Bret Bielema on Arkansas' 2017 recruiting class? A lot of 'meat and potatoes' with a 4-star flip for dessert
The Arkansas Razorbacks will never likely field a recruiting class full of 4- and 5-star recruits like some of their SEC West rivals. However, the Hogs can still bring in players who should make an immediate impact.
That is exactly what they did on National Signing Day on Wednesday.
“I know this is the best class for Arkansas since I’ve been here,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told Arkansas Online. “… It addresses the needs we have right now with some players who can help us immediately.”
Arkansas received what Bielema described as, “icing on the cake,” when 4-star cornerback Chevin Calloway, who committed to Iowa before decommitting Nov. 7, joined the Hogs’ class Wednesday.
Calloway, a Dallas native, was down to the Razorbacks, Ole Miss and Texas. In the end, though, he chose Arkansas, and in the process became the highlight of the 2017 recruiting class.
Of the Razorbacks’ 24 recruits, nine are early enrollees. While it is not uncommon to have new players arrive on campus before the summer, Bielema said he’s never had so many players join the program this early.
“I’d never had nine guys come at mid-term,” Bielema told Arkansas Online.
Although the Hogs stumbled into the offseason, they had the best possible outcome on National Day Signing Day by landing Calloway.
Here is a breakdown of the class of 2017:
Overall rank: 28
SEC rank: 10
The overwhelming majority of the players signed fit into the 3-star category, according to 247sports, but Calloway will be joined by some top talent at the top of the class.
Among the 4-star players joining the Razorbacks is Montaric Brown, a 6-foot, 182-pound safety out of Ashdown, Ark. Landing Brown was important, not only because he will help strengthen the Hogs’ secondary, but he was also the top-ranked prospect in Arkansas. It’s important, especially in the SEC, for teams to dominate the recruiting landscape in their home state, and that is what the Hogs were able to do by landing Brown.
A pair of 4-star pass-catchers, wide receiver Brandon Martin and tight end Jeremy Patton, will also be heading to Fayetteville.
Martin, who was the eighth-ranked junior college receiver, has already enrolled. Patton, meanwhile, is a 6-6, 230-pound tight end who was ranked No. 1 at the JUCO level. He is expected to make an immediate impact for the Razorbacks, who will lose starting tight end Jeremy Sprinkle.
While the 4-star players are no-brainers due to the talent they possess, Arkansas also addressed some of its needs in this class. The Hogs lose four senior defensive linemen from the 2016 team, but Melvin Johnson might help fill the void inside. Johnson, a 6-5, 285-pound defensive tackle from Riverside, Calif., is only a 3-star. Still, he received offers from a variety of big-time programs, including SEC counterpart Kentucky.
On the offensive line, Bielema said the offensive line coach Kurt Anderson had a certain type of player in mind this year. Instead of going after what some may say is the best, Anderson and the Hogs decided to pursue players that fit their system.
“Kurt really went after a certain kind of guy,” Bielema said, adding that the Razorbacks in the past few years have gone for “stars,” which ended up not panning out. “We went after meat and potatoes. Guys that could get it done.”
Arkansas landed a trio of 3-star offensive tackles in Dalton Wagner, Kirby Adcock and Shane Clenin.
Bielema said Wagner is “huge,” while also noting that Adcock has the skills to play inside or out and Clenin can play anywhere on the line.
The Hogs also landed two 3-star running backs, Maleek Williams and Chase Hayden. Williams, a 6-1, 215-pound rumbler, will remind Arkansas fans of Rawleigh Williams III. Hayden, however, is much smaller and much quicker.
Having two running backs with different styles was important to Bielema and his staff.
“(Chase) is probably one of the more enjoyable athletes I’ve ever recruited,” Bielema said. “Maleek will get mad if I don’t say he’s fast. He’s fast, but not as fast as Chase.”
Although many Razorback fans may be disappointed with the recruiting class considering there aren’t any marquee 5-star signees, Bielema and his staff seem to be happy with their haul.
Regardless of where Hogs fans stand on the newest crop of Arkansas players, it’s hard to say National Signing Day wasn’t a success. Especially after landing Calloway, who will bring a passionate approach when he arrives in Fayetteville to play in front of family in his home state.
After failing to finish its season strong, Arkansas had a strong finish to close out the 2017 recruiting cycle.