The Recruiting Guy:

Early signing period to test UA hire

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Sunday, November 24, 2019
An Arkansas football helmet sits on the sideline during a game between the Razorbacks and Mississippi State on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
An Arkansas football helmet sits on the sideline during a game between the Razorbacks and Mississippi State on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Fayetteville.

Putting together a recruiting class will be the biggest challenge for the new University of Arkansas head coach. The early signing period, which began two recruiting cycles ago, makes it much more difficult.

Former Arkansas coaches Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema put together impressive first-year recruiting classes when the signing day was on the first Wednesday in February. Petrino signed ESPN's No. 26 class nationally in 2008 and No. 5 in the SEC, while Bielema inked the No. 31 class in the nation and No. 12 in the SEC.

Petrino was aided by a strong in-state class that included Jarius Wright, Tyler Wilson, Dennis Johnson, Greg Childs, Chris Gragg and Joe Adams.

Bielema signed a class that included Alex Collins, Hunter Henry, Denver Kirkland, Dan Skipper, Austin Allen, Drew Morgan and Martrell Spaight.

Former coach Chad Morris was the first to deal with the early signing period as a newly hired coach. He was hired Dec. 6, 2017, and in less than two weeks signed seven prospects during the early signing period on Dec. 19-21. He added 10 more signees in the latter signing period for a total of 17 signees for the 2018 class. ESPN rated the class No. 51 nationally and last in the SEC.

From 2010 to 2017, Arkansas' best class was ranked No. 19 nationally by ESPN. The low was No. 30 in 2014.

If the 2018 class is any indication, the 2020 class likely won't stack up to past classes. Arkansas' new coach will have to put together a staff, evaluate the roster and try to persuade the current players to stay out of the transfer portal while trying to patch together a recruiting class during the Dec. 18-20 early signing period.

Past trends show approximately 70% of the prospects have signed during the early signing period. A much smaller pool of recruits is up for grabs for the February signing period.

With a full year to recruit for the 2019 class, Morris and his staff signed ESPN's No. 23 class nationally. The Hogs inked 10 four-star recruits in 2019 vs. only three for the 2018 class.

The Hogs have six commitments for the 2020 class. Prior to the firing of Morris, Arkansas had 14 commitments. Several of the prospects who reopened their recruitment after Morris was let go have indicated they're open to hearing from the new coach while hoping some of the coaches on the current staff are retained.

It's generally thought that Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek will name a new coach shortly after the Missouri game on Friday at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Email Richard Davenport at rdavenport@arkansasonline.com.

Sports on 11/24/2019

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