Arkansas recruiting class.

Arkansas fans can wish Tenpenny well with his career, except when he plays against the Hogs, and the Razorback fans can be comforted knowing that a lost in-state prep star running back is being replaced by perhaps a better one from Florida.

Landing Collins is far bigger for Bielema than flipping Tenpenny would have been.

Getting Collins opens more doors to the talent-rich south Florida area for this staff. It answers the long-debated question as to whether Arkansas could recruit a player out of Florida that was wanted by the big three programs in the Sunshine State.

It’s amazing what relationships and some dogged determination by a coaching staff can do. Arkansas does not have to be left beating the second-tier schools in Florida for prospects.

We’ve continually compared Bret Bielema’s arrival with that of Frank Broyles’ more than a half-century ago, which ignited Arkansas’ program and the passion the in-state fans have for it. We’ve noted the similarity to the way Broyles built his staff over the years in Bielema’s staff hires. We’ve traced Bielema’s lineage through Hayden Fry back to Broyles, in fact.

Now, we see history perhaps repeating itself at Arkansas again. Broyles’ first recruiting class was highlighted by the out-of-state coup of landing Lance Alworth out of Brookhaven, Miss. The commonly held myth is that Broyles was able to sign Alworth because Alworth was married and Johnny Vaught’s Ole Miss program wouldn’t take married athletes. Well, the part about Ole Miss not taking married players is true, but Broyles still had to out-recruit Bear Bryant and Alabama, Shug Jordan at Auburn, Paul Dietzel at LSU and countless other Southern powers for Alworth’s signature. Supposedly, they played golf together, and that was the winning ploy by Broyles to close the deal on a do-it-all runner who would go on to help lead Arkansas to three straight Southwest Conference co-titles, then had an NFL Hall of Fame playing career as a receiver.

Who knows what kind of career Alex Collins might have at Arkansas, although the projections are that he should be a great one, much like the way running backs under Bielema, such as Montee Ball, have excelled over the past seven years at Wisconsin.

Perhaps Arkansas fans will be looking back to when the Bielema program took off at Fayetteville and traced it to Alex Collins’ commitment.

Most of the focus of rebuilding the program Bielema inherited has centered on attracting out-of-state linemen. In most cases, offensive linemen need years to develop — skill players often can come in immediately and help. If Bielema managed anything in this class, it was to land enough good offensive linemen to establish a foundation there. Two were late flips who had originally planned to attend Tennessee.

Next season, the state will have an unusual abundance of defensive linemen the staff hopes to keep home, and they’ll no doubt focus on trying to pick up a couple more around the country who can make a difference.

In this class, the new staff brought in more athletes for a secondary that has been lacking in speed and depth for several years.

The quarterback position got a boost with this haul, but next year is even more promising as highly touted Rafe Peavey of the 2014 class is already committed — and from his tweets about Collins on Monday night, that commitment seems solid.

The previous staff left the wide receiver spots in good enough shape, and the defensive line in fall 2013 will be as experienced a group as the Hogs have had up front in years, so there’s that.

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