Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly Arkansas recruiting mailbag with reporter Trent Shadid. In this edition, we discuss a variety of topics, from top linemen targets to the expected timetable for recruits to develop.
If Arkansas gains a commitment from Fulwider, how will our D-line class rank compared previous ones? — @AReames90
If Arkansas gets Nicholas Fulwider, a 3-star according to the 247Sports composite, defensive line coach John Scott Jr. will have the class he wants at the position. The Razorbacks already have three commits they like a lot.
Emmit Gooden, a top-10 overall junior college recruit, is the headliner. Isaiah Nichols is a local prospect with plenty of untapped potential. Then there’s recent commit John Mincey, who is the first Georgia prospect to pledge to the Hogs since Scott was hired in February and became the primary recruiter the state. Ideally, Fulwider will be the second recruit Scott lands from Georgia to complete his group.
With Fulwider, I think this group is as good as fans could possibly hope for. And it’s much needed after only getting one defensive lineman from the 2017 class (David Porter) after the other signee (Melvin Johnson) failed to qualify academically.
Compared to the previous classes, I’d put it right there with the 2016 group as the best under Bielema. That class had a 5-star (McTelvin Agim) and two 4-star (Austin Capps and Briston Guidry) defensive linemen. All three are trending in the direction of living up to the hype. Before that, you have to go back to 2012 (included Darius Philon, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Taiwan Johnson) to find a defensive line class that compares.
With the addition of these D-line recruits and what we would have returning, do you think we could have one of the best D-lines in the country next year? — @AReames90
Right now I’d project the starting defensive linemen in 2018 to be McTelvin Agim (DE), Austin Capps (DT) and Emmit Gooden (DE). That’s a heck of a group with a former 5-star and two former 4-star recruits. (Gooden is a 3-star in junior college right now, but was a 4-star out of high school in 2016.)
Gooden being a starting defensive end is contingent on him dropping a little bit of weight. He’d probably need to be right at 300 pounds. He’s listed at 305 now, so that’s doable. Plus, he’s a very athletic tackle at the junior college level in a 4-3 defense, so he may fit better as an end in the Arkansas’ 3-4 scheme.
Obviously, it’s been established Agim is a special talent. I think he’s the most talented player on the team this year. Capps will have two years of regular playing experience by then. So, that would be a potentially dominant starting unit.
The key to being one of the best defensive lines in the country, though, would be a result of depth to go along with top-of-the-line starters. That’s where the development of players like T.J. Smith, who is projected to start at end this season, Jonathan Marshall and Guidry is essentially. If those guys can be the type of reserves that would start at some other SEC schools, then I don’t see any reason why the unit wouldn’t be considered one of the best nationally. But that’s a big if.
How good could Arkansas’ 2019 class possibly be? — Seth via email
The 2019 class could possibly be top-15 or even top-10 caliber based on average recruit. That’s a result of how good the in-state crop is for that class. Hudson Henry (TE), Treylon Burks (WR), Darius Thomas (OL) and Jadon Jackson (WR) are incredibly talented. I think they’ll all be 4-star rated and at least top 300 overall in the class by this time next year.
There’s also quarterback commit Ty Evans, the only pledge in the class so far, who has the potential to be a 4-star caliber player after this season.
That’s five really talented recruits the Razorbacks have a great chance at signing. If Arkansas can put together a good 2017 season on the field, and continue to recruit well in areas like Dallas and New Orleans, the class could easily snowball into the best overall of the Bielema era.
Who are some d- line and o-line recruits that the hogs are recruiting and how highly rated are they.. Do the hogs have a chance for top kids
— CaptTread (@brent2512) August 16, 2017
The only defensive lineman they are still actively recruiting is Fulwider, who I mentioned earlier. I’ve gotten the impression it’s him or nobody else on the defensive line. Meaning, they’ll roll with three signees and use the spot on another position. Fulwider isn’t a top recruit (3-star), but he does have some other solid options (Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, etc.). He’s mostly impressive to the coaching staff because he’s someone they feel perfectly fits into their scheme and has been underdeveloped based on the talent he possess.
As for offensive linemen, the ideal player to get would be Penei Sewell. He’s a 4-star recruit and the No. 43 overall prospect in the class. He visited campus this summer and indicated he may return in the fall. However, I don’t see him as a realistic possibility. He has far too many top options that I just don’t think Arkansas can beat out for a player from Utah. But he’s still one to keep an eye on and cross your fingers.
The next top uncommitted option is Jermone Carvin. From Cordova, Tenn., in the Memphis area, Carvin is a 3-star recruit with a 5-star offer list. Schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee have all offered. I think he’s not far from being as talented as Sewell, though the recruit rankings would disagree.
The biggest reason Arkansas has a much better chance at Carvin than Sewell is all about location. Memphis is a strong Razorbacks town. That surprises people who aren’t from that area, but there’s as many or more Arkansas fans as there are Tennessee or nearby Ole Miss fans. That influence helps, which is why the Hogs should probably recruit there more. He also recently told me he’ll take an official visit to Fayetteville this fall, and he’s already visited once last season. So, he obviously likes the Hogs a lot.
Consider Carvin and Fulwider serious possibilities and Sewell the pipe dream.
Has having a Texas team in the SEC hurt our recruiting there?
— Jaime (@AzrielWynge) August 17, 2017
This is a really good question. While there’s no way to say for certain, I think Texas A&M joining the league has definitely hurt Arkansas’ recruiting in the state at least a little. The players from there don’t have to leave the state anymore to compete the nation’s top conference. That’s huge. And it’s shown in recent Texas A&M classes that were regularly around the top 10 every year with almost nothing but in-state players.
That being said, I think it’s hurt LSU more. The Tigers can’t go into Houston and sell the SEC idea like they used to.
The Dallas area is far more vital to Arkansas than further south where most of A&M’s classes comes from. But I do think in the first few years of the Bielema era, Arkansas was finding it far more difficult to keep a foothold in Texas.
I’m not sure what exactly to attribute it to, probably just greater effort, but the Hogs seem to be regaining some of their pull in the Lone Star State. They have four prospects from the Dallas area committed in the 2018 class, and all are considered among the top 30 recruits in North Texas.
— ScottLM62 (@PantherFan80) August 16, 2017
I would put those chances at 99 percent. Offensive tackle Luke Jones, a 3-star from Little Rock, has been firmly committed since late July. I have no reason to suspect he’ll waver on that unless something drastic happens. Expect him to officially sign in December.
Yr 5. What is the time table for recruits to develop? Did players like Alex, Hunter, and Drew cover up inferior teams by overachieving?
— John Robie (@VoleurDeDiamant) August 16, 2017
The development timetable is roughly two years, with a player expected to become at least a reliable contributor in year three. Now, there are others that big things are expected from far before that, but that’s just sort of the timeline Bielema uses to assess where most players are at. He’s basically said in the past if a player isn’t doing it by his third year on campus, he probably isn’t going to.
That’s why it’s so important for Arkansas to retain a high percentage of players each year. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I believe based on the last two years the Hogs are retaining more players than just about anyone in the SEC. That’s evident in how small their recruiting class are getting. This year they’re projected to sign 14 players. The plan for the few years that follow is 15 to 18 in each class.
All that is great, but the plan still might not work. We’ve seen flashes at times the past three years where it looks like it might, though. Meddling around seven wins each year isn’t going to cut it with this fan base. So, maybe Bielema’s developmental plan won’t work out at Arkansas. The next two years are going to be critical in finding out. But we do know it worked at Wisconsin.
I do think there’s some truth to the assertion players like Hunter Henry and Alex Collins helped the Hogs get back to bowl eligibility earlier than the roster should’ve been. The teams they played on lacked overall depth and still managed to win seven games in 2014, and then eight games in 2015.
A few overly talented players is not how Arkansas is going to win big under Bielema, though. The Hogs need depth combined with that top-end talent. This season will be big in determining if they’ve got that.
After 4-5 more years of Bielema mediocrity will anyone want to play at Arkansas?
— Lew Harper (@Harper1Lew) August 16, 2017
I realize this is being asked facetiously, but I’ll take the bait.
Four or five years is an eternity in college football. Half the teams in the SEC will probably have different head coaches by then. I’ll say this, if Bielema is still at Arkansas that far down the road, then he’s been winning. And in that case, he will be getting some good recruits.
To submit a question for recruiting mailbags, email Shadid13@gmail.com or send a message to @Shadid13 on Twitter.