FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas is 2-2 to start the 2020 football season and no longer are they considered the team everyone in the SEC wants to play.
The Hogs are still recruiting hard to finish up the Class of 2021 and add to the 2022 group. This recruiting cycle is like none other anyone has experienced and may never again.
First, recruits are going to be asked to sign in many cases without ever even visiting the school they choose. No organized unofficial visits have been allowed since the middle of March and there has been zero official visits.
In addition to that, any senior who wants to return next season can now do so. The seniors are basically a free shot for the colleges. They won’t count against the school’s allowed 25 scholarships for 2021 nor will they go against the 85 allowed on scholarship at one time. In other words if a school has 15 scholarship seniors this year who want to return for 2021 then then would have 100 players on scholarships next year.
That provides some interesting twists for schools and recruits. Arkansas’ scholarship seniors are running back Rakeem Boyd, offensive lineman Ty Clary, left tackle Myron Cunningham, linebacker Deon Edwards, quarterback Feleipe Franks, defensive end Dorian Gerald, wide receiver T.J. Hammonds, linebacker Hayden Henry, cornerback Jerry Jacobs, defensive tackle Xavier Kelly, tight end Blake Kern, quarterback Jack Lindsey, defensive tackle Jonathan Marshall, linebacker Grant Morgan, wide receiver Tyson Morris, kicker AJ Reed, defensive back Micahh Smith and wide receiver De’Vion Warren.
How many of them will return? No one can say at this time. Sam Pittman addressed this issue recently in a Zoom conference. Pittman said he would like to have at least 10 seniors back and basically any of them who wanted to come back.
Pittman also was asked how the staff has managed to maintain a strong recruiting class without being allowed to bring kids on campus?
“I think it’s just continuing to do what we’re doing,” Pittman said. “Obviously, we can’t do anything first-person until at least January. I think I’m very fortunate in hiring a good group of recruiters. And recruiting is constant interaction. I think our guys do a really good job of that, and I think they’re believable because they are just who they are. It’s not a fake persona of who you may be one time and somebody else the next. I think kids and families have enjoyed that part of our coaching staff. We still have a few more to go, so we’re really concentrating on that and continuing to try to get the 2022 kids.”
Pittman and his staff signed five grad transfers and a junior college player in the Class of 2020. They have 19 commitments for 2021, what are the remaining priorities and is it likely you save some for grad transfers this year as well?
“I think you’re gonna save some scholarships for grad transfers as well as the one-transfer rule if that passes,” Pittman said. “So I think you’re gonna need to have a couple in your pocket. We are certainly looking for defensive linemen. We would have a spot obviously for a safety. But most of our concerns in recruiting right now are on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously we could take another offensive lineman.”
A couple of names to keep an eye on are Atlanta (Ga.) Tri-Cities defensive tackle Cameron Ball, 6-5, 303, who also runs on the relay team in track. Ball has Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Illinois and Arizona State.
Another is Brooklyn (N.Y.) Erasmus Hall offensive tackle Armon Bethea, 6-6, 310. He will play in the All-American Game in San Antonio, Texas, on Jan. 9. He has a Top 4 of Arkansas, Arizona State, Louisville and Ole Miss.
Arkansas is also recruiting some additional help from the junior colleges, particularly on defense.