Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly Arkansas recruiting mailbag with reporter Trent Shadid. In this edition, we discuss a variety of topics from tight end signee Jeremy Patton’s arrival to outside linebacker targets.
Does recruiting all good kids hurt Arkansas? Does having some predatory instinct help on the gridiron? — Jaime
I absolutely understand the question, but I want to start by saying these things are not mutually exclusive. A recruit can be both a good kid and have an intimidating edge on the field.
Sophomore defensive end Sosa Agim is a perfect example. He was a 5-star recruit who has represented Arkansas very well off the field while also dominating on the field. And he does it with an attitude mixed into his game. He enjoys talking trash and is relentless on offensive linemen when he’s at his best. That’s perfectly fine behavior on the field as long as one conducts themselves well off it. By all accounts, Sosa does just that.
But Arkansas can’t build a successful program on a bunch of players like Agim because there aren’t enough of them to go around. Most recruiting classes have no more than 30 5-star prospects, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. What the Hogs believe they can build a program around are reliable 3- and 4-star recruits who have a great work ethic. That’s mostly the type of prospects they’ve recruited in the Bret Bielema era.
Now, it hasn’t always resulted in the type of on-field success fans want, so I understand why some might question the strategy. But the approach has at least helped the Razorbacks to retain players at a high rate. There hasn’t been an alarming number of dismissals or transfers. That’s huge. Bielema wants players who will give Arkansas every shot with the idea they’ll develop into quality players. He’s accomplished that mission. The next challenge is making a winning team out of it.
Regardless, I can’t see him changing his search for “good kids” just for wins and losses. Especially not in this era when programs are under a microscope more than ever.
How excited are you that [Jeremy] Patton is finally enrolled? — Zach Mitchell
If I’m looking at it from the perspective of an Arkansas coach or fan, I’d have to be thrilled. There was really a lot of uncertainty surrounding tight end signee Jeremy Patton’s situation right up until he enrolled, and he tweeted Tuesday that he was en route to Fayetteville.
I think for the coaching staff, and for Patton, it’s probably more of a relief than anything. Missing out on Patton, the No. 1 junior college tight end after signing him in December, would have been a devastating blow to the 2017 class. And for Patton, what would his options have been if he failed to be cleared academically and never made it to Arkansas? As talented as he is, it’s likely he would’ve found some form of a fallback, but a lot of times you never know in these situations with JUCO players.
Patton also arrived just early enough to compete for a lot of playing time. He has a month to get acclimated before fall camp. If he did not arrive until the start of practice, I would’ve seriously doubted his chances to have a major impact this season. The position is wide open, and he’ll every chance to prove he deserves to be on the field.
How are the Razorbacks chances with Calvin Avery? — Mark Dagenhart
I have Arkansas as a serious sleeper to sign Calvin Avery, a 4-star defensive tackle from Dallas. That said, the dark horse is just that for a reason. Schools such as Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Texas A&M should be considered the favorites both for the prestige — especially with Ohio State —and the proximity to home.
The Hogs’ chances are helped considerably by signing 4-star cornerback Chevin Calloway, who played with Avery at Bishop Dunne High School, in the 2017 class. It also helps that the Razorbacks are in good standing with 2019 Bishop Dunne safety Brian Williams, the younger brother of former Arkansas running back Rawleigh William III. Additionally, they’ve recruited the Dallas area very well in this class with three commits from the recruiting hotbed, and a few more of the uncommitted have Arkansas among their top schools.
Avery is expected to trim his list of top schools to five at some point in August. That’s when we’ll truly know if the Hogs are in the running.
Is there an OLB other than DaShaun White and Maureese Wren to look out for? — Mark Dagenhart
DaShaun White and Maureese Wren, both from the Dallas area, are the top two outside linebackers to watch. Beyond those two, I’ve gotten the impression 3-star Fa’Najae Gotay (North Fort Myers, Fla.) and 3-star Jacob Mangum-Farrar (Kempner H.S./Sugar Land, Texas) also are high on the list.
Arkansas offered Gotay on June 9, and he now has more than 20 offers, with Louisville, Missouri and Tennessee also among them. Though he’s a low-end 3-star recruit, I like him a lot. He’s got the size (6-foot, 205 pounds) and speed (4.56 40-yard dash) to become an exceptional linebacker at the next level. I think his ratings are low because he’s gotten buried a bit on the recruiting scene in a state full of big-time prospects.
As for Mangum-Farrar, he doesn’t have an offer yet from the Hogs, but I know they’re taking a long look at him. He’s one of the top talents from the Houston area in the 2018 class. An offer list that includes Houston, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Utah and Vanderbilt proves it. With that list growing, the Razorbacks might have to join the mix soon to have a shot.
Not a recruiting question, but is Bielema gonna play freshman? Speaking about Brown over Ramirez, getting Calloway in there, etc. — Joshua Barnhardt
Bielema is definitely one of the more cautious coaches across college football when it comes to playing freshmen. I don’t expect that to change in the near future. However, some players don’t give him much of a choice.
Agim, for instance, was starting by midway through last season. He was too good to keep off the field. Running back Devwah Whaley forced his way into more playing time as well as a freshman last season.
I’m not sure the 2017 signing class has many players of that caliber. At least not at the high school level. I’m expecting Patton, as well as wide receivers Brandon Martin and Jonathan Nance, to play significantly next season. All are 2017 signees, but all are from the junior-college level.
You mentioned Montaric Brown as a candidate to play as a freshman next season, and I might have agreed with you in February, when he signed. The issue now is he hasn’t arrived on campus. He’s working to get everything in order academically, which he expects to do very soon. Still, it appears likely his first activities with the program will come when practice starts at the earliest. Because of that, I can’t imagine he’ll unseat upperclassmen Santos Ramirez, Josh Liddell or De’Andre Coley for playing time. Ramirez was named a team captain in the spring, a sign he’s shown improvement.
With Chevin Calloway, I could see him finding his way on the field as a potentially fourth option at cornerback. Ryan Pulley is entrenched as one of the starters, with Henre’ Toliver, though he’s been inconsistent at times, almost certainly starting on the other side. Senior captain Kevin Richardson II is probable to start at nickelback or wherever he is needed in the secondary.
As I said, I don’t see many of the freshmen playing a lot in 2017. That could change quickly if there are any obvious holes exposed early in the season, but expect the status quo out of the gates.
Do you or any other staff member plan to interview any uncommitted recruits and if so who/when? — GunMan
I always keep a running list of the next handful of Arkansas targets I plan to get in touch with. Here’s a sneak peek at four I’m working on in the coming days and why. I plan to get at least a couple of them on the phone this weekend. They are in no particular order.
- Nicholas Fulwider, 3-star DL: I talked to Fulwider, of Georgia, recently after he visited Arkansas and several other schools. You can click here to read that story. He’s now down to a top three of Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt. If the Hogs can get him, they’d have a completed defensive line class they could feel good about with three commitments. He has said he plans to announce later this month, so he’s definitely a recruit I’ll reach out to again soon.
- Joseph Foucha, 3-star DB: I’ve talked to Foucha before, but he has sort of fallen off my radar since Arkansas now has commitments from three players expected to play defensive back. Still, it has become apparent recently that the Hogs are still recruiting him, and Foucha has been high on them for some time. He still hasn’t visited, which will be key if the Razorbacks have any chance with the New Orleans recruit.
- Maureese Wren, 3-star OLB: I mentioned Wren earlier as one of the top targets at outside linebacker. In fact, if I had to predict now who would be the to commit at that position group, it would be Wren. He’s expected to visit Fayetteville at some point in July, so I’ll likely write something about him around that time.
- Luke Jones, 3-star OL: Jones, from Little Rock, seems to be the next commit waiting to happen. The last time I talked to him, his plan was to announce his selection in August. I’m curious if that’s still the plan and which schools he is considering.
And just so everyone knows … if you all ever want to hear more from a recruit, let me know.
To submit a question for recruiting mailbags, email Shadid13@gmail.com or send a message to @Shadid13 on Twitter.