It didn't take long for Tuesday evening's news of Arkansas head coach to impact recruiting for the Razorbacks. Within hours, 2013 Alvin Manvel (TX) wide receiver Austin Bennett had opted to open up his recruitment, according to multiple reports, leaving the Hogs with only one commit in the class, Katy Cinco Ranch (TX) running back Jamel James. firing
A 6-0, 170-pound slot-receiver prospect with speed to burn, Bennett is a consensus three-star prospect who held offers from SMU, TCU, Utah, and West Virginia prior to his commitment to Arkansas in early March. Following his decommitment, Bennett told Midlands recruiting analyst Ahmard Vital of Scout.com that his decision was directly related to Petrino's firing ($):
We have talked as a family and have decided to take a step back. I am going to decommit from Arkansas. I don't feel I can stay committed to the program when the coach who offered me is no longer there.
Not a long conversation for the Bennett family, apparently.
The two schools to which Bennett now turns his attention? The new Big 12 schools that will debut in the conference this fall -- TCU and West Virginia.
The interest in West Virginia is not entirely new, however, as the Mountaineers have been pursuing Bennett in the days following Petrino's accident. This tweet, from an Eerinsider.com writer, came even before Petrino's expected firing.
#WVU will now put full-court press on Arkansas commit WR Austin Bennett (Houston, TX). He was already still considering WVU.— Jon Martin (@JonathanKMartin) April 10, 2012
Bennett, for his part, had been listening, telling Vital on Monday that he was "keeping his options open ($)" and considering making a visit to Morgantown.
Then the hammer came down on Petrino from athletic director Jeff Long, effectively ending Bennett's commitment to the Razorbacks, as well.
If there is good news for the Hogs in this mess, it's that a mass exodus from the 2013 class could only hold one more decommitment. That may be in the offing, too.
A productive running back in the Houston area, James told Tiger Sports World less than a week ago that not only does he want to play safety in college, but also essentially confirmed that he would switch his pledge to LSU were the Tigers to offer him a chance to play defense.
It may only be a matter of time before Arkansas is left without any commits in the 2013 class at all.
They'll also be struggling to build relationships with current targets when the new head coach and, potentially, a new group of assistants show up in Fayetteville. That is, if Long decides to go in another direction away from interim head coach Taver Johnson.
For 2013 prospects, the process is now about a year old, with summer camps prior to their junior seasons looming as the first really monumental steps in their recruitments -- the new staff could come into a situation that would only be less ideal were Arkansas under scholarship restrictions as a result of sanctions. A bit of hyperbole, perhaps, but not much.
Keeping Johnson in place could ensure some short-term stability, but Petrino's staff wasn't exactly terrifying the likes of Alabama, LSU, and Florida on the recruiting trail. Or any of the schools that dominate recruiting in the state of Texas, for that matter.
Hog recruiting wasn't exactly rolling in 2012, either, following a 21-5 record over the last two seasons. Petrino and company came up just short with mega-recruit Dorial Green-Beckham, who looked destined for Arkansas in early January before a late surge from the home-state Missouri Tigers put them over the top and able to land the athletic wide receiver.
Without DGB, Rivals rated the group as the 34th-best in the country, with only two four-star recruits.
Now, whatever little recruiting momentum Petrino had been able to generate is completely gone with his termination.
The state doesn't produce many top prospects and competition in Texas and the Southeast for recruits is fierce. If Arkansas is going to win in the near future, it may have to be with unheralded prospects who get coached up by whatever new staff Long can put together -- a group that won't have the benefit of spring practice and will have to scramble to take advantage of the spring evaluation period that begins on April 15.