No, coach Houston Nutt said it’s never easy losing talented players like tackle Shawn Andrews and cornerback Ahmad Carroll, who left Arkansas after their junior seasons. But Nutt said the publicity surrounding the 2004 first-round picks and last weekend’s first-rounder, Matt Jones, has helped recruiting efforts.
“The last two years the draft has helped Arkansas,” Nutt said. “The exposure, talking to our coaches on the road (recruiting) in Houston, Texas and Dallas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, it only helps your program.
“It’s priceless to have your name out there.”
Jones was the third Razorback selected in the first round in two years when the Jacksonville Jaguars made him the 21st pick last weekend. The quarterback-turned-receiver also is the third member of Arkansas’ 2001 signing class, joining Andrews and Carroll, to become a first-round selection.
But the trio isn’t the only proof that Arkansas can produce NFL-caliber prospects. In addition, linebacker Caleb Miller, running back Cedric Cobbs, linebacker Tony Bua and tackle Bo Lacy were pulled off the draft board in 2004 and defensive end Jeb Huckeba was Seattle’s fifth-round selection last weekend.
In all, Arkansas has produced eight draft picks the past two years and 21 after Nutt’s seven seasons. The only two-year stretch better during his tenure was 1999 and 2000, when the Hogs produced nine selections including Brandon Burlsworth (1999), Kenoy Kennedy and Bobbie Williams (2000).
None of the nine were first-rounders.
“It helps you nationally to have your name mentioned like that,” Nutt said about Arkansas’ recent run of first-round selections. “I just feel like more and more each year it has gotten a little bit better and better.”
As a result, Arkansas’ draft total the past two years ranks in the upper half of the Southeastern Conference. Georgia and LSU had 10 draft picks apiece the past two years. Auburn has 9. Arkansas, Alabama and Florida had eight each.
The Razorbacks’ three first-rounders also equals Georgia for the second-most in the SEC during that span. The only team that had more is Auburn, with four players plucked off the draft board during last weekend’s first round.
“I think the feedback has been so positive in spring recruiting,” Nutt said. “That’s the first thing they want to talk about. The high school coaches want to ask our coaches, ‘What about Matt Jones?’ The players, when you get that one call, they’re going to ask about Matt Jones.
“It only helps your program. It only helps them to have the consistency of your name, especially in that first round.”
The player that created most of the buzz, Jones, is kicking off his NFL career this weekend during the Jaguars minicamp.
But Jones’ minicamp experience was cut short after he strained his left hamstring during Jacksonville’s on Friday afternoon practice.
“I tweaked it a little bit,” Jones told the Florida Times-Union on Friday. “I’m going to get some treatment on it, then we’ll see.”
Jones was held out of Saturday’s workouts, which was open to the public, and isn’t expected to practice today. His next chance to practice with the Jaguars will be in mid-May when the team holds its second minicamp.
Arkansas has a slot to fill on its 2006 schedule after the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a proposal to allow programs to play 12 games each season.
Before the proposal was passed last Thursday, athletic director Frank Broyles said Arkansas already had begun looking into possible opponents. Broyles was out of town Friday, but it’s unlikely the Hogs will add a big-name opponent with a home date against Southern Cal already scheduled for 2006.
“I don’t know without talking with coach Broyles,” Nutt said. “I don’t personally (want to), but I’m not scared of anyone. It’s whatever coach wants. We’ll just wait and see.”
In addition to Southern Cal, Arkansas has home games against Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU and Tennessee in 2006. The Hogs also play Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock and have road games at Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn.
Coe Staying Put For Now
Nutt made junior Anthony Brown’s move to defensive end official when the post-spring depth chart was released last Wednesday. But he said cornerback Michael Coe, who also worked at two positions (cornerback and receiver) during the last week of spring practice, will stay on defense for now.
“Right now we’ll keep him at corner,” Nutt said. “But we feel like he can play wide receiver.”
Coe, who recorded 24 tackles and 2 interceptions in 2004, started spring practice as the first-team left cornerback. He closed spring practice as the third-team right cornerback behind senior Darius Vinnett and sophomore Chris Houston.
Eat, Sleep Football
Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring’s demanding and intense style, pink jerseys and all, was more than the Arkanas’ defensive players expected this spring.
But Nutt said he knew exactly what the Hogs were getting when he hired Herring last December. The two started their careers at Oklahoma State and Nutt has tried to add Herring to his staff three other times.
“I know what he’s about,” Nutt said. “He’s just eat, sleep football. He doesn’t have any hobbies. It’s his wife, his son, his daughter and it’s football. That’s it. He doesn’t fish. He doesn’t play golf.
“He wants to talk football. Right now, he’s thinking about football. I love the passion he has for it. It’s 24-7.”