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 member and past president 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. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Arkansas lacks an important built-in edge
Ran across an interesting story that ran last year on bannersociety.com.
Not a lot is known about the website, but it also publishes SBNation and Vox.
The story ranked all 50 states for producing blue-chip football players from 2010-19, and a couple of the numbers were checked and the story seems pretty accurate.
Just to get this out of the way, Arkansas was tied for 27th with two. If you want to argue that the state produced more five-star players than that, take it up with the website.
Arkansas is a small, mostly rural state that simply doesn’t have a comparable number of football players to most states, and definitely not the SEC.
Arkansas was last among SEC schools, with Kentucky at four blue-chippers, and South Carolina and Missouri producing five as the closest to the Hogs.
Florida was No. 1 with 59, but as the story pointed out that’s where IMG Academy in Bradenton is located. While the athletes are from all over the country, they are counted in Florida’s total if they played there last.
IMG had eight, which would have tied it for 11th if it were a state and not just a sports factory.
Texas was second with 54, followed by Georgia (36), California (30), Louisiana (16) and Alabama (15).
The rest of the SEC includes Tennessee (11) and Mississippi (6).
Before you throw your hands up and say the Razorbacks can never win a national championship, consider that Oklahoma produced only four such players. That hasn’t stopped the Sooners from winning at least 10 games in every season but four since 2000.
Just going on the raw numbers, it would seem Florida, Florida State or Miami should win the national championship every season, but a large number of the blue-chippers from Florida go to schools such as Alabama and Clemson.
Because of their pedigree, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Ohio State and a handful of other programs recruit nationally with success.
Of this year’s recruiting classes (high school seniors), Alabama has 13 commitments from eight states; Clemson 12 from seven; Oklahoma 15 from eight; and Ohio State 14 from eight.
Arkansas has 17 from seven states, but the majority are homegrown and this is an exceptionally talented in-state class.
For now, the Razorbacks are like the majority of football programs — they are regional recruiters. The Hogs always have needed players from states that border Arkansas.
It is still very early in the recruiting process, and the Razorbacks are currently No. 19 nationally and No. 7 in the SEC.
As of today, Penn State is No. 1. The Nittany Lions probably won’t stay there because they have 24 commitments and Alabama has just 13.
Nick Saban never gets in a hurry, and he never settles for a three-star player when there are fours and fives available.
Winning makes that possible.
Winning is something the Razorbacks have been short on recently, which shows just how hard Sam Pittman and his staff are working.
Most programs that were 18-41 the past five years likely wouldn’t have commitments from five four-star players this early like Arkansas can boast.
Recruiting is an inexact science. For every four- or five-star disappointment, there is a three-star player who ends up in the NFL.
For coaches such as Pittman who are trying to turn a cruise ship around, it takes time.
All of those folks who are predicting a bowl game this season need to keep in mind Arkansas has one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Pittman knows how to build a program, and he’s doing it one recruiting class at a time.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.