Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook. This time, beat writer Trent Shadid answers questions for his mailbag.
Why hasn’t Arkansas recruited the in-state players getting major offers?
I’m assuming Akial Byers, Tre Norwood and B.J. Thompson are the players being referred to here. Those recruits haven’t received offers from the Razorbacks for different reasons. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been recruited by Arkansas. They have. The coaching staff knows plenty about each of these guys; they just chose not to pull the trigger on an offer after evaluating them.
Byers committed to Alabama last summer. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban was at Fayetteville High School earlier this week to check on him. Obviously, having the coach of such a prominent SEC West rival in a high school just half a mile from Arkansas’ football facilities has once again raised the question of why the Razorbacks aren’t all over Byers. The Hogs were interested from a talent standpoint, but ultimately chose not to offer for fair reasons I won’t get specific about.
As for Norwood, who is from Fort Smith, I’d say Arkansas feels like it has better corners coming in this class. Three players expected to play the position are committed or enrolled and a couple of 4-star corners have the Hogs’ among their finalists. I understand fans questioning why he’s good enough to get offers from schools such as Notre Dame and Oklahoma, where he committed earlier this week, but not Arkansas. It should be noted that neither of those schools offered until recently. If programs are offering this late, it shows they’ve almost certainly missed on several other targets at the position. If the same had happened to Arkansas, he likely would have an offer.
Thompson has landed offers from Baylor, Florida State, Texas, Utah and several others. The Hogs did show considerable interest in him, particularly last summer, yet the offer he desired from them never came. Recently, he hasn’t been shy on Twitter about pointing out his disdain for being snubbed by his in-state school. He’s very athletic for being 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, but I’m not sure that he has a positional fit with Arkansas. He’d be a project needing to bulk up considerably as a tight end. Speed would be a concern as a wide receiver with a 40 time around 4.6 seconds at best. He doesn’t really fit into the new 3-4 defensive scheme unless he could put on 70 or 80 pounds to play end.
We know about the big names Arkansas is still trying to land, but who is the most-underrated commit?
The first names who come to mind are wide receivers Koilan Jackson and De’Vion Warren, and linebacker Josh Paul. All are 3-star recruits who I think have been somewhat under-recruited for various reasons.
Jackson only played receiver during his senior season after transferring to Joe T. Robinson High School (Little Rock, Ark.) last spring. He’d previously spent his high school career playing quarterback. The position switch really allowed him to show just how talented he is as a receiver with exceptional size (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) and above-average speed.
Arkansas has long known how good he could be at receiver. However, because he had no film at the position before this season, he was already firmly committed to the Razorbacks before other programs became aware of his talent. Had he been a receiver throughout his high school career, I think he’d be a 4-star recruit with a bunch of big-time offers.
Warren was a star quarterback at Ouachita Parish High School (Monroe, La.), though it’s always been apparent he’d never play the position in college. I think a lot of recruiters probably didn’t know exactly what his position would be in college. Arkansas wide receivers coach Michael Smith saw enough to know he could play receiver for the Hogs.
Warren doesn’t have great size (5-11, 162), but he’s an extremely quick and shifty runner with a knack for making big plays. Like Jackson, had he not played out of position for so long, I think he’d have more major offers.
Paul (6-2, 205) is a tremendous find, also by Smith. He was an outstanding linebacker at De La Salle High School (New Orleans) who had several schools inquiring about him well after he’d pledged to Arkansas.
His recruitment has been vastly different from the majority of prospects these days because he never went to camps in the spring or summer. He never felt that was needed due to what he already had on film. The lack of exposure worked out for the Razorbacks. They were his second offer, after Ball State, last spring. Smith quickly built a relationship with Paul, who committed over the summer and hasn’t wavered since.
How did Arkansas lose out on Thomas Johnston to UAB?
I think Arkansas felt the ship sailed with linebacker Thomas Johnston and no longer considered him a high-priority target. A lot more effort has been focused toward players such as 4-star defensive backs Chevin Calloway and Brad Stewart recently.
That being said, the Hogs would’ve presumably found a way to take Johnston in this class. Ultimately, the 3-star linebacker from Spanish Fort (Ala.) High School decided UAB was the right choice for him. The reasoning is largely related to playing with his older brother, Tyler, who is a quarterback for the Blazers.
It’s not like he just turned down Arkansas. He also has offers from Auburn, Clemson, LSU, Iowa, Ole Miss and several other major programs. Clearly, the chance to join family means more to him than a high-profile program.
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All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.