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Early kickoffs hamper recruits' campus visits

by Richard Davenport | October 22, 2021 at 2:17 a.m.

University of Arkansas football Coach Sam Pittman has made no secret about the negative impact of 11 a.m. kickoffs have on recruiting.

The early games severely limit recruits and their families' ability to travel to Fayetteville, especially prospects from non-bordering states. The 2:30 p.m. or later kickoffs allow a few more hours of travel time, thus giving more prospects a better chance of attending.

Approximately 45 prospects made their way to Fayetteville for the Hogs' game against Auburn last Saturday, but their alarm clocks went off very early.

Junior defensive back Naeten Mitchell and Temple, Texas, defeated rival Belton 50-15 last Friday night. Soon afterward, he was on the road to Fayetteville at 1 a.m.

"Went home, grabbed some clothes and a shower, then we got on the road," Mitchell said.

Mitchell, 5-11, 172 pounds, received his lone scholarship offer from the Hogs in May. He previously visited Arkansas on June 10 and July 31.

He took the early morning departure and 71/2-hour trip in stride.

"Honestly, it wasn't too hard for me," Mitchell said. "I have so many people around me that grind. I'm kind of used to doing tough things. I kind of like it actually."

Mitchell said he enjoyed the visit despite the Hogs' 38-23 loss.

"It was great -- long drive but great," he said.

Junior defensive lineman Trey Wilson, his father and brothers hit the road at 4 a.m. in order to make it to the game.

Wilson, 6-4, 235 pounds, of Garland (Texas) Lakeview Centennial, has scholarship offers from schools like Arkansas, Michigan, Illinois, Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado and Oklahoma State.

The loss to the Tigers didn't dampen his trip, he said.

"I feel like they played a pretty good game, just some little errors that can be fixed anytime," Wilson said. "Arkansas is definitely taking a huge turn in the right direction and I can't wait to see where they take off."

Wilson, who said he plans to return to Fayetteville in the spring, was impressed with Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the crowd of 73,370.

"Regardless of the outcome, the fans brought it and it was definitely an electrifying atmosphere to play in and I would hate to be on the opposite end of it," said Wilson, who arrived back home around 8 p.m. that night.

Sophomore linebacker Melvin Laster is a major target for the Hogs, and he made his second trip to Fayetteville since June for the Auburn game.

Laster, 6-2, 237 pounds, of Liberty (Mo.) North, has offers from Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State. Liberty is about 19 miles northeast of Kansas City.

"I had to wake up at 4:40 in the morning, but everything was worth it," said Laster, who also played the night before. "It was a very good experience. I just picture myself out the there with so many people. I love the coaching staff. Coach Pittman and Coach [Michael] Scherer are very cool people to me. All around, the trip there and everything was just amazing, every single thing."

Laster was named second team MaxPreps High School Football Freshman All-America after recording 79 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 11 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovered fumble and 1 pass deflection in 12 varsity games for the Class 6 Eagles.

Junior quarterback Vic Sutton of Madison Central High School in Mississippi led the Jaguars to a 35-3 victory over Tupelo on Friday night and then jumped in the car and headed to Little Rock for a few hours of sleep.

"We drove down there after the game and got there at 2 a.m.. then left at 7," Sutton said.

Sutton, who has offers from Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Maryland and others, has completed 56 of 102 passes for 880 yards, 11 touchdowns while also rushing 48 times for 223 yards and 4 touchdowns this season.

"My experience was great. The hospitality was amazing," Sutton said. "The Woo Pig Sooie chant was great and the fans made the atmosphere very live and got the players ready to play."

Junior defensive lineman Kaleb James had a very busy Saturday in order to get to Fayetteville for the Auburn game.

"Played Friday night, got home at almost midnight, woke up at 3:30 a.m., drove to Fayetteville," James said. "At 10 walked in to the stadium. At 10:30, got to be on the field for 5 minutes [then] went into the stands and watched the game."

Because he arrived so close to kickoff, he said he was unable to see or talk to the coaches.

James, 6-5, 250, of Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, has more than 20 scholarship offers from schools like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Utah, Virginia and others.

He visited the Hogs in June for a camp, where he earned his scholarship offer. He returned to Fayetteville for a July 31 cookout with the coaches and other top prospects.

James wasn't able to see much of the first half of the Hogs and Tigers.

"Missed most of the first half standing in a line for over an hour to get some nachos," James said "The stadium was cramped and tight, but the atmosphere was awesome despite the loss."

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