The Arkansas Razorbacks set out in 2009 to show they can compete in the SEC and to recruit big talented players to the U of A campus. Over the the year and into the new year of 2010 you could say one thing...
The 2009 season and the great improvements the Razorbacks made on the field in Bobby Petrino's second year speak for themselves, and that play has the Razorbacks geared to be among the top 20 teams in the nation to begin next season.
But before we get to next season, the Arkansas coaching staff had to work tirelessly to recruit the future players of the Arkansas program, and add crucial pieces to the Razorbacks that will continue the Hogs upswing in the national college football landscape.
On National Signing Day, the Arkansas Razorbacks reached their goal of recruiting talented players to sore up areas of immediate need, and the coaches hard work paid off.
The National Recruiting services such as Rivals.com, Scout.com, and ESPN Scout rank the Hogs in the top 30s-40s and in the bottom half of the SEC, but Bobby Petrino and his assistant coaches had plenty to say to the contrary.
One of the best sound bites came from none other than Arkansas Defensive Coordinator Willy Robinson when he commented that most of Arkansas' new players were rated three stars or 5.7 points just .1 from being a four-star recruit. He looked into the camera and said "what the hell made that?"
Bobby Petrino's comments where a little more descriptive. He said Arkansas will not "Internet recruit by stars". He stressed the way the staff does their evaluations, and that getting out in their territories and finding their prospects and doing their own evaluations is the key to their recruiting and signing the players that fit their system.
The last comment from an Arkansas staff member on recruiting rankings I would like to share is that of recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Tim Horton, "we like the cards we got, and we will be glad to play them."
For those of you out there that think this is just sugar-coating by the Arkansas coaches, and that "all coaches are going to brag on their recruits," try this on for size. Bobby Petrino has an eye for talent, and once they are on campus, he has a program and system in place that gets the most out of young men.
Want proof, well then here you go.
In 2008, Scout.com went back and did final rankings on the 2003 and 2004 classes, and Petrino's Louisville classes moved up to among the best in the nation based on how they did on the field. Not by the amount of stars by their name or how they played in high school, but by what they did on the field as collegiate players.
2003 Louisville Recruiting Class initial ranking: 48th nationally.
2008 Reassessment ranked the class ninth nationally.
2004 Louisville Recruiting Class initial ranking: 54th nationally.
2008 Reassessment ranked the class 14th nationally.
The Razorbacks' biggest need they set out to fill was on the defensive line, and most importantly, the emphasis was to beef up the interior line. Well the Hogs did just that, and Rivals.com rates the Razorbacks defensive tackle haul the third best in the nation.
The headliners of the four defensive tackles the Razorbacks signed are local four-star player Byran Jones of Junction City and four-star Army All-American Calvin Barnett of Tulsa. Both Jones and Barnett made their decisions to be Razorbacks at the last minute, and the coaches battled for their services.
Barnett switched from a commitment that was believed to be solid to Oklahoma State up until the 11th hour when rumors began to service he was going to join his teammate Eric Bennett at Arkansas.
Barnett did just that in flashy fashion pulling his orange and black coat off to reveal a cardinal red Arkansas sweater vest, as he donned his Razorback hat in front of the cameras.
Barnett was rated the top player in Oklahoma, and was the prize piece of OSU's recruiting class, now he is the prize or Arkansas' class.
Byran Jones played his recruiting close to the vest. Rumors spilled out that he was going to commit to Auburn and join fellow Arkansans Micheal Dyer and Dakota Mosley as Tigers a few weeks ago after he made an official visit there. Pictures of Jones with Dyer and Mosley in Auburn jerseys serviced on Facebook and other Internet sites.
However, the Arkansas staff hosted Jones a week later on his official visit and made their case. They stayed in Junction City over the next week and a half, making sure Jones knew how much he was needed and wanted, and in the end it paid off.
The smile on Petrino's face as he spoke about Byran was almost sinister. He commented that Jones can say that he is as good as anyone in this class, and that he will make an early impact for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas' next need was adding more athleticism and overall football talent to their team. Petrino talked about what they are looking for in these players. First is character, second is measurements, and third is football IQ.
The Hogs landed their largest group of highly rated three-star players (5.6 and higher-Robinson would laugh at this) since Bobby Petrino has been on Arkansas' campus and greater than any he landed at Louisville.
The Razorbacks' signing day also had its fair share of surprises. The Razorbacks used Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Garrick McGee's presence in Oklahoma to not only sway Calvin Barnett, but the Hogs also signed four other top Oklahoma prospects.
The group's biggest surprise was the addition of Oklahoma commit Jarrett Lake. Lake is a WR/LB prospect that made a last minute switch to the Razorbacks from out of left field.
The other commitments from the state of Oklahoma (all top 25 ranked players for the state of Oklahoma) are 6'5", 225lb LB Courtney Gaston, 6'0" 185lb ATH Eric Bennett, and 6'6" 270lb OT Denton Simek.
From top to bottom, the Razorbacks class is full of kids with high character, extremely good measurements in size and speed, as well as versatility, and each of these young men are extremely good football players. In fact, the Razorbacks have 10 players that played for State Championship winning teams and a handful of others that played for championships.
A year ago, the Arkansas Razorbacks garnered a top-20 recruiting class according to all the services, and the No. 1 rated group of defensive backs according to Rivals and a top five group according to Scout.
The ability for Arkansas coaches to recruit to needs has been clear since day one under the Petrino regime. His first class he had just about a month and a half to salvage what was left behind in the wake of the Nutt departure, and he was able to land top offensive playmakers Ryan Mallett, Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, and others.
At the end of the day, stars or no stars, this Arkansas Razorback recruiting class is top to bottom a perfect example of a Bobby Petrino recruiting class, and that has been proved to be a very good thing.
Petrino's college record speaks for itself where he stands as one of the top ten active head coaches in winning percentage.
Below is the compete list of the Arkansas Razorbacks 25-man recruiting class (according to Arkansas' official web site).
|NAME||POS||CLASS||HEIGHT||WEIGHT||HOMETOWN (PREVIOUS SCHOOL)
|Calvin Barnett||DT||FR||6-3||330||Tulsa, Okla. (Booker T. Washington HS)|
|Jatashun Beachum||RB||FR||6-1||270||Dallas, Texas (A. Maceo Smith HS)|
|Eric Bennett||ATH||FR||5-11||180||Tulsa, Okla. (Booker T. Washington HS)|
|LaCraig Brown||DE||FR||6-4||288||Monroe, La. (Richwood HS)|
|Eduardo Camara||K||FR||5-8||160||Cedar Hill, Texas (Cedar Hill HS)|
|Daunte Carr||S||FR||6-2||195||Gainesville, Ga. (Gainesville HS)|
|Luke Charpentier||OT||FR||6-4||315||River Ridge, La. (John Curtis Christian)|
|Cam Feldt||OG||FR||6-4||295||Pilot Point, Texas (Pilot Point HS)|
|Courtney Gaston||LB||FR||6-5||225||Ft. Gibson, Okla. (Ft. Gibson HS)|
|Brad Hefley||TE||FR||6-4||250||Joplin, Mo. (Joplin Senior HS)|
||WR||FR||6-1||185||Jacksonville, Fla. (The Bolles School)|
|Zach Hocker||K/P||FR||6-0||170||Russellville, Ark. (Russellville HS)|
|Julian Horton||WR||FR||6-1||194||Norcross, Ga. (Greater Atlanta Christian School)|
|Maudrecus Humphrey||WR||FR||6-3||185||Hoover, Ala. (Hoover HS)|
|Jeremiah Jackson||DT||FR||6-3||260||Hoover, Ala. (Spain Park HS)|
|Byran Jones||DT||FR||6-2||310||Junction City, Ark. (Junction City HS)|
|Jarrett Lake||ATH||FR||6-3||220||Jenks, Okla. (Jenks HS)|
|Braylon Mitchell||RB/LB||FR||6-2||225||Heber Springs, Ark. (Heber Springs HS)|
|Denton Simek||OL||FR||6-6||285||Prague, Okla. (Prague HS)|
|Chris Smith||DE||FR||6-2||230||Mount Ulla, N.C. (West Rowan HS)|
|Darrell Smith||ATH||FR||6-3||190||Port St. Joe, Fla. (Port St. Joe HS)|
|Alan Turner||ATH||FR||6-0||185||Junction City, Ark. (Junction City HS)|
|Garrett Uekman||TE||FR||6-4||241||Little Rock, Ark. (Catholic HS)|
|Marquel Wade||WR||FR||5-11||180||Jacksonville, Fla. (Andrew Jackson HS)|
|Jacoby Walker *||QB||FR||6-2||197||Houston, Texas (Westfield HS)|
* -- Enrolled at UA in January 2010
This article was written by Blake Stansbery of Born Hog Wild.
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