What you need to know about Arkansas' 2020 recruiting class
A 2nd consecutive 2-10 season is already in the rear view mirror with Arkansas announcing the hiring of recruiting guru and long-time assistant coach Sam Pittman as its new head football coach.
An assistant head coach/offensive line coach at Arkansas from 2013-15, Pittman returns after building an offensive line at Georgia (2016-19) that ranks among the best in the nation. The 58-year-old began his coaching career in 1984 and has built a reputation for his ability to recruit and construct hard-nosed play in the trenches. So it looks like it’s back to that style of play that Arkansas fans had grown accustomed to.
Though Pittman is already infusing a new sense of excitement to the program, he has some catching up to do with this year’s recruiting class considering Earl Signing Period is Dec. 18-20.
Ensuring that his best players stay on campus also is a priority.
Here’s what you need to know about the Razorbacks’ recruiting class (rankings courtesy of 247Sports).
- National rank: 118
- SEC rank: 14
- 5-stars: 0
- 4-stars: 0
- 3-stars: 6
Best player: 3-star DE Blayne Toll
The 6-5, 244-pounder from Hazen is the No. 3 overall recruit from Arkansas, according to 247Sports.com. He is ranked No. 18 nationally at his position and was recruited by interim head coach Barry Lunney, Jr.
The Razorbacks have 13 DE on the roster and 2 more commits from this class, including Toll. So the competition will be fierce for playing time, but someone must step in and fill the shoes of senior Gabe Richardson on one side, with the other side being held down by a couple of freshmen.
So the possibility exists for Toll to prove himself and earn some playing time.
Assessing the QBs
This is a position completely up in the air. Five players started this past season, none stood out. If Nick Starkel sticks around for his senior season, he would be the favorite to win the starting job in 2020.
Starkel didn’t exactly light it up in 2019, but he did lead the team with 1,152 passing yards and 7 touchdowns in 8 games. But he also threw 10 interceptions in 179 passing attempts.
The Razorbacks don’t have any commits from quarterbacks so far in this class, but there is some young talent to work with if none are signed and Starkel decides to leave. Freshman K.J. Jefferson flashed moments of brilliance and freshman John Stephen Jones had his moments as well. Even junior Jack Lindsey displayed some talent, throwing for 3 TDs this season.
Biggest need filled
With just 6 verbal commits, it’s clear that with 3 linebackers recruited, that’s the area in which the Razorbacks were looking to shore up. Leading tackler De’Jon Harris is a senior and will leave big shoes to fill in the middle.
Bumper Pool will be a junior next season and a couple of seniors look to return as well. So in the next year or two, the Hogs will have to replace the group with fresh talent. That’s where these three could become very valuable to the program.
Biggest needs that need to be filled
Defensive tackle is a position that will need to be filled next season. Arkansas’ best defensive lineman McTelvin Agim is a senior, and so is T.J. Smith. So both tackle positions will need to be filled.
A handful of freshmen played significant time along the defensive front this season, so it’s possible that the Razorbacks are content with the talent they already have on the roster.
Best position group
As mentioned, the group of linebackers makes up 50 percent of the Razorbacks’ potential signing class so far. (Obviously the class will grow. Pittman started recruiting for Arkansas almost as soon as he was named coach.) Add to that a couple of defensive ends and a cornerback. Within the corps of LBs is the 5th and 5th overall recruits in the state in Jashaud Stewart (Jonesboro) and Catrell Wallace (Bryant) respectively.
Best player still chasing
Wide receiver Julian Fleming is from Pennsylvania and the top-ranked player nationally at his position as well as the top-rated overall recruit from the state. He is the No. 2 ranked overall recruit in the nation and is committed to Ohio State.
All is fair in recruiting. Arkansas fans no doubt are hoping Pittman can convince a couple of Georgia commits to follow him to Fayetteville.