While certain other coaches in the division have watched their roster numbers dwindle lately for reasons beyond their control, Arkansas' Bobby Petrino found himself in the fortunate position last week of taking the matter into his own hands. From The Slophouse with Matt Jones:
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas has granted scholarship releases to two more players from its football program in offensive lineman Cam Feldt and linebacker Austin Moss, Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino said Thursday through a team spokesperson.
The players are the fourth and fifth to be released this week as coaches perform annual scholarship evaluations. Wide receiver Lance Ray, kicker Eddie Camara and tight end Ryan Calender have also been granted releases from the program.
Arkansas is also working toward granting offensive lineman Colby Berna a medical hardship, which would end his playing career. Berna, a Fayetteville native, has struggled with shoulder problems since high school and didn't play during his two seasons on campus.
Oh, so they weren't handed walking papers after evaluations. They were granted their release. "Thank you, sir, for freeing me from the bondage of a free education, room and board and sense of identity with a high-caliber program."
Numbers-wise, the departures leave Arkansas with (by my count*) 62 scholarship players going into the summer, including six early enrollees from the 31-man class that signed in February. Assuming the remaining 25 will be whittled down by the four or five academic casualties Petrino makes a point of signing every year, the final number should easily come in right at or below the NCAA's 85-man limit in August — with room enough, even, to add another signee or two in the meantime. Funny how that works out.
To get there, the Razorbacks have had to shed more than 40 percent of the 83 players who signed as part of Petrino's first three recruiting classes from 2008-10. Of that number, only five (juco signees in the 2009 class whose eligibility expired after last season) left as a result of "natural" attrition, meaning a full third of Petrino's signees have either failed to qualify, flunked out, been placed on medical hardship, been kicked off for legitimate rules violations, quit or — as we saw last week — been effectively cut from the roster.
We don't know the exact circumstances of every individual exit (Lance Ray's, for example, could have been connected to the marijuana charge he picked up earlier in the semester), and won't unless someone cares enough to get the outgoing players to talk. But with its "annual scholarship evaluations," Arkansas may be the only school in this hyper-scrutinized era that's more or less up front about clearing up space on the depth chart, in sharp contrast with some of its rivals. A certain kind of observer still sees no problem with this — it's "just business," the way of the world, and it's not against the rules as long as scholarships are technically only year-to-year guarantees — and Petrino himself has overtly defended signing more incoming recruits than he has room for in a given year. From The Wall Street Journal:
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who signed 31 recruits in 2009 and is a few players over the 85-player NCAA limit at the moment, said oversigning is fine if coaches are forthright about it. "I don't see it as a bad thing unless you're being dishonest or waiting until the last minute, which eliminates their visit opportunities with other schools," he said.
Waiting until a guy has served a full year or two in the program to decide that he's no longer useful, on the other hand, seems to suit him just fine. I wonder if he's forthright with recruits about that?
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* To determine scholarship numbers and attrition, I compared signing lists from the last five recruiting classes to the most current roster. These numbers will not reflect incoming transfers or walk-ons who have subsequently been added to the scholarship rolls.
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.