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Multi-Sport Athletes Becoming Trend in UA Football

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Quarterback Connor Noland runs the ball in Greenwood’s 33-17 victory over Benton on Oct. 20, 2017. He is set to play football and baseball for the Razorbacks.

On Dec. 20, the Razorback football team got a commitment from a star quarterback and pitcher all in the same signature. Players who mastered multiple sports in high school are becoming an increasingly popular trend in Arkansas’ football program, and UA coaches even prefer it when they recruit.

Greenwood native Connor Noland is the No. 14 pro-style quarterback in the nation and No. 1 in Arkansas, according to 247Sports. A football was not the only thing the four-star prospect could throw either. He was a star pitcher in high school, as well. Noland had the choice to declare for the MLB draft earlier this year, but opted to tell those teams he was 100 percent committed to the Hogs.

“I'm 100% committed to being an Arkansas Razorback! Can't wait to be on campus in Fayetteville very soon with Razorback Football and Razorback Baseball,” Noland said in a tweet April 9, informing Razorback fans and coaches that the decision he made five days before Christmas was going to stick.

Now, Noland will suit up in the fall for football coach Chad Morris and compete for a quarterback spot and lace up another set of cleats in the spring for baseball coach Dave Van Horn.

One of the guys he will be competing with is 2012 Texas Christian University football commit Austin Aune, another two-sport athlete, who returned to college to accept a walk-on role with the Razorbacks after spending nearly five years in the New York Yankees’ farm system.

The other top-ranked quarterback in Arkansas, Gerry Bohanon, is also a multi-sport athlete. The Earle High School senior was also a prospect on the hardwood for basketball. He received offers from all over the country, including Arkansas. He visited Fayetteville back in November but opted to commit to Baylor University on Dec. 20.

Morris has gone on record revealing his extreme interest in players that played more than one sport in high school.

“I want players that play multiple sports,” Morris said in a press conference back on National Signing Day. “I feel like it does a couple of things. Number one, it develops an overall skill set, a well-rounded skill set. Number two, it shows me that they can be coached in different ways, because every coach that he deals with deals with him a little different.”

Morris went on to further express his approval of multi-sport athletes by asserting that if he had a choice between two equal players, he would choose the one that played multiple sports.

Not every prospect comes to Fayetteville with the mindset of putting on two different Razorback uniforms, but multi-sport athletes are nothing new on the football field. Looking for these types of players in recruiting was also a preferred method of former coach Bret Bielema.

Bielema recruited sophomore running back Chase Hayden and current Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins, who both excelled at other sports besides football. Hayden was a standout on the basketball court in high school, while Collins ran track and played lacrosse before coming to the UofA.

Hayden went on to show promise in his first few games for the Hogs, rushing for over 300 yards before getting injured and cutting his freshman season short.

Collins went on to rush over 3,700 yards in three years at Arkansas before taking on defenses in the NFL with the Ravens.

Bielema also had some experience with baseball-playing quarterbacks back in Wisconsin when he briefly coached NFL star Russell Wilson following his transfer from North Carolina State. Wilson played both football and baseball while at N.C. State. and continued his passion for baseball even after taking over the Seattle Seahawks offense. He played with the Yankees during spring training.

There are many aspects to look at when recruiting, but if players participate in more than one sport while being a top prospect, Arkansas just might be interested.

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