Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook. In this edition, we discuss how the scholarship numbers are effecting the Razorbacks’ 2018 class.
Arkansas forced to be more selective with who to take in 2018 class
Arkansas’ coaching staff is in a peculiar spot dealing with each position group in its 2018 recruiting class.
Currently, the expectation is the Razorbacks will have 16 scholarships available to fill. That’s six less than even the smallest class signed in the five years since Bret Bielema arrived as coach.
This numbers crunch may seem to make things easier on the surface. Fewer spots to fill means less stress on the recruiting trail, right? Well, not exactly.
There’s a stronger emphasis placed on due diligence with each offer that goes out. Such a small class puts Arkansas in a position where it has to be absolutely sure it wants to take a recruit before offering. Essentially, the importance of each spot is amplified.
But still, the Hogs aren’t offering a recruit and then sitting around waiting to see what that recruit decides before offering another for the same spot. Every program has at least something of a timetable on filling up a class. At Arkansas, the approach is typically the earlier the better. Bielema has indicated on several occasions that he desires to enter every season with as many commits as possible.
So, why not just recruit freely and sign the best prospect who commits at each spot? That’s just not how it works, at least not at Arkansas.
In most cases when the Razorbacks offer a recruit, a commitment will be accepted at any time as long a spot remains open at the position. A commitment locks a recruit into that scholarship spot, and the coaching staff won’t pursue other potential options to take the spoken for slot. So, there are essentially no retracted offers or pulled scholarships.
That aspect can create some brutally honest conversations to be had with recruits, especially in the case of a small class, like 2018. The coaching staff is often finding itself saying, “We like you a lot and have a spot for you today, but maybe not tomorrow.”
“One of the first and biggest challenges of this class is who you take. And, more importantly sometimes, it’s about who you don’t take,” Bielema told reporters Monday at the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Club golf tournament.
“We have guys that are very, very dear and important to our program, but because we’re dealing with so few numbers, we aren’t able to take everybody we want, especially in-state. So, you try to get creative, you try to find ways to maybe make it all work. But on the same account, you just have to prioritize who you want.”
Scholarship numbers already impacted CB group; DL group may be next
As this situation relates to the 2018 class, the Razorbacks already had to close things down at cornerback. Tanner McCalister committed in early June to become the second pledge at the position, filling the last available spot.
That, presumably, helped in-state cornerback LaDarrius Bishop decide his commitment would be to Mississippi State. He may have chosen the Bulldogs anyway, but it became an easier decision when Arkansas ran out of spots.
A similar position crunch may be taking shape at defensive line, where the expectation is to sign three players in the class. Emmit Gooden and Isaiah Nichols are already committed. John Mincey from Homerville, Ga., a 3-star recruit according to the 247Sports composite, is set to visit Tuesday. He has an offer from Arkansas and it’s not out of the question a good trip this week could lead to a commitment.
But there’s also Nicholas Fulwider, another 3-star defensive lineman from Georgia, who the Hogs have viewed as a high priority the past few months. He’s visited campus and expects to do so again, this time for an official visit in the fall, before announcing a decision. However, if Mincey commits first, there is not expected to be an available spot left for Fulwider based on the way things stand now.
Here’s SEC Country’s current projection of how many spots are available at each position group, and who has committed so far:
- QB: 1/2 (Connor Noland)
- RB: 1/1 (Jeremy Gibson)
- TE: 0/1
- WR: 0/0
- OL: 2/3 (Noah Gatlin, Luke Jones)
- DL: 2/3 (Emmit Gooden, Isaiah Nichols)
- ILB: 1/1 (Bumper Pool)
- OLB: 0/2
- CB: 2/2 (Bryon Hanspard II, Tanner McCalister)
- S: 1/1 (Sean Michael Flanagan)
What are the exceptions?
There can be exceptions to just about everything mentioned above. There really has to be because recruiting can be a very fluid situation until things are finalized on signing day.
The quarterback group in 2018 is a perfect example of making an exception to bring in more players at one position than would be typical. Arkansas usually wants only one quarterback in each class. They’ve got that player in Connor Noland, an in-state 4-star recruit who committed last summer.
But the No. 1 recruit in the state — Gerry Bohanon — is also a quarterback. He remains uncommitted and is talented enough the Hogs are continuing to recruit him despite the spot being filled. It also doesn’t hurt that the Razorbacks had two quarterbacks transfer within the past year. Bohanon is why the above projection currently lists two open spots at quarterback.
Also, there are rare exceptions to pulling offers from recruits. For example, Arkansas essentially pulled a scholarship from defensive end Ryder Anderson when he was committed in the 2017 cycle. The Razorbacks did so only after opting to switch to the 3-4 defense. Anderson did not have a positional fit in that scheme and eventually signed with Ole Miss. When he committed in the summer of 2016, the Hogs were still planning on being in a 4-3 scheme.
Positional flexibility can open things up to different options as well. Sean Michael Flangan is an athlete recruit committed to Arkansas. He’s expected to play safety for the Hogs, but could also play wide receiver if that turns out to make more sense in this class.
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