With the news that Bobby Petrino has been fired by the University of Arkansas, Razorback fans are thinking of the immediate future and the 2012 season. But Arkansas must consider more than just 2012. The school must consider its long-term future. And that means recruiting.
In Bobby Petrino Suspended: Marginal Arkansas Recruiting Class On The Line, I noted that Arkansas had not been recruiting well in recent years and that if Arkansas were to fire Petrino, that it would not lose much in the way of currently committed recruits.
One recruit, however, has already been lost as Alvin Manvel (TX) wide receiver Austin Bennett decommitted from the Razorbacks late Tuesday night, leaving the Hogs with only one commit in the class, Katy Cinco Ranch (TX) running back Jamel James.
Despite efforts by the NCAA to reverse the trend, recruiting starts earlier and earlier each year. That means a coach coming in to a new school in April is at a distinct disadvantage on the recruiting trail. Look no further than SEC foe Florida, which already has 60 percent off its recruiting class finished with 10 months to go. The new coaching staff will have a difficult time forging relationships with recruits in the current class. The new hire should not be made to salvage the current class, but rather to secure quality future classes.
Few coaches are as good as Petrino at doing more with less. The Razorbacks lost 98 games in their 18 seasons before Petrino. It takes a special coach to win big at a school located in a state without elite talent.
In making the hiring decision, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long will have to find the right combination of coaching and recruiting. Long may elect to go with a coach who he believes can bring in significant out-of-state talent. But that could be a tough task, given that the surrounding states have coaches that are proficient in keeping talent home.
There are some advantages for Arkansas on the recruiting trail, including tremendous new facilities upgrades. But that won't increase the quality of in-state talent. And with the schools in states like Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama all quite good at keeping top talent home, Arkansas' new coach will probably have to look to Texas for top recruits.
That's a topic SB Nation's Texas Recruiting Analyst Wescott Eberts will look at later this week