Hogs Get Two More Commitments

Hogs Get Two More Commitments

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas added two more verbal commitments Thursday, going long distance for one while staying closer to home for the other.

Jose Valdez, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound offensive linemen from St. Francis, (Wis.), verbally committed to Razorbacks offensive line coach Mike Markuson on Thursday afternoon.

Brandon Barnett -- a 5-9, 188-pound running back from Texarkana, (Ark.) -- gave his verbal commitment to assistant coach Bobby Allen.

Valdez -- an all-state linemen on both offense and defense -- was being recruited by Northern Illinois, Ball State and Central Michigan and had an official visit planned to Indiana, but canceled the trip after committing to the Hogs.

"The coaches were good," Valdez said. "When I went down there, I really liked the coaches and everybody down there.

"All the other coaches who were trying to get me were telling me to not go that far away from home. But I think I can handle it."

Valdez -- who runs a 5.2 in the 40-yard dash -- made his official visit to Arkansas on Dec. 3-5. He becomes the fourth offensive lineman to commit to Arkansas along with Russellville's Joey Crossland (6-6, 302, 5.2), Richardson, (Texas) Pearce's Colin Tucker (6-5, 282, 5.2) and Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay's Michael Aguirre (6-5, 305, 5.2).

Barnett is the brother of former Texarkana nose guard Freddie Barnett, who signed with Arkansas last year before ending up at Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College.

"I always liked it at Arkansas," the younger Barnett said. "And my brother signed there and hopefully we will end up playing there together again."

Barnett -- who has 4.4 speed -- rushed for more than 1,200 yards in helping Texarkana to an 8-4 season this fall. Along with Arkansas, he was recruited by Houston and Arizona.

The all-state back is still working to get eligible for next season.

"My core classes are just fine, but on my last ACT I came up one point shy," Barnett said. "I'm now taking some classes to better prepare for it and I'll take it again before too long. I'm also going to take the SAT soon after that. I'll just keep working and get it done."

Hogs Adding Transfer
What has been rumored for awhile became a reality on Monday when former Pulaski Academy star Matt Stoltz confirmed he will be transferring from LSU to the University of Arkansas.

Stoltz (6-3, 235, 4.6), a freshman middle linebacker who redshirted this season, was granted his official release and it became public on the same day LSU announced former Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles as its new head coach to replace Nick Saban.

It's not that Stoltz was unhappy at LSU, but he wants to be near his father, who is currently battling throat cancer.

"It's kind of bittersweet because of the reason I am leaving and the fact that I will miss some of the friends I have made," Stoltz said. "But I also grew up loving Arkansas and can't wait for the thrill of putting that Razorback jersey on."

Stoltz, who will get the actual release in the mail as he is back in the state already, was the 2003 Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas and had a whopping 355 tackles during his high school career, despite missing half his junior year with an injury.

He could be eligible to play in 2005 for the Razorbacks if the NCAA approves a hardship that is pending for him.

"The last time we talked to the NCAA about it was a couple of weeks ago and they said they believed it would be approved because of my circumstances," Stoltz said. "We should know something in the near future. We just have to turn some paper work in and then they will let us know."

If Stoltz does make it on the field for the Razorbacks next season, they can give thanks to Saban, who left LSU to take over the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

"Coach Saban was so great when I talked to him about it a couple of weeks ago," Stoltz said. "He has talked to the NCAA and is writing a letter saying that he thinks it is the right thing to do to allow me to play next season and not have to sit out the season you normally do if you transfer."

HAWGS ILLUSTRATED STAFF WRITER DUDLEY DAWSON CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.

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