SDS will break down all 14 SEC schools and the challenges they face in recruiting, and how they overcome them. At the end, we’ll rank them in terms of who is set up best for success–based on factors like in-state talent, recent success on the field, fan expectations and the coaching situation. We will also give the school a ‘situation’ grade (A, B, C, D, F) in each category. Some states have an A-level volume of talent, others don’t … that’s how it will work. At the end of the series we’ll do a final overall ranking.
HOME STATE TALENT: “B” – Most years, a ‘B’ sums up the state, but this year it could creep up to a ‘B+’ or maybe even an ‘A-‘. Example: This year, Arkansas has nine offers out to in-state talent, and five have already committed to the Razorbacks. Three are still uncommitted and one picked Ole Miss. It is a deep and well-ranked in-state class, and so far Alabama and Auburn haven’t poached any of the elite players. It’s a special group, and it could form the nucleus of something big.
RECENT SUCCESS: “C” – It has been a rough couple of years for the Razorbacks since they were whipping the ball around under Bobby Petrino. In fact, some JUCO players left last year’s signing class because they said they worried the program might not rebound quickly enough for them to experience it in their 2 seasons. But the foundation is being laid with recruiting–this trends upwards, in our opinion.
FAN EXPECTATIONS: “B” – Arkansas fans are a passionate lot, they love their football. However, they usually aren’t asking for the head coach’s job when Arkansas isn’t in the national title hunt–and that should allow for some time to grow if the win total creeps upward. Possibly.
COACHING STABILITY: “B” – This is one thing to keep an eye on. Even though Bret Bielema has only been on campus for one season, there has been some open discussion about whether his style will fit in the SEC and on and on and on. Bielema’s approach is going to be methodical, not flashy. He is a proven winner, but he also is in the SEC West–and one wonders what the patience threshold is. If he struggles again and Arkansas fans get really loud, it makes one wonder how that will affect recruiting.
SUM IT UP: Like any recruiting job in the SEC, Arkansas has its challenges. It doesn’t have the in-state talent that several SEC states have, but then it again it does produce more than some. In general, this is a pivotal year for the Razorbacks, recruiting wise. The past two classes have been solid, if not spectacular–and the kids are buying into the staff message. But if it turns out to be another four or five win type of season with no bowl game, it makes one wonder if recruits may be scared off by any negativity surrounding the coach and program–and those talented in-staters may look elsewhere in the SEC West, which has happened before.
Editor’s note: Any reference to recruiting ratings in this series–team or individual–are to 247Sports.com’s industry composite ranking.