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Posted: Wednesday April 11, 2012 12:53PM ; Updated: Wednesday April 11, 2012 12:53PM

After Petrino's firing, Arkansas faces uncertain recruiting future

Story Highlights

Following Bobby Petrino's exit, Arkansas could suffer a major recruiting hit

One of the Razorbacks' 2013 pledges, Austin Bennett, already decommitted

Many top targets will consider other schools while the team finds a new coach

By Brian Perroni, Rivals.com, Special to SI.com

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Bobby Petrino's abrupt departure from Arkansas has instilled doubts among potential Razorback recruits.
Bobby Petrino's abrupt departure from Arkansas has instilled doubts among potential Razorback recruits.
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After nearly a week of speculation, it was finally announced on Tuesday that Arkansas decided to fire coach Bobby Petrino for his participation in an off-the-field scandal. The news sends shockwaves through a top-tier SEC program -- and throws Razorback recruiting efforts into even deeper state of disorder.

Heading into Tuesday, Arkansas had two pledges in the class of 2013. One of them has already opened up his recruitment.

"My family and I talked and we decided I should decommit from Arkansas," Austin Bennett, a wide receiver out of Manvel (Texas) High, said. "I will be checking out other places like West Virginia and TCU. TCU has been talking to me more lately since all this hit.

"I'm still going to be looking at Arkansas but it really depends on who they hire. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet."

Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch running back Jamel James has been committed to Arkansas since his sophomore season. In lieu of Petrino's firing, the three-star talent is unsure of his next move.

"[Jamel and I] talked about it," Cinco Ranch coach Don Clayton said. "It's definitely a concern of his. He's still committed to Arkansas but a lot of other schools are talking to him. I can't say for sure what he will do."

Though others are not currently committed to Arkansas, several prospects were willing to weigh in. Missouri City (Texas) Elkins linebacker Keree Renchie, a Razorback target, says nothing has changed his opinion of the school.

"It doesn't affect me at all," Renchie said. "Arkansas is still there as one of my top three schools. I don't see this changing anything. I'm going to keep it that way with them up there."

Other potential Arkansas recruits are taking a more cautious approach.

"Arkansas was my second offer and I really like the school," said Denham Springs (La.) running back Kaleb Blanchard. "Right now I'm just going to let everything play out. They're going through a big mess.

"I am disappointed with what happened but Arkansas is one of my favorites, not just as a school for football but a school for education. As of right now, Arkansas is still up there but I'm just going to wait and see how everything turns out and how they handle the situation."

Tahlequah (Okla.) Sequoyah quarterback Brayden Scott has held an Arkansas offer for quite some time. While he was disappointed by how events unfolded, he still isn't writing off the program.

"I like Bobby Petrino," Scott said. "I have a good relationship with him and the rest of the staff. If I was going to be a Hog, I really wish he would have been my coach. With that said, you don't always get what you want in this business.

"I still love the Hogs. I'm still looking at them exactly the same as I was before all this."

Another quarterback recently offered by Arkansas somewhat echoes those sentiments.

"I was definitely caught off guard," said Jackson (Miss.) Prep signal-caller Ryan Buchanan." It's Bobby Petrino. Coming from a quarterback, that's huge because of his offense.

"I still have them up there. But I want to see who the head coach is. Right now, I'm not completely turning Arkansas off. But I'm definitely interested in seeing who they hire."

Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven running back Mark Dodson Jr. formerly had the Razorbacks in his top three. Now, the four-star recruit is uncertain. He summed up the concerns that now could deter prospects from committing.

"I look at it like this: different coach, different program," Dodson said. "Every coach has a different philosophy. I really liked [Petrino]. I liked the fact he had a balanced offensive team. He'd run half the game and pass half the game. You didn't know to expect."

But are the Hogs still in the mix?

"I don't know. I'm going to see who the know coach is going to be. It's really hard."

Keith Niebuhr contributed to this report.For more recruiting coverage, visit the Rivals.com football recruiting hub.

 
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