Arkansas Football Recruiting: Breaking Down the Top 2015 Target at Each Position
For the football fanatics of the world, it's never too early to start looking ahead, especially when it comes to recruiting.
Arkansas Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema hauled in a nice class in his first full recruiting cycle with the Hogs. The Razorbacks are off to a hot start for next year with seven players already committed.
However, because the program is in the midst of a rebuilding process, there are still a lot of positions that need to be addressed in the 2015 class. Here, we review the Hogs' top prospect at each position and where they stand as of April 27.
Arkansas is not a state known to produce a ton of D-I talent, but the '15 class is quite possibly the deepest it has ever been. The Hogs already have several of the state's top prospects on board, including 4-star quarterback Ty Storey.
Storey was the Hogs' top quarterback prospect, and they fended off other programs early on for his services when he committed last June.
What the Razorbacks get with Storey is a guy who has the talent and ability to be an All-SEC quarterback. His best attributes are his arm strength, pocket presence and size (6'3", 216 pounds). He is a pure pocket passer who stands in and delivers the ball with accuracy and velocity.
Maybe most importantly considering Arkansas' struggles in 2013 with accuracy from Brandon Allen, Storey puts the ball where it needs to be in the majority of his throws. He completed 65.7 percent of his passes as a junior last season and threw for an eye-popping 52 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
Storey will have to make some significant improvements with his footwork, which is still not great, but the Hogs got a great passer who will compete for playing time from day one.
There's a good chance Alex Collins could bolt for the NFL after his junior year in 2015, so Arkansas is looking to add more backs in the upcoming haul. The guy who is highest on the list is 4-star Chris Warren out of Rockwall, Texas.
Analyzing his game, there isn't much you can say negatively about the young back. From his size and speed to his athleticism and explosiveness, Warren is the complete package.
His only real weakness is his change of direction. Sometimes, it appears Warren's hips are a little stiff when it comes to changing his direction. However, it's nothing a little coaching can't fix.
At 6'2", 220 pounds, he is a big, menacing back when he has a full head of steam. What makes him even scarier is the fact that he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at that size. Warren can either bulldoze over a defender or use his speed to outrun him.
As of now, the Hogs are on the outside looking in. He made an unofficial visit to Fayetteville last September and attended the Hogs' junior day on March 1 this year. The good news for Arkansas is that there is still a lot of time to sway him.
Thank the football gods for offensive line coach Sam Pittman, Hog fans, because the impact he has made on the program in just over a year has been remarkable. In the last two recruiting cycles, he has been the main reason why Arkansas has recruited the offensive line as good as any program in the country.
While the Hogs have a ton of young talent in place, they are looking to stockpile it on the O-line. At the offensive tackle position, their No. 1 prospect is 4-star Keaton Sutherland.
There's a lot to like about the kid from Flower Mound, Texas, such as his size and frame. However, aside from his physical stature, Sutherland's game remains very raw. He's a specimen with a lot of potential, but he still needs quite a bit of polishing before he makes a big impact.
His strongest attribute is his pass blocking. He's still not a dominant pass-blocker, but he's more advanced in it than any other part of his game. Sutherland has to work a lot on the rest of his game, including run blocking, footwork, body quickness and punch off the snap.
Arkansas is in great shape to land his services. His 247Sports Crystal Ball Predictions have 100 percent of the experts picking him to choose the Hogs. He recently made an unofficial visit on April 19 and has made a total of five of them since early last year, more than any program on his list.
If his recruitment ended today, the Razorbacks would be the program to win his services.
The Hogs have always had a strong presence in Oklahoma and have several prospects on their radar from the state for the '15 class.
Josh Wariboko, a 4-star recruit, is one of those guys. He is the team's top target at the offensive guard position and would be a huge addition to the class if Arkansas can land his services.
At 6'3", 330 pounds, Wariboko moves like he's 50 pounds lighter and is a very good athlete. He excels at both pass and run blocking because of his brute strength and quick feet. His strength is something that stands out immediately when evaluating his game. It allows him to have a great punch off the snap and open up holes for running backs.
The big news on his recruitment came on April 16 when he decommitted from Oklahoma after being committed to the Sooners for nearly a year.
His decommitment opened up opportunities for other schools to try to lure him away from his home state, including the Hogs. With Pittman on their side, things could get very interesting in the race for Wariboko.
Another position Arkansas has already secured its top target at is center. Though he plays guard in high school, 4-star Zach Rogers is expected to move to center once he officially joins the team.
What Rogers lacks in size (6'2", 297 pounds) he makes up for with strength and a great work ethic. He is a sound run-blocker and has good punch off the snap. Rogers is at his best when he's doing the dirty work on the inside to open up holes for backs.
There are several areas of concern with his game, though.
As a lineman, it is crucial to have good footwork and also be able to block well on passing downs, both of which he struggles with. In pass-blocking situations, he too often gets beat due to poor footwork, particularly not having a wide enough base. It's also due to the fact that he is slow in his lateral movements.
Regardless of his faults, Rogers will have the pleasure of working with Pittman, who can help him improve his lateral quickness and footwork, which would help make him much better in pass blocking.
Rogers is one of the most solid commits the Hogs have, so there's no need to worry yourself about him flipping before next February.
Will Gragg, a 4-star recruit, is not just the Razorbacks' top target at tight end, but perhaps on the entire board. It's pretty safe to call him a must-get for Bielema and the Hogs.
The reasons for that are obvious, but just in case you're not familiar with those reasons, I'll lay them out for you.
Gragg is rated the No. 162 player nationally and the No. 7 tight end. More importantly, he is the No. 2 player in the Natural State, and if you want to build a program, you must get the best your state has to offer. The Hogs' top competitor for his services is none other than the Alabama Crimson Tide, who have made themselves known in Arkansas' borders over the past few years.
The Razorbacks can't afford to lose another top in-state recruit to Alabama, especially because he is the younger brother of former Hog tight end standout Chris Gragg.
He is a physical specimen with big-play ability. Gragg has a great frame, and at 6'4", 245 pounds with good speed, he is a matchup nightmare for defenders covering him. He's not the best blocker, but that's also not his game. Of course he'll get better at it, but he's a playmaker, not a blocking tight end.
Gragg is set to make his decision on Nov. 18. As of now, his top schools include Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas and the Hogs, according to his profile on 247Sports, but he also tweeted out a top five of Arkansas, Alabama, Ole Miss, Louisville and LSU in early February.
The good news is, his Crystal Ball Predictions have 67 percent of the experts betting he'll call the Hogs. Recruiting is a crazy game, though, so the Razorbacks still have a lot of work to do.
Despite signing three wideouts in the '14 class, Arkansas is looking to sign at least three more for the '15 haul. Their top target is the Natural State's own 4-star K.J. Hill.
Hill's stock has been skyrocketing since completing a junior season where he caught 83 passes for 1,210 yards and 20 touchdowns. His offer list is getting longer by the day.
When you watch Hill play, he makes you think of former Hog wideout Joe Adams. He has blazing speed, and in the open field, he makes dazzling plays. If you had to pick one word to describe his game, it would be electric.
Arkansas has a number of teams it's battling to land Hill. According to his 247Sports profile, the Hogs' top challenger is Auburn. His Crystal Ball Predictions have 71 percent of the experts saying he'll choose the Razorbacks, with the other 29 percent going with the Tigers.
Hill is another top in-state prospect the Hogs can't afford to lose.
Now, on to the defense, where the Hogs need a lot of help. We'll start up front in the trenches with defensive tackle. Darrion Daniels, yet another 4-star Texas recruit Arkansas is after, is high on the Razorbacks' board.
He's a very raw prospect, but he possesses potential to be a fixture in the middle for whichever program he chooses.
You can see that just from his athleticism. Athleticism won't get you by in college, though. Daniels doesn't show a lot of explosiveness and is not great at the point of attack. He also must work at getting better with his hands and on his first step.
There are times when he looks like he could be a dominant player, then at other times, he disappears. Once again, it's nothing some good coaching can't help fix.
Baylor is thought to be the favorite, but Arkansas landed his teammate Jovan Pruitt in this year's class, so expect him to help the Hogs try to sway Daniels toward Fayetteville.
It was huge to get the state's top prospect in 4-star defensive end Jamario Bell, who was Arkansas' top target at the position.
Rated the No. 146 player in the country, Bell also plays tight end in high school, but he was recruited as a defensive end. His athleticism is off the charts, and his 4.60 speed is going to make him a lot for offensive linemen to handle.
The biggest thing he is going to have to work on is adding muscle and weight, as he's listed at just 225 pounds. With some muscle, Bell has the potential to be one of the best defensive ends in the SEC and in the country.
His commitment is solid and gives Arkansas a future star.
Linebacker is another position where the Hogs need all the help they can get. Their top target is 5-star Justin Hilliard, who is also one of the top recruits in the entire country regardless of position.
Hilliard is probably the biggest long shot on this list, but hey, we live in America, so you can dream big.
Every facet of Hilliard's game is impressive. From his instincts and athleticism to his tackling and reactive quickness, there's not one thing he is bad at. By far his best quality is his pursuit of whoever has the ball. It seems like every play there is, Hilliard is in on it, or at least forcing ball-carriers to change their direction.
He's a sideline-to-sideline player and, more simply, a pure playmaker.
According to his profile, Hilliard has seven schools that he's seriously considering, with Arkansas being one of them. It's going to be tough to get him away from Ohio State and Michigan, which are the favorites according to the experts on his Crystal Ball Predictions, but crazier things have happened.
Last is the secondary, where the Razorbacks could also use some more depth. This could change, but as of now, the top target is 3-star cornerback/safety Dre Greenlaw from Arkansas' own backyard in Fayetteville.
Though he committed to Arkansas State back in February, the Hogs have flipped a number of Red Wolves commits over the years, and he could be the next one in line.
At 6'0", 190 pounds, Greenlaw has the frame you look for in a defensive back. He is physical in coverage and good in one-on-one situations, something the Arkansas secondary struggled mightily with in 2013. He also has the speed to keep up with some of the faster wideouts the SEC has to offer.
Greenlaw attended the Razorbacks junior day on March 1 and also made an unofficial visit on March 18. His recruitment is far from over despite his commitment to Arkansas State.
All player rankings and stats courtesy of 247Sports.
Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.