Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Football Recruiting Wrap Up

Today was National Football Recruiting Letter of Intent Day.   The new Razorback Coaching staff closed very strong.  Considering how far behind they were until very recently, this finish is a near miracle.   Too bad for them that they are in the SEC.   In the brutal SEC, a near miracle was required just to avoid a disastrous recruiting class that could have hurt the Hogs on the gridiron for years to come.  As it was, they finished 12th in the 14 team SEC according to Rivals.com.   Only Kentucky and Missouri collected less overall talent than the Hogs, and the gap was quite narrow.

Seven of the best dozen recruiting classes in the nation were signed by the SEC, including the #1 class signed by Alabama.  High school recruits are ranked more generally by a "star" system.   A player who gets five starts is a spectacular player.   Most teams don't even sign one player at that level in any given year.  The last five star recruit in a hog uniform was Ryan Mallet.  You may recall that Mallet transferred from Michigan, so he did not count as an Arkansas recruit.   Four star recruits are also stellar performers, and most schools get only a handful each year, if they are lucky.   The bulk of scholarships in the SEC are given to three star recruits, some of whom become great players and wind up in the NFL.   Outside the "big five" conferences a three star is a good catch.  Most of their rosters are filled with two star recruits.  Even SEC schools often take a couple of two stars for whom they see some potential for growth.

Arkansas signed 4 (or 3, we are still not sure where the intent letter from RB Alex Collins is) players who rated four stars and 14 three stars, with five two star projects.  Consider that the Georgia Bulldogs signed a whopping 15 four star players, along with 17 very solid three star recruits.  On paper, this class is far better than the class the Hogs signed, but this Georgia class finished a disappointing seventh in the SEC!   Alabama, who finished first in the SEC and nationally, signed 4 players who rated five stars!  The had 13 more with four stars and added eight three star prospects.  Clearly, we have a way to go before we get competitive with Bama, or even Georgia in raw talent.

Of course, we have never recruited well.  Some people thought Bobby Petrino was a good recruiter.   He wasn't.  His top class at Arkansas rated 16th nationally, and they are now gone.  He added five star transfer Mallet at QB and he got some pretty good results despite the relatively weak recruiting.    This class is in the top 25 nationally and despite his late start and the downright embarrassing past year for Hog football, Bielema has brought in a class that is at least equal to any Petrino landed, with the exception of his top one.

This was a strong OL class.  Bielema added a signing day shocker when he plucked Denver Kirkland from south Florida.   Four star running back Alex Collins, also from Florida, should get some good blocking from this quality group of offensive lineman, plus super tight end Hunter Henry    Even if Collin's letter of intent never gets here, there are a couple of other backs in this class who could be sleepers.

Coach Bielema did not get enough help on the defensive side of the ball, in particular the defensive line, but he did make a splash on offense.    What impressed me was how far afield he will go to find good players.  This class was really struggling until he flew to Hawaii to sign quality offensive lineman Reeve Koehler.  That was when the momentum that would save the Hogs from recruiting disaster really began.  He started signing people from New Jersey, from Florida, from wherever- all while taking every effort to recruit the good players back home too.   The staff worked hard.  I now believe that if Brent Bielema thought there was a Rivals 100 player on the Moon who wanted to sign with Arkansas, that he would somehow find a rocket and to go to the Moon to get him.


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