Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly Arkansas recruiting mailbag with reporter Trent Shadid. In this edition, we discuss how many 4-star prospects Arkansas will sign and freshman-to-be running back Chase Hayden.
Over or under: Eight 247Sports 4-star composite recruits for the 2018 Razorback football recruiting class? — Trey Ballard via Twitter
I’m going to go under. Only because it seems to be highly likely this is a small class in terms of the number of signees. Arkansas has 12 scholarship seniors on the roster and is right at the 85-scholarship limit.
There are also two blueshirts in the 2017 signing class who were promised scholarships by the second semester of the 2017-18 school year. Those blueshirts will take spots in the 2018 signing class.
With all that being said, I’d predict Arkansas gets six 4-star recruits in the class. The Razorbacks already have four committed — Connor Noland, Bumper Pool, Byron Hanspard II and Luke Ford — and all of those are locked in unless something unforeseen happens. Outside of those players, Arkansas has a legitimate chance right now at five or six other 4-star prospects.
Most notable among them is Independence (Kan.) Community College defensive tackle Emmit Gooden. A 3-star prospect at present, Gooden likely will see his ranking change between now and when he’s likely to sign in December.
Gooden is the No. 8 overall junior college prospect in the 2018 recruiting class. All of the top 15 JUCO prospects in the past three classes had at least 4-star ranking by the end of their recruitment. Gooden also has offers from Alabama, Georgia and Southern Cal. That always helps with the ratings.
Beyond that, it’s tough to say. Offensive linemen Penei Sewell, Darrell Simpson, Curtis Dunlap and Reuben Unije are all high school 4-star prospects who hold the Hogs in high regard. It’s uncertain whether any of them is leaning towards Arkansas at this point. Quarterback Gerry Bohanon Jr., running back Keaontay Ingram, wide receiver Lawrence Keys III and defensive lineman Trevor Trout also remain uncertain.
Is Chase Hayden the real deal? Will he contribute this year? — Mike Hock via Twitter
Hayden will definitely contribute. Running back is a thin position entering the 2017 season with starter Rawleigh Williams III retiring and reserve Juan Day transferring.
Sophomore Devwah Whaley and freshman Maleek Williams are the only scholarship running backs currently on the roster. Hayden has a different running style and can be the perfect change-of-pace complement.
There’s a chance sophomore T.J. Hammonds could move back to running back, where he played last season, but for now it appears he’ll stay at wide receiver. There’s a slight chance, although unlikely, of adding a graduate transfer.
Expect to see Hayden get playing time right away. He has the talent to be a star. When offensive coordinator Dan Enos finds creative ways to get the ball to Hayden in the open field, such as screen passes, Hayden will make defenders miss. He’s exceptionally quick.
The biggest question in his development will be how he adapts to the demands of an every-down back, if he is asked to be one. His growth in pass protection skills and consistently running between the tackles will go a long way in determining how significant Hayden will become.