Friday, February 03, 2012

Hogs Must Recruit Better for SEC West

Like many Arkansans, I am proud of the job that the Razorbacks have done on the football field.   That said, I have a warning:  if the program does not start recruiting better, the last two years and this next season could represent a high-water mark that will not be equaled for years to come.

The rankings put out by recruiting services are far from perfect.   For one thing, most of them rate a dominating tackle as about the same worth as a dominating quarterback.   They are not.   In today's D-1 game, a solid offensive team with a dominating quarterback will do as well as a squad that has great players at most positions but only an average quarterback.    
Still, the rankings put out by the recruiting sites do reflect some underlying realities.   Unfortunately those realities are about to catch up to Arkansas unless the staff improves in the area of player recruitment.   Here are the average team rankings from Rivals for the five classes signed from 2007 to 2011.....
Arkansas 31.2
Alabama 3.6
Auburn 11.4 (but Cam Newton later transferred in)
LSU 5.8
That is to say, on average over the five recruiting classes previous to the just-signed class this year, 30 or 31 teams ranked higher than Arkansas, but only three teams on average ranked higher than Alabama.   Alabama actually has three #1 ranked recruiting classes during this time period, and they just signed another number one ranked class this year.    Half of having a better team is having better players.  Alabama has better players.  
From 2002-2006 the Hogs' recruiting classes consistently ranked in the lower twenties, so we are slipping some in the 2007-2011 period where we are now averaging in the low 30's.  The 2012 class was ranked 32nd, so it is not getting any better.  The Hogs had some good seasons in 2005 and 2006.  In no small measure it was because among those very solid but not spectacular classes was one guy who turned out to be very spectacular- Darren McFadden.  He was the runner-up in the Heisman trophy balloting as a junior (after which he turned pro).  And yes, he spent some time as the "QB" out of the wildcat formation.
No one is suggesting that Arkansas has to do as well as Bama on the recruiting trail to beat them on the field, but they do have to get closer than they have been getting.    Arkansas' high-water mark was the 2009 group where they were the 16th rated class in the country.   As fortune would have it, Ryan Mallet transferred from Michigan about that time.  That's like adding a five star QB to a talented sophomore group that was already 16th best in the country.    Fill that in with some talented players from other classes, and the Hogs did quite well in 2010.    
They also did well in 2011.  Mallet was gone, but they still had a great QB.  The strong 2009 class was a year older and the 2011 class was one of their stronger groups.  It came in at #24, but also had a couple of Junior College transfers in the group like Alonzo Highsmith who offered immediate, if not long enduring, help.
After this next year, the 2009 class will be, neglecting redshirts, gone.  So will the Junior College transfers that helped give the 2011 class an immediate impact.   So will Wilson.    My take- the team has to recruit better to stave off a serious drop-off on the field after next year.

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