If you've been following Arkansas' recruiting this year (and why wouldn't you?) you probably know that the Razorbacks have spent the bulk of the year outside the top 25 and toward the bottom of the SEC.
However, I've always felt like it was kind of pointless to compare recruiting classes before they're complete. Many of the teams ranked above Arkansas have many more commitments, so Arkansas almost assuredly will move up in the rankings as the Hogs pick up their last batch of commitments through Signing Day. The big question is, "How far up can Arkansas go?"
*I know. We all think recruiting rankings are dumb because we can all name a bunch of 2* recruits playing in the NFL and a 5* who never even cracked an All-Conference team. I agree that there's no guarantee that any individual player will or will not live up to his recruiting billing, but you can't deny the very strong correlation between highly rated overall classes and success in the SEC. It's not a perfect correlation, but it's strong. Missouri in 2013 is the exception, not the rule.
One of the cool features on 247's site is the recruiting class calculator. It lets you hypothetically add or remove players from your team's commit list, and gives your class an estimate of what the class's score would be with the players you add. By the way, this isn't an ad for 247, lot of other good stuff on the other recruiting sites as well, but this is a nice feature.
As of this writing, Arkansas is #31 in the rankings with 206.01 points. The #25 team is Virginia Tech with 215.48 points. Considering the Hokies already have 25 commitments listed, and the schools ranked 21-26 all have at least 24 commitments, 216 points seems like an accurate gauge for a top 25-ish class. Last year, Mississippi State came in at #25 with 212.84 points, so this feels like a decent estimate.
My understanding is that Arkansas is looking to take nine more commitments (repeat after me "the numbers will work themselves out") and it seems like every year a couple of commitments end up not signing, but it seems pointless to speculate on that front. We'll just hope one of Arkansas doesn't lose one of their higher-rated commitments.
The player who could make this whole thing very simple is 5* defensive end Solomon Thomas, who announced on Monday that Arkansas was in his top three along with UCLA and Stanford. Just adding him alone would push Arkansas up to 220.5 points, likely well into the top 25. The Hogs could very well end up with a top 20 class with his signature to go along with the other players that commit in the next few weeks. Thomas is scheduled to officially visit Arkansas this weekend.
But if Thomas picks one of the schools in California it gets a bit trickier.
Joshua Liddell is a safety from Pine Bluff Dollarway who was recently offered by the Hogs, and many expect him to commit soon, so we'll add him to the list. Another likely commit appears to be Cornelius Floyd, a wide receiver from Miami who visited Arkansas last weekend. Those two bring Arkansas up to 208.49 points.
Obviously, even if those two turn out to be outstanding players, they won't move Arkansas' class ranking up very much. So who are the Razorbacks hoping to land who'll have a big impact on the perception of the class's overall quality?
4* athlete Jojo Robinson is scheduled to visit Arkansas this weekend, and the most recent Crystal Ball predictions for him are picking Arkansas. If he commits, that pushes Arkansas to 213.78 points, putting Arkansas in pretty good position knowing they'll still fill some more spots.
Linebacker Zack Wary* from nearby Rogers could choose the Hogs, although he reportedly didn't grow up a Razorback fan and is exploring his other offers before committing. The 247 guys liked him a lot, boosting him to 4* status shortly after receiving an Arkansas offer. His commitment along with Robinson's pushes Arkansas to 217.60.
*It should be noted that Wary is much higher rated on 247 than on Rivals. His commitment will likely not boost Arkansas' score on Rivals much.
Offensive tackle Frank Ragnow has Arkansas in his final three, and he's rated between Wary and Robinson. If Arkansas landed all three, they'd have 221.08 points, putting Arkansas well into the top 25 with a few spots to go.
Other than Thomas, those are the three biggest prospects Arkansas has a good chance at picking up, at least according to 247. The Hogs are also hoping to get commitments from linebacker Sharief Raheed and defensive end Demetrius Jackson, who are both high three-star prospects, as well as offensive lineman Andrew Mike, who visited last week. Raheed, Jackson, and Mike - along with the previous five players discussed - push Arkansas up to 225.59, which could put Arkansas around the top 20.
However, for Arkansas to pick up more than six more commitments, they'll have to lose some people, as is expected. The good news is that as long as the players lost aren't Bijhon Jackson or Brian Wallace, two top prospects who both seem extremely solid for Arkansas, it's unlikely to significantly affect the overall ranking.
Since we're talking about 247, I think you can divide the top seven remaining prospects into three brackets
- The first is Solomon Thomas by himself
- The second is Jojo Robinson, Frank Ragnow, and Zack Wary
- The third is Demetrius Jackson, Sharieff Raheed, and Andrew Mike
If the Razorbacks are somehow fortunate enough to land all of them, you can forget the top 25. Arkansas could be looking at a top 20 class. That would be an absolute home run finish.
If Thomas commits elsewhere:
- If Arkansas lands the other six: still great shape. Should easily be top 25. Still pretty close to top 20.
- Arkansas can land any two players from each of the two brackets, and they should make the Top 25
- If Arkansas lands all three second-bracket players but none of the third-bracket players, the Hogs are probably still in.
- If Arkansas only lands one of the second-bracket players, they may need all three third-bracket players. It'll be close. It probably depends on which players leave the class at that point.
- In short, the Razorbacks probably need four of those six players altogether to be in.
It should be noted that these are not the only players Arkansas is recruiting, they're just likely the most high-profile, and therefore the ones to most likely affect the class ranking.
I'm not going to pretend there's some magical ceiling to having the #25 class compared to the #26 class. As far as quality of players, there's no real difference. That just happens to be an arbitrary cutoff into what's usually listed among the top classes in the country.
It's all about the perception. A school's recruiting ranking sends a message to people about the direction of the program. If Arkansas can lands some of those top players and scores a top 25 class, it will make people think Arkansas is bringing in a good group of players who will help the program be more competitive. If the class stays in the thirties, it will not be very well-respected.
It's two weeks until Signing Day. Two big recruiting weekends to go. A lot of commitments (and a couple of decommitments) likely to happen. Should be fun.
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