Exclusive with Arkansas’ No. 1 Recruit Indicates Bobby Petrino’s Reputation Doesn’t Necessarily Precede Him

Courtney Crutchfield
Credit: @OnKeys22 via X

Bobby Petrino’s got game. At least, that’s the impression around these parts.

Over the last decade or so, highlights from his relatively glorious four-year run as the Hogs’ head coach have racked up millions of views on YouTube as older Razorback fans fondly reminisce about a golden-tinted era while providing much younger fans an education in the high point of Arkansas’ 31-year stint in the SEC so far.

All that re-living is, no doubt, why Petrino was treated practically like a god by adoring masses at the Duke-Arkansas basketball game in his first public appearance since being brought back to Arkansas as the offensive coordinator. Chants of “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby” rang through the crowd of nearly 20,400. College students who barely entered elementary school the last time he coached in Fayetteville painted his name across their chests.

Two days later, Petrino showed up at Pine Bluff High School on a recruiting trip alongside head coach Sam Pittman to see four-star recruit Courtney Crutchfield. They were visiting the state’s top football recruit according to 247Sports in hopes of swaying him back to Arkansas after he de-committed from the Hogs in early November.

During their talks, Petrino showed his game extends to his choice of kicks, too:

Click on the above pic to see Petrino’s shoes on the far left side

For many Arkansas football fans, it’s easy to assume that Petrino’s swagger and impressive past with the power spread offense will translate to success in recruiting. Especially when it comes to a star wide receiver like the 6’3″ Crutchfield. Petrino did, after all, coach the Razorbacks’ best collective group of receivers/tight ends in the modern era, a group that included future NFL players like Jarius Wright and DJ Williams.

More recently, at Louisville, he coached former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson to a Heisman Trophy in 2016. Given Jackson’s superstar status for the Baltimore Ravens, it would be easy for Arkansas fans to think this bolsters Petrino’s reputation before he steps foot into a recruit’s home or school. This, however, isn’t necessarily the case.

On Thursday night, in a phone conversation with Best of Arkansas Sports, Crutchfield mentioned while he felt getting Petrino was a good hire, “I don’t think I was old enough to know who Bobby Petrino was when he was in his prime.” He didn’t know Petrino had coached Lamar Jackson in college. Six or seven years ago, Crutchfield was at the end of elementary school and so wouldn’t have been paying attention to college football nearly as much as he does now.

While Petrino during his second Louisville stint seems like recent history to most college football fans, it isn’t to someone who is still in high school.

Friday’s visit itself went well, Crutchfield later said. ““It went good. I feel like he’s going to do big things with the offense,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport. “He was like he needs someone with speed and that can go get it.”

No doubt, that descriptor applies to the electrifying Pine Bluff native with the nickname “Too Easy” who had 53 catches for 1,297 yards and 19 touchdowns while helping lead the Zebras to a 10-3 record this season. He also returned 6 kickoffs for 114 yards and a touchdown, along with 4 punt returns for 88 yards.

That’s one year after going for 17 catches for 517 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2022. On the defensive side of the ball, as a junior Crutchfield racked up 30 tackles, three TFL, two INTs, three forced fumbles and one defensive TD (INT return).

Carrying On an In-State Arkansas Recruiting Legacy

Courtney Crutchfield said he hadn’t watched highlight videos of Petrino’s first stint at Arkansas, but he’s aware of the kind of offensive talent that he coached back in 2008 through 2011 with wide receivers like Cobi Hamilton, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs as well as tight ends Chris Gragg and DJ Williams. All of them except Hamilton are Arkansas natives.

In the summer, he told Best of Arkansas Sports that as a kid he had wanted to be a Razorback. “It’s where you dream of going when you are a kid,” he said. “Every kid does it.”

“That’s not a bad program up there on the Hill,” Crutchfield told BoAS on Thursday. “I’d love to be there. I feel like they’ve got love for me as well, but I just feel like I had rushed into my decision.”

Once in college, Crutchfield sees himself as someone who can fill any receiver role needed, whether out wide or in the slot. Among NFL players, he most wants to emulate CeeDee Lamb. Among current college players, he said he likes current Razorback Andrew Armstrong’s game as well as that of Malik Nabors and Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU), Luther Burden III (Missouri) and Devaughn Vele (Utah) among others.

Of course, when it comes to college program that has most consistently produced top NFL receivers, it’s hard to overlook the alma mater of Amari Cooper, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and others.

“I ain’t gonna lie to you, my favorite college team was Bama,” he said on Thursday. “They just have explosive receivers.”

Wherever he ends up, he will focus on football despite starring in basketball at Pine Bluff High. Still, Crutchfield said he intends to play the entirety of the 2023-24 basketball season. In years past, he’s also starred in track and field, as his fifth-place finish at the Arkansas 5A long jump finals with a 21-9.5 shows.

Hogs Get Help Recruiting Courtney Crutchfield

Crutchfield told Richard Davenport he’s going to wait until around the traditional signing day on February 7 to announce his decision and will keep looking at different schools until then. He added he is considering official visits to Missouri, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee and Auburn and making an unofficial visit to Fayetteville after making an official visit in June.

Meanwhile, the Razorbacks will have some help trying to sway him back to Fayetteville thanks to defensive lineman Charleston Collins, also one of the state’s top football recruits. Crutchfield said he and Collins, who played for Little Rock Mills, talk every day.

“Of course, he’s trying to get me to hop back on board,” Crutchfield told BoAS with a chuckle. “It’s all love, though.”

There was fear among many that keeping Pittman on board for another season would hurt Arkansas football on the recruiting front, but so far that doesn’t seem to be the case more than a week after the season ended. Yes, three-star Marcus Wimberly de-committed on Friday but that appears to be more of a function of being impressed by the Wolverines during his visit to the Ohio State-Michigan game and nothing to do with Pittman.

“I feel like I made a decision on somewhere to call home too quick and didn’t take the time needed in this process,” posted Wimberly, echoing the same reason Crutchfield gave. “It wasn’t easy to make this decision. I just want to be 110% sure I make the right decision for the next 4-5 years. Arkansas will remain at the top choices of my list.”

Arkansas’ 2024 recruiting class is currently ranked No. 22 nationally on 247Sports.com.

Bobby Petrino’s body of work, as well as his experience coaching future NFL stars, should help on the recruiting front alongside Pittman. If Crutchfield is any indication, however, the former Arkansas head man will need to do some work to get today’s recruits up to speed on how much game he really has.

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In the post below, Courtney Crutchfield is referenced by his “X” profile name @courtney_C2024

Arkansas Football Commits in Class of 2024

  • DE Kavion Henderson — Leeds (Ala.) — Nov. 6, 2022
  • DT Dion Stutts — Memphis (Tenn.) University School — March 11, 2023
  • ATH JuJu Pope — Batesville (Miss.) South Panola — April 8, 2023
  • QB KJ Jackson — Montgomery (Ala.) St. James — April 9, 2023
  • CB Jaden Allen — Aledo (Texas) — April 21, 2023
  • DE Charleston Collins — Little Rock (Ark.) Mills — April 21, 2023
  • CB Tevis Metcalf — Birmingham (Ala.) Parker — April 22, 2023
  • ATH Jadan Baugh — Decatur (Ga.) Columbia — May 19, 2023
  • ATH Ahkhari Johnson — Texarkana (Texas) Pleasant Grove — June 14, 2023
  • WR CJ Brown — Bentonville (Ark.) — June 15, 2023
  • OL Kobe Branham – Fort Smith (Ark.) Southside – June 26, 2023
  • OL Zuri Madison — Lexington (Ky.) Frederick Douglass — June 27, 2023
  • WR Ashton Bethel-Roman — Missouri City (Texas) Ridge Point — July 4, 2023
  • RB Braylen Russell – Benton (Ark.) – July 14, 2023
  • CB Selman Bridges – Temple (Texas) Lake Belton – July 14, 2023
  • S Jeremy Cook – Hoover (Ala.) – July 31, 2023
  • LB Justin Logan – Marietta (Ga.) Kell – Aug. 2, 2023
  • LB Wyatt Simmons – Searcy (Ark.) Harding Academy – Aug. 19, 2023
  • OL Kai Greer – Waxhaw (NC) – Aug. 30, 2023
  • TE Gregory Genross – Dodge City (KS) Dodge City C.C. – Nov. 30, 2023

Arkansas football fans are gonna love hearing this:

But not this:

Highlights of Charleston Collins and Crutchfield:

More on Arkansas football recruiting from BoAS:

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