I've spent the last few months interviewing North Little Rock football player Altee Tenpenny and his inner circle about his recruitment.
Tenpenny, of course, has been the subject of plenty discussion in these parts. He committed to Alabama in January 2012, but it always held the door slightly ajar from the Razorbacks to make their case. When Bret Bielema came aboard as Arkansas' new coach, with a reputation for showcasing top-notch running backs at his previous stint in Wisconsin, Tenpenny allowed that door to creak ever slightly more open.
But Monday night, with a Tweet declaring he was 100% committed to Alabama, Tenpenny slammed the door shut.
I still think Arkansas fans should pay attention to the story of his recruitment, however. There are so many interlocking parts to the whole process - from the coaches' spiels, to the parents' jobs, to the high school coach's background and the way the media (yes, me included) not only report on this whole crazy carnival but to different degrees actually participate in it.
On Dec. 4, news leaked that Bret Bielema, who led Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowl appearances, would be Arkansas’ next head coach. The development blindsided many observers. Tenpenny learned of the hire while sitting at his home. "I saw something posted on Twitter by a friend," he recalled. "The first thing I thought was ‘Who is he?’" Tenpenny didn’t need to research Bielema’s past himself, though, as comments started streaming in to his Twitter feed. "Everybody else was talking about it. It was all over the place."
North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding told Tenpenny about Bielema’s reputation as a running coach and noted the Wisconsin Badgers backs that had succeeded in his system. Bielema’s most recent success story, Montee Ball, won the 2012 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.
HOW HE SAW HIMSELF FITTING INTO A BIELEMA-COACHED OFFENSE, SOON BECAME ONE OF THE STATE’S MOST DISCUSSED SPORTS TOPICS
What Tenpenny thought of the hire, and how he saw himself fitting into a Bielema-coached offense, soon became one of the state’s most discussed sports topics. On Dec. 7, in an article about Bielema’s first day on the job, the Democrat Gazette chose to illustrate the story with a picture of Tenpenny.
Tenpenny discussed his first phone conversation with Bielema. "We talked a little," he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Tom Murphy. "I understand what he did at Wisconsin with the run game. To me, that’s a plus."
His opinion was also expressed in more subtle ways. Many Hogs fans were heartened to see Tenpenny, whose Twitter account name is @Boobie_Miles_22 ( in homage to the main subject of Friday Night Lights) and includes #BAMA in his Twitter account profile, chose to re-tweet messages sent his way that encouraged him to flip.
Again, you can read the entire article here.
Every recruit has to deal with similar issues. You hope the teen has people who have his best intentions in mind to deal with a process that only becomes more pressure packed and scrutinized by the year. So, I was heartened to see that Tenpenny has good parents to help him distinguish between emotion-fueled propaganda and reasonable arguments. I know Hog fans don't like the outcome, but they should still reflect on and pay heed to the process.
Tenpenny's recruitment represents only the first battle between Bret Bielema's Arkansas staff and Nick Saban's Alabama staff. It may be a while before Arkansas can win on the field, but in the recruiting world Arkansas' first victory could come as early as next February. Josh Frazier, a 6-4, 324-pound junior defensive lineman from Springdale Har-Ber, has offers from Arkansas and Alabama.