FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino met with local media Wednesday to announce the 2008 Razorback signing class. The following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
Opening Statement: “The first class is completed. I know the coaches are happy about that. I am certainly happy about that. We put a lot of working into this class in a short period of time. It is nice for the day to come and have the fax machine lit up today.
“When we started this out, probably our No. 1 objective for this class was to make sure that we kept the best players in the state of Arkansas coming to the University of Arkansas. I really feel like our coaches did a great job of that. I think when I went out on the road, everywhere I went from Fayetteville to Little Rock to West Memphis to Texarkana, I can’t tell you how impress I was with the passion for Razorback football, the community and the all-out support that was shown throughout the entire state. That certainly makes you feel good and excited about being here and being part of this new program going forward.
“One of the other things we definitely wanted to look for was speed. When we went on the road, we wanted to make sure we recruited speed. To add to that, it’s important to us to recruit length—guys that have long arms, have some height to them, have long legs and guys that have the ability to grow and mature. Those are some of the aspects we were really looking at when we went out on the road.
“Obviously, we have to replace two very good running backs that will be drafted early in the first round (of the NFL Draft), so that was a point of emphasis for us. With the transition of offense, it was real important for us to take a great look at receivers and make sure we signed enough receivers. Some of them will have to come in and play early. Some of them will be able to redshirt and some of them will have the ability to play other positions. It’s something you see happen a lot in college football now with receivers because everyone is throwing the football.
“I’m very impressed, going out through the entire state, with the high school football and the quality of the coaching. The fact that everyone is throwing the football, the indoor facilities—it’s a great thing to go out and see that commitment from the high schools and know we’ll continue to be able to recruit those type of players here.
“It’s important for us that when we do go out and recruit to look for athletes that have the goal and the dream to play in the NFL. Here at the University of Arkansas and in the SEC, you put in a tremendous amount of time and a tremendous amount of effort. It takes that will behind the hard work. It’s also important to find young men that have the ability and the desire to get their degree. I thought our coaches did an excellent job of finding that combination of what we’re looking for.
“A lot goes into (recruiting). This was a very unique year in the fact that when I got the job there were basically three days left for contact period and then probably the longest dead period I’ve ever experienced. Even with it wasn’t as far as how you count the days up, it seemed like the longest dead period you could experience. Then when I did get the job, I have to give a tremendous amount of credit to Tim Horton, Bobby Allen and my brother, Paul Petrino. As I was here, until Jan. 3, it was basically the four of us working in recruiting which is very unusual.
“Then when the entire staff got here on Jan. 3, they put a tremendous amount of time and effort and energy and passion into what we referred to as team recruiting. I told you before, we didn’t go out and hit areas and try to search and do that. We, first, identified players on the offensive side of the ball and players on the defensive side of the ball that we would be interested in and felt like they could come in and make us better. A lot of team recruiting as far as the coaching went. They did a great job of that. I’m very proud of the work they did going into that.
“Also behind the scenes we have a tremendous amount of help. Our administrative assistants, I can’t tell you how much they helped. Our pilots, our compliance officers who have done a great job for us, our academic advisors and everybody throughout campus like professors and deans in the colleges who gave up their Saturdays and came down here and helped us in the recruiting process.”
Ryan Mallet, QB, SO, 6-6, 247, Texarkana, Texas (Texas HS/Michigan)
“Ryan is already in school, enrolled in January. I’ve been very impressed with Ryan in the few days I have been around him and his ability to lead and his love for athletics and the game. He’s obviously spent a lot of time in the gym growing up and I’m excited about seeing him when we get out on the practice fields.”
De’Anthony Curtis, RB, FR, 5-10, 211, Camden, Ark. (Fairview HS)
“De’Anthony is a young man that has the ability to come in and play early. I think he’s very exciting because he can run the ball with power, he can run the ball and hit a home run and go the distance for a touchdown. He also catches the ball very well. He had 40 catches this year and made a lot of big plays. He’s also a very fine returner.”
Joe Adams, WR, FR, 6-0, 175, Little Rock, Ark. (Central Arkansas Christian)
“Joe is a guy that has the ability to come in and play early. He has a tremendous amount of athletic ability. When you watch his high school tape, he played quarterback, he sometimes lined up at running back and he runs routes and catches the ball very well and also does a great job of defense. I think the thing you see with Joe is he is so smooth that you never really understand how fast he is. That’s a good thing when you’re running routes. It’s very deceptive to the corners and we really see his opportunity play early and help us in this transition.”
Lavunce Askew, DL, FR, 6-3, 288, Camden, Ark. (Fairview HS)
“Lavunce has played both inside at defensive tackle and outside at defensive end. He’s a very explosive young man that can change directions, gets off the ball real well and we all like the way he rushes the passer and plays with a tremendous amount of energy.”
Tyler Wilson, QB, 6-3, 186, Greenwood, Ark. (Greenwood)
“I think the first thing you notice about Tyler is his history of winning. He’s a young man that goes out on the field and knows how to win a big football game. He’s been in some shootouts in his careers and really throws the ball well. He’s a pure thrower, very accurate with very good technique. He’s been very well coached and we’re really happy to have him with us.”
Jim Youngblood, QB, 6-2, 217, Camden, Ark. (Fairview HS)
“Jim is a guy that is a tremendous competitor. He’s a very good runner with the football. When you see him you get excited because he can make plays when things break down and can bail a coach out. Usually when you do that you throw for a high percentage because a lot of the times your No. 1 and No. 2 aren’t there, he has the ability to take off and run or throw the ball very well. He’s a great leader. That’s one thing he’s impressed me with is his leadership ability.”
Tramain Thomas, CB, FR, 6-1, 181, Winnie, Texas (East Chambers HS)
“He’s a young man who was an option quarterback and can really change direction. He has the ability to stop and start really quickly. He’s one of the guys I talked about that has really long arms, long legs. He played option quarterback and the safety position. He’s a tremendous hitter. We watched him play basketball and when you watch him play basketball, you see his long arms and the ability to run with the football. You can see him as making a transition into a cornerback. A guy that you can put out there that can cover. He has a tremendous amount of self-confidence and he’s a very tough guy.”
Elton Ford, FS, FR, 6-0, 208, Alpharetta, Ga. (Chattahoochee HS)
“Elton is a very physical player that really knows how to deliver a blow. He runs well and covers a lot of ground. He did a really nice job of running the football. He played some at running back. A lot of time when you watch his video, the defensive coaches are fired up about him playing defense and the offensive coaches are trying to recruit him over to that side of the ball. We see him coming in and playing free safety for us. That’s where we want him to play and his ability to cover ground and deliver a blow, we feel like that would be his best position. The thing I like when you watch him run is I think he’ll be a good kickoff return guy for us because he’s got a long stride, he is fearless and he hits it hard.”
Anthony Oden, OL, FR, 6-8, 310, Indianapolis, IN (Lawrence North HS)
“He’ll come in and play offensive tackle for us. He played mostly tight end in high school. He did a nice job blocking at tight end, running routes and catching the ball. He was very difficult to tackle. He played a lot of basketball growing up. He’s a tremendous athlete and I think his potential is endless. I think he can be a great player for us. He has long arms and quick feet. That’s a great combination for playing on the edge as an offensive tackle.”
Austin Eoff, OL, FR, 6-5, 308, Fort Smith, Ark. (Northside HS)
“One of the things that is most impressive about Austin is he was a three-year starter. He started one year at tackle, one year at guard and then this year at center. He’s a young man that’s very versatile with very good knowledge of the game of football. He is coming off an injury so we’ll see how long that takes him, but he’s way ahead of schedule and we feel good about that.”
Jelani Smith, LB, FR, 6-1, 213, Abbeville, La, (Abbeville)
“Jelani is a young man that can really run. He’s a great tackler and a very good hitter. It’s exciting to see his growth potential. He’s skinny with long arms. He’s still 213 pounds and can really run. He’s played inside and outside linebacker. I feel like he’ll do a great job with the transition from high school to college.”
Tenarius Wright, LB, FR, 6-3, 231, Memphis, Tenn. (Whitehaven HS)
“He’s gained and matured since we started the recruiting process. He was about 218 pounds the first time I met him and he’s maturing and growing and lifting weights. He’s a very good football player, a very physical football player. We see starting him out as one of our outside linebacker positions and wonder what he’ll grow into. He has played with his head down and really rushed the passer. I’d like to see him do that from the linebacker spot.”
Greg Childs, WR, FR, 6-5, 200, Warren, Ark. (Warren)
“He’s a very good receiver. It’s exciting to see a guy with that height and stride and ability to adjust to the football. That’s what impresses me the most is the way he can open his hips and adjust to the ball and make difficult catches. He’s a very good basketball player. He scores a lot of points in basketball. He’s very confident. He’s very motivated to play early.”
Jarius Wright, WR, FR, 5-11, 180, Warren, Ark. (Warren)
“One of the things he does really well is run after the catch. He’s a guy that can make a short catch and turn it into a long gain. He’s very explosive. He’s a confident young man. He catches the ball well and runs with it very well.”
Khiry Battle, ATH, FR, 5-11, 209, Dacula, Ga. (Dacula)
“He’s a very good football player. He transferred and played at three different high schools, started at all three. He played tailback, played strong safety and he’s got the ability to do both. We’ll bring him in and give him the opportunity on the side of the ball he wants to start on. Then we’ll try to figure out what our need is first and what he wants to play and then work him on one side of the ball or the other. We’re very excited about having him.”
Dennis Johnson, RB, FR, 5-8, 192, Texarkana, Texas (Arkansas HS)
“Dennis is a young man who is very fast. The first time I watched his video, I didn’t really realize how fast and how explosive he really is. He’s a tremendous running back, built low to the ground with very quick feet. What excites me the most is he’s been clocked at a 10.3 (seconds) 100 meter handheld and a 10.5 100 meters. That’s flying. He has the ability to hit the home run. He also is a very good punt returner. He catches the punt very well and is very quick on his initial three yards so it’ll be exciting to see him back there returning punts.”
Jerico Nelson, ATH, FR, 5-11, 207, Destrehan, La. (Destrehan)
“He is a combination running back and strong safety. He likes the defensive side of the ball the best. It’s fun watching him. You can see video where in some game he throws a touchdown pass, he runs for a touchdown and catches a touchdown. He’s a very highly ranked young man. He’s very explosive. We’ll start him out on defense at safety. He’s a very good hitter, a good tackler and has great instincts. I think that’s what excites me most—his instincts for the game. He went through (Hurricane) Katrina. He’s been through that situation as a freshman. He has a lot of mental toughness about him.”
Chris Gragg, WR, FR, 6-3, 199, Warren, Ark. (Warren)
“Chris is another young man that has the height, the length and the speed. He’s a very good wide receiver. He does a real nice job of playing basketball. He’s a guy that can run the deep route. He has real nice drive and can adjust to the ball. We’re certainly very excited to have Chris coming in.”
Cruz Williams, WR, FR, 6-4, 206, Little Rock, Ark. (Pulaski Academy)
“Cruz is another guy with great height and good speed. I think one of the things he does real well is adjust to the ball in the air and run after the catch. He has the ability to catch short passes and turn them into big gains. He also catches the deep ball very well. He’s an exciting young man. I’m not sure how much he’s going to grow—if he grows into an H-back or a tight end or if he’s able to keep his weight down and be a wide receiver. He’s certainly a guy that has great speed and can catch the ball and make a lot of plays for us.”
Alfred Davis, DL, FR, 6-2, 305, College Park, Ga. (Banneker HS)
“Alfred is a very impressive young man to see down and talk to. He’s a great student. He’s making sure he can come here and get his degree. He’s done what he needed to do outside of football in the classroom. He’s a very good football player. Growing up, he played a lot of offensive line. He does a nice job of playing the offensive line. During his senior year, they moved him over and he played more on the defensive side of the ball. What you see is his raw ability show up—his ability to change direction, come off the ball, run the ball down. He has some work to do as far as his technique and fundamentals simply because he hasn’t played it a whole lot, but he’s a got a tremendous amount of talent and ability. He’s just a great young man to be around.”
Zach Stadther, DL, FR, 6-2, 291, North Little Rock, Ark. (North Little Rock)
“He’s a very good football player. He’s a high-motor guy. When you watch him, you see, first, his great effort in the way he plays the game. You like the way he plays the game. He gets off the ball and plays with a tremendous amount of passion and he’s very tough. He played both sides of the ball. We see him playing nose guard for us.”
Chris Raggett, CB, FR, 5-11, 172, Beaumont, Texas (Ozen HS)
“He’s going to come in and play safety for us. He’s a young man that has great instincts that can come downhill to the football and tackle. I think when you watch all the guys and their ability to tackle and deliver a blow, Chris does that and does a tremendous job with it. We’re very excited to have him.”
Albert Gary, ATH, FR, 5-10, 180, Citra, Fla. (North Marion HS)
“Albert is a guy who has played running back, wide receiver, cornerback and they did line him up in the backfield as the quarterback but that was mainly to run the ball. He’s just a great athlete and I can see him playing a number of those positions. He’s very fast and very explosive with good change of direction. He’s another guy when you’re in the room with all the coaches watching video, both sides of the ball would really love to have him. He’s a guy that can come in and really excel on either side of the ball for us.”
Brian Christopher, DL, FR, 6-4, 240, Camden, Ark. (Fairview HS)
“Brian is a young man that was a late get for us. We watched over the last 24 hours and really liked what I saw. Coach (Kirk) Botkin really liked what he saw. This guy is tough and plays physical. He’s going to grow and get bigger and has a great chance to mature and grow into either a big, strong end that plays on the tight end side or possibly go inside and be a three-technique player. We’re really excited to have Brian.”
Basmine Jones, ATH, FR, 6-0, 195, Warren, Ark. (Warren)
“He plays both sides of the ball. He did a tremendous job of playing wide receiver and caught a lot of passes in that offense where they had four great receivers. He also played at the outside linebacker spot. He runs very well and tackles very well. We’re very excited to have Basmine with us.”