SEC Country reporter Trent Shadid will answer your Arkansas Razorbacks football recruiting questions each weekday in our recruiting question of the day mailbag. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs, @Shadid13 or by email to Trent at Shadid13@gmail.com. To view prior answers to our questions, click here.
Recruiting Question of the Day: Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Who was the best ever football recruiter at Arkansas?
— Robert Handford (@RobertHandford) May 10, 2018
This is a difficult question to answer because it’s nearly impossible to compare eras with this sort of thing. Recruiting battles have only been widely publicized the past 20 or so years. It’s even more difficult to make such comparisons with Arkansas since the program spent 76 years in the Southwest Conference before transitioning to the SEC 26 years ago.
While I have no doubt Frank Broyles (1958-76) and Lou Holtz (1977-83) have strong cases to be considered Arkansas’ best recruiting coach, I can’t really compare what they did with the Hogs’ more recent coaches.
I suppose that leaves Houston Nutt (1998-2007), Bobby Petrino (2008-11) and Bret Bielema (2013-17) in competition for this honor. Among those coaches, the statistics suggest Houston Nutt is Arkansas’ best recruiter in the modern recruiting era.
According to the 247Sports ratings, 10 of the 13 highest-rated recruits Arkansas has landed since 2000 were signed under Nutt. Several of the players on that list didn’t live up to the hype, but that’s not necessarily a reflection of recruiting effectiveness. It’s likely almost any school in the country would’ve signed those same players and Nutt beat them.
During a seven-class span from 2000-06, Nutt’s signing classes averaged a 247Sports composite rating of No. 22 nationally. His 2000 class was No. 16 and 2001 was No. 9 — the best final class ranking in program history. Take out a 2003 class that finished No. 42, and the Hogs’ had an average national ranking of No. 19 during that span.
Petrino and Bielema were only slightly worse on the recruiting trail. Petrino’s five classes (2007-11) had an average national ranking of No. 29. Bielema’s five classes (2013-17) averaged a No. 25 national finish.
From a consistency standpoint, Bielema actually may have been the best. While none of his five classes cracked the top 20, they also didn’t finish outside the top 30. The issue for Bielema was the recruiting consistency obviously didn’t translate to enough consistency winning games.
As far as getting on-field production from their recruiting classes, Petrino was the best. His teams went a combined 21-5 over the 2010 and 2011 seasons before his infamous motorcycle crash derailed his tenure in Fayetteville. He did that when the SEC was arguably at its peak. None of the five losses over those two seasons came against an opponent ranked lower than No. 7 in the AP Poll at the time.
Though Nutt was the best recruiter, his on-field success wasn’t at Petrino’s level. Nutt’s 2006 team was his best, winning 10 games and the SEC West. But there’s a strong case to be made that team — led by Darren McFadden — was so talented it had success in spite of a dysfunctional coaching staff.
Still, while Nutt may not have won big at Arkansas, he seems to be the Hogs’ best recruiter of the past 20 years.
To view prior answers to our questions, click here.