Arkansas Football: Summer Grades for 2015 Recruiting Class
You have to feel for fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks. They went from enjoying one of the most successful two years in the program's history from 2010-11 to suffering through the abysmal last two seasons from 2012-13.
From 2010-11 under former head coach Bobby Petrino, the Razorbacks posted a 21-5 (80.8 winning percentage) record and a 12-4 (75.0) mark in SEC play.
The last two years after Petrino's dismissal as the head coach for his now infamous motorcycle accident have been one big struggle. In these last two years Arkansas owns a 7-17 (29.2) record and a 2-14 (12.5) record in the SEC.
It's hard for fans to endure such a bipolar four-year stretch, as the program went from one of the SEC's best to one of the worst in a matter of a year.
Head coach Bret Bielema and his staff have a pretty good idea after 2013 just how big of a rebuilding project Arkansas is right now.
Rebuilding programs to their former glory starts on the recruiting trail. Bielema is slowly reeling in players to fit his style and make the Hogs one of the conference's best once more.
Bielema and his staff did a nice job in their first full cycle for 2014. They are off to a great start for the '15 haul, and if they can continue the momentum, it could be one of the best classes in a long time for the Razorbacks.
Here, we take a look at the 2015 class as it stands now and assess grades for each position. Keep in mind that most of these grades can become much higher as Arkansas adds more recruits.
The Hogs were looking to add just one signal caller for the 2015 class. They have to be happy with the guy they got.
Quarterback Ty Storey is one of the Natural State's top recruits in probably the deepest and most talented group of in-state prospects since the advent of recruiting rankings. The 4-star passer's decision to stay home and play for the Razorbacks was a huge win for the program, especially considering who Arkansas' top competitors were for his services.
He chose the Hogs last June over offers from Alabama and Auburn. Alabama stole 4-star running back Altee Tenpenny in the '13 class and defensive tackle Josh Frazier in this past class. So, keeping another top prospect in the Hogs' own backyard from going to Alabama is big.
From a skill standpoint, Storey gives Arkansas a possible future star.
He's a pure pocket passer who is mobile enough to make plays with his feet when necessary. He has the size at 6'3" to see his receivers, survey the entire field for his options and find the open man.
His accuracy is great and a little underrated, if you ask me. He was given a score of seven, with 10 being the highest by 247Sports.com. I'd give him an eight, possibly a nine, based on what he's done in two years as the starter at Charleston High School.
In those two years, he has completed 65.4 percent (596-of-911) of his passes for 8,638 yards and an astounding 100 touchdowns to just 22 interceptions. You have to be pretty good at placing the ball where you want it to go in order to throw 100 touchdowns over two seasons.
Storey has to get better with his footwork, but the Hogs add a potentially special player with his commitment.
Arkansas isn't in dire need of a running back. Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall and Jonathan Williams should keep the backfield in great shape for at least the next two seasons.
However, the Razorbacks will still look to add at least one back for next year's class. They have offered several backs, including 3-star Kendall Bussey from New Orleans, who is one of the team's top targets at the position.
He committed to Nebraska on Feb. 1, but that hasn't stopped Arkansas running backs coach Joel Thomas from staying on his tail.
Bussey is much like former back Michael Smith with his stature and running style. Smith was very small, but his pint-sized frame and speed made it hard for defenders to locate him. Bussey is also very small, standing at just 5'8". He's very strong for his size, though, and has muscle, which is seen in his chiseled, 192-pound frame.
His athleticism stands out immediately, as do his explosiveness and ability to change direction quickly.
The Hogs have to find a way to get Bussey to flip his pledge from Nebraska. They can start by getting him on campus for an official visit. He was in Fayetteville for an unofficial visit on April 26, and Thomas made a visit to him on May 5.
If they can't get Bussey to change his mind, the Hogs will do their best to land one of the other backs they've extended offers to, which include 3-star Alex Barnes, 3-star Mon Denson and 4-star Chris Warren.
The Razorbacks have had some very talented tight ends since the turn of the new millennium. Jason Peters, who is now an All-Pro left tackle, Chris Gragg, D.J. Williams and now Hunter Henry are just a few.
Henry looks like he's going to be a special player, and redshirt freshman Jeremy Sprinkle has a lot of potential too. Still, Bielema is looking to add about two more and will gladly accept three if the Hogs can land a couple of the guys they're after.
They already secured one tight end in 3-star Austin Cantrell, who is the No. 7 player in Oklahoma and the No. 27 tight end nationally. "Raw" is the perfect word to describe Cantrell. He is great at the point of attack and is an asset as a blocker. However, the rest of his game needs a lot of work.
The other two tight end prospects are much more advanced than Cantrell. Will Gragg and C.J. O'Grady are both highly regarded prospects with high ceilings. The best part is that they both play high school ball in Arkansas.
Gragg has an offer list from more than 40 programs, but the teams believed to be his top choices are Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU and Texas. He announced on May 19 that he would be taking his five official visits to Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss, LSU and Texas.
The Hogs not being one of his official visits may worry some fans, but he explained to Danny West of HawgSports.com (subscription required) that he's been around Arkansas for years, so he wants to have a chance to see other places.
Richard Davenport of WholeHogSports.com reported back in Feb. that Gragg will announce his decision on Nov. 18.
O'Grady doesn't have the skill set or attention that Gragg does, but he has a lot of potential nonetheless. He is literally in the Hogs' backyard, playing for Fayetteville High. His main offers besides Arkansas are Louisville, Oklahoma and Texas. The Razorbacks are believed to be the team to beat for his services.
The grade isn't high right now with just Cantrell on board, but if Arkansas can land Gragg and O'Grady, it will definitely go up.
Deon Stewart became the first wideout commit for the '15 class when he chose the Hogs on April 26 over offers from Arkansas State, Louisville, Ole Miss and Tulsa.
The 3-star commit is part of the Natural State's deepest group of prospects since recruiting rankings came into play.
At 6'1", 165 pounds, he has to add more muscle to his frame. He has good speed and hands, which are two essential aspects of a receiver's game. He has to get better at running routes, changing direction and getting yards after the catch.
Bielema and the Razorbacks are hoping that Stewart isn't the only wideout inside Arkansas' borders to play his college career in Fayetteville. They are also hot on the trail of 4-star K.J Hill and 3-star LaMichael Pettway.
Hill has seen his recruitment skyrocket since his junior year ended. He's become one of the most highly recruited players in the country as of late because of his speed, hands and electric playmaking ability in the open field.
Arkansas and Auburn are his top two schools, according to his 247Sports profile, with 71 percent of the experts choosing him to call the Hogs on his crystal ball predictions.
Pettway has also seen his recruitment turn up a notch in 2014. He has offers from Alabama, Louisville, Nebraska and Ole Miss, to name a few. He has made four unofficial visits since Sept. last year, which is a good sign for Arkansas.
If Arkansas can land Hill and Pettway, this grade will make a huge jump.
Update: Pettway committed to Ole Miss on May 28 per David Johnson of OleMiss.247Sports.com.
The offensive line is on its way to becoming not only one of the best units in the SEC but in the entire country. It's all thanks to Sam Pittman, regarded as one of the top O-line coaches in college football.
Pittman had an immediate impact on the '13 class, stealing away Denver Kirkland, Reeve Koehler and Dan Skipper from other programs. This past class, he was able to lure 4-star offensive tackles Frank Ragnow and Brian Wallace.
All of these guys came from outside Arkansas' borders, ranging from Florida all the way to Hawaii. That fact alone tells you about the far-reaching impact Pittman is having.
Things are looking just as good for the '15 haul, with two highly rated linemen already on board.
Arkansas has secured commitments from 4-star center Zach Rogers and 3-star Arkansas native Colton Jackson. Rogers will play center for the Hogs, though he's listed as a guard. He needs to work on his pass blocking and footwork, but he has good strength and punch off the snap, making him an asset in the run game.
Jackson is a 3-star, according to 247Sports.com's composite rankings but a 4-star by their metrics. So, he's a 3-star prospect with the skills to be a 4-star. At 6'6", 291 pounds, he has the size and skills to be a dominant blocker with some development.
The Razorbacks are also in great shape with 4-star tackle Keaton Sutherland. He took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville on April 19 and received a visit from Pittman on May 12. Additionally, Arkansas has offers out to 3-star guard Garrett Thomas and 3-star tackle Connor Williams, both of whom are seriously considering the Hogs.
The defensive line is a lot farther off from being dominant than the O-line. However, there are pieces in place to make it a force, and adding more pieces next Feb. can help get the unit there.
It was huge news in Dec. when 4-star defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt chose the Hogs over Big Ten powers Michigan and Ohio State, as well as offers from Alabama, Florida State, Penn State and a slew of others.
His strength, great use of hands and high motor will make him an instant impact player as a freshman in 2015. A native of Denmark, he came to the States in 2012 as a sophomore to play for Warren G. Harding High in Ohio as an exchange student. He played last season back home overseas and will play his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida.
Perhaps the guy with the highest ceiling is Junction City 4-star defensive end Jamario Bell. He also plays tight end and could play it at Arkansas, but he's expected to play defensive end.
The fact he also plays tight end tells you just how athletic he is. He'll have to add some weight, coming in at 225 pounds. He won't want to add a ton of weight because his lighter frame allows him to make quick moves to get past linemen. He runs a 4.60 40-yard dash, enough said.
Arkansas Daytrieon Dean is also on board. He's a high-end 3-star prospect with a lot of upside. He's a diamond in the rough and could be a very solid player for Arkansas once he's had some time to develop.
Aside from their three commits, the Hogs have several offers out to D-line prospects.
At defensive tackle, Arkansas' top target is 4-star Darrion Daniels. He has been picking up offers left and right and has been extended six in May. His profile has nine teams listed at warm in his recruitment, and Arkansas is one of them. The Hogs were one of his first offers and snagged his teammate Jovan Pruitt in this year's class.
There are a number of offers out to ends. Teammates at the JUCO level, 4-star Marquavius Lewis, who is rated the No. 2 JUCO recruit nationally, and 3-star Jeremiah Ledbetter are both on the Hogs' radar. They took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville in early April and would be huge pickups.
The Razorbacks also are after 4-star James Lockhart, whom they offered in March and have been in regular contact with.
Even though Arkansas signed four linebackers in the '14 class, with three current players graduating after this year and another after 2015, you'd think the Hogs would have signed one linebacker by now or at least be in serious contention for a few.
That hasn't been the case thus far.
It has been very quiet on the recruiting front as far as linebackers are concerned. In fact, if you look at every prospect on the Hogs' 2015 target list on 247Sports.com, there is only one linebacker who is listed as warm on his interest level.
That guy is 4-star Quarte Sapp from Alpharetta, Georgia. But, even getting him is going to be an uphill battle. His interest level is listed at warm, along with three other schools. Florida State and Tennessee are listed at warmer, making them the programs to beat right now.
There are two other guys the Razorbacks have a good chance at landing.
They are the favorites to land Kendrick Jackson out of Haynesville, Louisiana, who is currently not ranked. He has good size at 6'1", 232 pounds and plays sideline to sideline with his 4.52 speed. There's not a lot on him, but his junior year stats show he's a playmaker. Last season, he racked up 110 tackles and a ridiculous 27 tackles for loss.
Claude George is also on the radar. Washington is the only team listed above cool on the 3-star's profile. However, that could change if Arkansas extends him an offer. According to HawgSports.com's Big Red Board, "George has been in contact with Sam Pittman and is hoping for an offer from the Razorbacks."
The secondary was a big priority in the '14 class, and the Hogs signed five players as a result. While they will sign a few more in this class, expect the number to be around three, possibly four.
The most recent offer went out on May 6 to 4-star safety Marcus Walker out of Lake Wales, Florida. Nine teams are currently listed at warm on his interest level, and Arkansas is one of them. He committed to Kentucky on Jan. 8 but decided to open his recruitment back up on April 16.
Most of the experts still believe he will land at Kentucky. That won't stop the Hogs from trying to get him on campus for a visit, though.
Bielema offered 3-star cornerback Maurice Smitherman in Aug. 2013. Out of Adamsville, Alabama, he is the type of corner the Razorbacks could use. He has great instincts, reactive quickness and speed. His top two schools are Clemson and Mississippi State, but Arkansas is in the mix and can help its case by getting him on campus.
The Hogs are leading for the services of 3-star safety Antonyo Sotolongo. Arkansas signed his teammate Cornelius Floyd this year and has been in contact with Sotolongo for some time. They also have the advantage of being his first offer on Jan. 27.
Arkansas also has an offer out to 3-star safety Kenneth McGruder and was the first to do so. He hasn't given out any favorites yet, but the Hogs look to be in it for the long haul.
Dre Greenlaw from Fayetteville has the attention of the Hogs after performing well at the team's junior day on March 1. The 3-star safety got an offer from Arkansas State on Jan. 15 and committed on Feb. 15; however, the door is far from closed.
He had an unofficial visit to Arkansas on March 18 and received a visit from tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. on April 16. The Hogs seem to be close to offering, and if they do, Greenlaw is likely to flip his commitment.
With no one on board in the secondary yet, it's too early to make a call.
Note: Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.