In his weekly recruiting column, Dudley E. Dawson catches up with St. Louis prep stars Ronnie Wingo (6-3, 212) and Sheldon Richardson (6-4, 275) - two impact players on opposite sides of the ball that Arkansas would love to land.
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If it was up to me - a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan - the University of Arkansas would spend a lot of its time recruiting in the city by The Arch.
I could interview prospects by day during the summer, take in some baseball by night and generally be happy with my life if, of course, the Redbirds add a power-hitting infielder, a left-handed starter and a closer (K-Rod would be fine with me) in the off-season.
While the UA isn't whole hog in there just yet, the Razorbacks are certainly making their move in St. Louis with recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Tim Horton leading the charge.
Horton is going hard after St. Louis University High School running back Ronnie Wingo (6-2, 212, 4.5) - just off a 403-yard rushing game in which he scored 7 touchdowns - and Gateway High defensive end Sheldon Richardson (6-4, 275, 4.7).
They are a pair of four-star prospects - according to Scout.com - that could make a big impact right away.
“We're friends and we've decided that we are both going to come down on a visit together on Jan. 10,” Wingo said. “I have been telling him how great a place Arkansas is, how they have great coaches and how we both could go in and play in the SEC right away if we went there.”
Richardson, who committed to Missouri was back in the summer of 2007 and remains a pledge to the Tigers, says he is anxious to see for himself.
“Coach Horton called and told me they were looking for D-linemen, a defensive end that could come in right away and start making plays in the SEC,” Richardson said. “That has me very interested in Arkansas and I called up Ronnie and said 'let's go down there together.' He's a great back and talks about how much he loves it down there and about how I need to go see for myself.”
Horton's recruiting philosophy seems to work with Richardson.
“One thing I really liked about Coach Horton is how straight forward he is,” Richardson said. “He told me that Arkansas really needs me, but also that they are only interested in adding kids to their program that are serious about coming to get an education as well as play football. I am serious about my education so that makes me very interested in Arkansas.”
Wingo had the kind of night that running backs dream about in last Friday's wild 63-42 win over Vianney.
He rushed 32 times for 403 yards and six touchdowns and also caught 2 passes for 44 yards and another touchdown and was named the St. Louis Post-Dispatch player of the week on Monday.
That effort broke his own school record for most yards in a game (293), his 44 points during the game broke the single-game school record of 30 and also made him the school's all-time leading career scorer (247).
He scored on TD runs of 1, 36, 78, 32, 73 and 4 yards and had a 27-yard touchdown catch.
“It felt great as you can imagine,” Wingo said. “The last couple of weeks we had been throwing me the ball a lot out of the backfield, but I had not been getting as many carries. This week the gameplan was to feed me the ball on the ground I really enjoyed getting to pound the ball in there and run away from some people as well.”
Wingo has topped the 900 yard rushing mark in five games and also has caught passes for over 300 yards as his team is off to a 4-2 start.
Ironically, his worst game came with Horton on hand to watch him play.
“Nothing went right at that game and I was thinking they are not going to keep recruiting me,” Wingo said. “But Coach Horton called and said that he knows I am a great player and that everybody has a bad night every once in a while. He told me they wanted me more than ever, that I was just the kind of big back they needed to get things going in (Arkansas head) Coach (Bobby) Petrino’s offense.
“The fact that they are telling me how much they still want me after the night means so much to me,” Wingo said. “It shows me how much they really care about me and that really makes me feel important to them.”
Wingo has visits set for Alabama on Dec. 12-14, Missouri on Dec. 19-21 and Arkansas on Jan. 9-11th with visits still left to set up to Kansas and Illinois.
He knows some schools, including Arkansas, have already taken commitments from other backs.
“I'm not worried about that at all unless, well, unless they have already taken commitments from as many as three of them,” Wingo said. “I am not afraid of competition, believe in myself and know there will be talent everywhere. Then again, it just wouldn't be smart to be like one of four coming in.”
Richardson, who also is a standout tight end, will visit Missouri a week earlier than Wingo on Dec. 12-14 and take in Arkansas with him on Jan. 10.
“I would also like to visit Miami and Kansas State, but don't have those set up yet,” Richardson said. “I just have to take a long look at what the best situation is for me so I won't regret anything down the line.”
Arkansas and Miami are looking at him on opposite sides of the ball while Missouri and Kansas State will figure that out later.
“Arkansas wants me to come there and play defensive end, Miami wants me as a tight end, Missouri just wants me to come play for Missouri and Kansas State just wants me to come play for Kansas State,” Richardson said.
Wingo gets that.
“He's a big guy that weighs nearly 300 pounds and can run a 4.7, 4.8 in the 40-yard dash,” Wingo said. “Who wouldn't want one of those guys?”