Friday, February 03, 2017

Hog Football Recruiting Run Down

National Signing Day was this week. That is when High School football stars officially commit to where they will play college ball. When it comes to football recruiting Arkansas has always had to do more with less. For example, the state of Louisiana has more than double the population of Arkansas and is just drenched in football talent. We have never, ever had a class as good on paper as LSU. Yet in most years we are very competitive with them on the field. If we are going to succeed, especially in the brutal SEC West, it appears that we are going to have to keep doing more with less.

Not that we don't sign talented players. According to Rivals, probably the nations #1 recruiting site, the Razorbacks finished with the #24 ranked class in the nation. That is up from our #32 ranking last year and about the same as our #25 ranking in 2015. That's not bad. In most conferences it would be good enough to put you in the top tier. Unfortunately, the Hogs are not in most conferences, they are in the SEC.

Alabama just recruited another ridiculously deep and talented #1 class. Georgia was #3 and they had two five-star players and fourteen four-star players in their class. LSU was #8, Florida was #9, and Texas A&M was #10.  So half of the top ten, including the champ, was SEC.

Auburn, Tennessee, and South Carolina finished #14, #15, and #16 respectively.  I would like to think that we could out-recruit South Carolina.  "Thank God for Mississippi" also applies here as we did beat both schools from that state, although Mississippi State was close at #27.  Ole Miss has the threat of sanctions hanging over them and their recent stellar recruiting has taken a nose dive. Miss. State tends to have classes like ours. Lots of good, tough, football players sprinkled with a few stars.

The Razorback class contains no five-star players, but five four-star players and fourteen three-star players, along with four two-stars who are often projects that take time to develop. The ratings can be over-blown. A lot of three-stars go on to become great players and get drafted into the NFL. Some five-star players never pan out. Half of it is what kind of players you get and half of it is how they are developed and what you do with them.

That being said, Alabama has won eight of the last ten recruiting championships and two of the last five National Championships on the field, and has been the runner-up a couple of times too. Right now, they are the only team so good at every position that they can win a national championship without a dominant quarterback. The other recent winners all had one. Clemson had DeShone Kizer, Florida State had Jameis Winston. Ohio State had more than one of them. Auburn had Cam Newton.

So the way to get in the hunt is to be stacked at every position, like Alabama, (Ohio State is getting there too), or have enough really good players paired with a dominant quarterback. We are close to recruiting enough good players that a dominant quarterback could get us there, but with our style of play it is unlikely that a top quarterback out of high school would sign with us unless he grew up here and always wanted to be a hog. Or maybe, since quarterback is very hard to evaluate out of high school, we get a Johnny Manziel, someone who was not highly regarded out of High School but wound up being great anyway.

Even if we don't recruit 15-20 absolutely stud recruits every year we can still compete with the handful of schools which do- if we have a dominant quarterback and the talent that we do have is well distributed. There are only 22 plus kickers starting spots on any college football team. If we can get eight or nine great players a year we can still fill every spot with a great player. We won't have the depth of those other schools, but our starters will be competitive.

Are we there yet? Not quite, but CB Chevin Calloway fits the bill. The class has five four-star players, but not all four-stars are equal. Some are just good players and some are real difference-makers. Calloway is a Rivals Top 100 player that Texas wanted in the worst way. He gives you a defensive back that can actually cover the small speedy WRs that will just tear your defense up if you don't have a Chevin Calloway type-player.

The one place we don't have trouble recruiting is running back, and Chase Hayden is a Rivals Top 250 player who can be a very good, but not dominant, one. He is not a pure running back, but more of an all-purpose back. That is what I like about him- if we can get that great quarterback they will make each other better. I expect TE Jeremy Patton and WR Brandon Martin to make an immediate impact as well, but they are Junior College players who will not be with us for four years. Too much of the top of our class comes from the J.C. ranks to suit me.

That's not all of the good players we have in this class. Malik Barkley is a good player. So are defenders Kamren Curl and Tyrie Fisher from Oklahoma. Montaric Brown is the top-rated Arkansas player in this class. He may have a big learning curve stepping up to SEC football, and he needs some time in the weight room, but he could develop into a good safety. Among the rest of them, somewhere there are some players who are going to exceed expectations and become stars. I am just not sure that there will be enough to compete well in the brutal SEC West.


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