FAYETTEVILLE — With the early signing period set to begin one week from today it’s worth noting that three players who came to Arkansas and now headed to the NFL enjoyed a lot of success while in Fayetteville.
It’s known that Alabama, Oklahoma and others are trying to flip an Arkansas commitment or two their way and that’s what coaches do. That is the way recruiting works, but sometimes a closer look is required to see the clearer view.
It’s easy to get caught up in the glamour of schools like Alabama and Oklahoma, but looking at the three players at Arkansas who have opted out of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl illustrates the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Wide receiver Jadon Haselwood transferred to Arkansas after three seasons at Oklahoma. Linebacker Drew Sanders chose Arkansas after leaving Alabama where he played for two seasons. Center Ricky Stromberg chose Arkansas after not being recruited by the Sooners despite playing at Tulsa (Okla.) Union. Arkansas helped position all three in a good place for the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s worth noting both Haselwood and Sanders were five-star recruits and Stromberg a four-star out of high school.
In three seasons at OU, Haselwood played in 28 games with 12 starts. He caught 62 passes for 736 yards and seven touchdowns. His best season was 2021 when he caught 39 passes for 399 yards and six touchdowns while starting all 12 games.
At Arkansas in 2022, Haselwood caught 59 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns. He was just three receptions and 34 yards short of matching his career totals with the Sooners. One will never know how Haselwood would have done had he spent four years at Arkansas, but it’s clear the one he did turned out well for him.
Sanders played for the Tide two years. He saw action in 25 games with three starts. In two years, Sanders had 33 tackles, 16 solo, 2.5 for loss, one sack, five quarterback hurries and two pass breakups.
In 12 games with Arkansas, Sanders became a consensus All-America selection. He became only the ninth Razorback in school history to be named a consensus All-America. He joined elite company such as Billy Ray Smith Jr. (twice), Darren McFadden, Shawn Andrews, Greg Kolenda, Bud Brooks, Steve Korte and Loyd Phillips achieving that honor.
In 2022 at Arkansas, Sanders had 103 tackles, 40 unassisted, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, one interception, five pass breakups, six quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and a recovered one. Once again the move to Arkansas seemingly worked out well for Sanders.
Despite being bumped late in the recruiting process to a four-star status by one recruitng service, Stromberg wasn’t drawing much interest from the Sooners. He flipped his commitment late from Tulsa to Arkansas. He became a four-year starter at Arkansas and leaves with 44 starts and recognized as one of the top centers in the nation.
So while it’s understandable some have their eyes get pretty big when the Sooners and Tide come after them, but it might be worth a closer look to check all the boxes that is a better move for you.