Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Same old story: Everyone chasing Alabama
Alabama Coach Nick Saban discusses the signing day successes of 2014, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, at the Mal Moore Athletic Facility in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/The Birmingham News, Vasha Hunt)
As expected, Alabama finished first in the recruiting race and the SEC managed to have seven of the top 10 recruiting classes in America.
All 14 SEC football programs finished among the top 50 out of 125 as Vanderbilt rallied the last couple of days and moved from No. 71 to No. 50.
The Arkansas Razorbacks moved up too, just not that much.
The late addition of JoJo Robinson moved the Hogs to as high as No. 29 and helped relieve some of the disappointment of losing defensive end Solomon Thomas to Stanford. The Hogs finished second on him, but in recruiting there is no difference between second and last.
Robinson is a little like Alex Collins in that he is from Miami and had offers from big-time schools like Florida State, Miami, UCLA and Southern Cal to name a few.
He is 6-0, 185 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds. He was the Razorbacks’ fifth signee from southern Florida, and while he was rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals, others such as ESPN had him as a four-star prospect.
College coaches have started to believe there are more diamonds in the rough in Florida than in any other state. That is partly because few kids play football year round there like they do in Texas.
Overall, this was a solid recruiting class for Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema. It was on a par with last year’s class, and that one produced several true freshmen who started or were counted on in the two-man rotation.
This class includes 12 defensive players, 11 offensive players and a kicker.
On paper it appears Bielema and his staff tried to address some specific needs. They signed five defensive backs and three linebackers in hopes of shoring up a leaky pass defense that finished No. 72 in the nation last season, allowing an average of 235 yards per game.
Depth at receiver was another concern, and the Razorbacks signed four receivers, two with excellent speed.
He also added to his growing herd of offensive linemen.
The Hogs signed four offensive tackles. It’s a common practice among the better programs to sign tackles and move some of them to guard. Three are 6-6 and the fourth is 6-5, and the weights run 315 (6-5 Sebastian Tretola, who is out of Iowa Western Community College and already on campus), 305, 290 and 291.
Where’s the beef? At Arkansas.
No one knows right now how many members of this newest class will contribute next year, but most likely there will be a few.
Bielema left no doubt last season he is going to play the best players regardless of classification. Yes, even at quarterback, where Brandon Allen played most of the season with nagging injuries.
Considering that the Razorbacks were 7-17 the past two seasons, this may have been a better-than-expected class. Missouri played for the SEC championship and its recruiting class came in around 35th.
Auburn played for the national championship and it slipped slightly to No. 8, but part of that was losing a five-star hometown hero and because LSU rallied over the last week and pushed itself into the No. 2 slot just behind the Tide, who signed 26. LSU does have two more scholarships available.
Alabama and LSU could be two of the four playoff teams in the near future.
The big surprise was Tennessee, which somehow managed to sign 31 players and ended up No. 5 in the country.
Overall, Bielema helped the Hogs with this signing class.
It isn’t a gee-whiz group overall, but defense has been a huge problem the past two years and Bielema tried to get some help.
Sports, Pages 15 on 02/06/2014