Welcome to the weekly Arkansas football and recruiting mailbag.
Arkansas reporter Trent Shadid sorts through questions asked by Razorbacks fans. This time, we take a look at the most underrated incoming freshman, a new quarterback commit and where the Razorbacks are landing their most talented prospects.
Who is the most underrated incoming freshman?
To me, it’s quarterback Cole Kelley.
I know, quarterbacks being underrated seems hardly possible because the position often gets the most attention in any recruiting class. But quarterback wasn’t a major focus in this class with Arkansas already having redshirt freshmen Ty Storey and Ricky Town, sophomore Rafe Peavey and junior Austin Allen on the roster. All of whom came in as more heralded recruits than Kelley.
A 3-star prospect from Teurlings Cathloic High School (Lafayette, La.), Kelley was rated the No. 39 pro-style quarterback in the nation in the 2016 class. However, at 6-foot-7, 256 pounds he already has the build and arm strength to play in the SEC. The point being he doesn’t come in with as much fanfare as most quarterback recruits, but he has the tools to become one of the stars of this class with a couple of years to develop while Allen starts.
Running back T.J. Hammonds is another good candidate as the most underrated freshman. Hammonds was a do-everything star at Joe T. Robinson High School (Little Rock, Ark.) last season and came in as a prospect capable of potentially playing multiple positions. The Razorbacks are looking to use him at running back where much of the attention in this class, and rightfully so, has been focused on Devwah Whaley. But Hammonds shouldn’t be overlooked. He’ll get every chance to impress the coaching staff and earn playing time this fall. If he ends up on the sidelines as a freshman for whatever reason, look for him to carve out a significant role with his versatility and playmaking ability later in his career.
What does 2018 QB Connor Noland’s commitment mean for the Hogs?
Noland’s commitment is big because it gives Arkansas a high-level talent at the most important position very early in the process. He is the first commit for the Razorbacks in 2018, and quarterbacks are typically expected to help recruit other players to join them.
However, while there is no reason to believe his commitment isn’t firm, it doesn’t necessarily allow Arkansas to quit recruiting quarterbacks in the 2018 class.
The Greenwood (Ark.) prospect is a two-sport star, also committing to the Arkansas baseball program as a right-handed pitcher. He’s good enough on the mound there’s a chance he’ll be selected high enough in the MLB draft as a high school senior that he forgoes college altogether. Noland told SEC Country earlier this month “it would have to be a lot of money” for him to skip college and commit to playing professional baseball out of high school.
It does give the Razorbacks a strong recruiter for the 2018 class. Noland told SEC Country following his commitment on Wednesday he already has his sights set on persuading some of the top in-state prospects in both sports to join him in committing to Arkansas.
What area of the country is Arkansas landing the most recruiting talent?
Under coach Bret Bielema, now in his fourth season, Arkansas hasn’t had to go outside the state to land the top talent in its recruiting classes.
Among in-state prospects, the Razorbacks landed four of the top five in 2015 and the top three in 2016. All of which were 4-star recruits or better and considered among the standouts of those Arkansas signing classes.
The talent-rich state of Louisiana has also become important recruiting territory for the Razorbacks since wide receivers coach Michael Smith arrived in 2014. Smith, a Louisiana native, has been instrumental in helping Arkansas sign nine players with three more committed for 2017 from the Bayou State.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.