College Football in February comes in the form of National Signing Day, and yesterday brought the Hogs twenty-three signatures from young men who want to be Razorbacks. I give them all a big "Woo Pig Sooie" welcome. Before going into further details about them, I would like to say that if I were a highly touted wide receiver from Arkansas and had a chance to play for the Razorbacks, even though I had offers from Missouri, Texas, and OU, I would have gone with the team I grew up supporting, even though it might not be the best team on the block. That's what I would imagine I would do, so I can understand the home state pull. And if Missouri over there in the East can use DGB to knock-off an SEC West team, all the better for the Hogs. It isn't like we lost him to LSU, Auburn, or Alabama. But enough with the one that got away, let's look at those recruits who smiled back.
RANKINGS: What did the national people think of the class? Rivals puts the class at 31. Scout has them at 21. 247 has them at 27. We didn't make ESPN's top 25. If you average all of that out, Arkansas's 2012 class was ahead of only Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Kentucky.
STARS: In terms of stars, according to Rivals, the Hogs picked up 0 - 5 stars, 2 - 4 stars, 20 - 3 stars, and 1 - 2 star recruit.
GEOGRAPHY: Arkansas got most of its recruits from Texas, with six players. Arkansas gave the team five players. Three were snatched from OU/OSU country in Oklahoma. The state that gave us Dylan Breeding, Alabama, gave us two additional players this year. Tennessee also contributed two. Then Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey all contributed one each. That equals eleven different states.
AND THOSE RECRUITS ARE:
Vin Ascolese - LB 6-2/215 Two Stars
Cordale Boyd - OL 6-4/290 Three Stars
Ray Buchanan Jr. - DB 5-11/178 Three Stars
Jared Collins - DB 6-0/170 Three Stars
D'Arthur Cowan - WR 6-3/175 Three Stars
Austin Flynn - DE 6-4/260 Three Stars
Keon Hatcher - WR 6-2/205 Three Stars
Eric Hawkins - WR 5-11/172 Three Stars
Will Hines - DB 6-1/175 Three Stars
Nathan Holmes - ATH 6-1/185 Three Stars
Taiwan Johnson - DE 6-3/240 Three Stars
Brandon Lewis- DE 6-5/ 225 Three Stars
Defonta Lowe - DB 6-3/185 Three Stars
Otha Peters - LB 6-1/221 Four Stars (Ranked 6th Nationally at Position)
Darius Philon - DE 6-1/282 Three Stars
Donovan Roberts - RB 6-0/200 Three Stars
Jeremy Sprinkle - DE 6-6/210 Three Stars
A.J. Turner - LB 6-3/205 Three Stars
Jeremy Ward - OL 6-4/290 Three Stars
Jonathan Williams - RB 5-11/205 Four Stars (Ranked 17th Nationally at Position)
Demetrius Wilson - WR 6-1/175 Three Stars
JaMichael Winston - DE 6-5/226 Three Stars
Deatrich Wise - DE 6-5/235 Three Stars
* That's 14 players on defense out of the 23 signed. The class has more projected defensive ends (seven) than any other position. Though Petrino did recruit a number of wide receivers, you can't really label this class a class that is too heavy on offense. But is it a class of defensive talent on par with LSU and Alabama? No, not likely. But we do have a new man in charge of the defense, and we'll get to see what he can make of these guys. Coach them up, as they say.
* No quarterbacks this year. That means he must be pretty pleased with they guys behind Tyler Wilson at the moment. Brandon Allen, for example. There's still Brandon Mitchell as well.
* My favorite "name" of the bunch is Otha Peters. He combines both my grandfathers' names into one. I had an Otha on my father's side and a Pete on my mother's side.
* Speaking of names, how can Taiwan Johnson at linebacker not be a great linebacker with a name like that? haha.
* Rankings? Yeah, count me as disappointed that after two great seasons we are still living in the land of mostly three stars and didn't have more of a splash with the national ranking services. Can you put too much stock into the stars and rankings? Yes, you certainly can. Can you also put too little stock in them? Yes, I believe you can do that as well. The truth, as with most things, is to be found somewhere in the middle, I suspect.
* Why the low rankings? Arkansas is a program on the rise, but we are always going to be a small state with a relatively small crop of SEC talented players who grew up as Razorback fans. Around just 20 percent of our class came from Arkansas. The Hogs need an SEC championship and/or a national championship to standout bigger in the eyes of these top recruits. Auburn, Florida, LSU, Alabama, they have all won championships in recent years, so naturally they attract talent. Who doesn't want to be associated with winners?
* But probably like you, I still find it depressing that our guys are not thought of as highly as say the players recruited by Tennessee. Has Derek Dooley really attracted a better group of players to his sinking ship, or do our players get ranked lower simply because they were recruited by us? The same player, if recruited by Bama, for example, would he jump higher in the stars? Probably.
* Petrino and personality? I wonder if Bobby's demeanor (not warm and fuzzy) scares off some of these recruits they go after? And probably not much kissing of butt either from Petrino. Nick Saban has never been accused of being warm and fuzzy either, but these kids know that with three national championships to his name he can get the job done. Nick Saban can afford to be more of a straight talking hard-ass, possibly. With that being said, Petrino has had a lot of success with the recruits he has picked up (class of 2008) and we have not had a lot of drama and discipline problems from them either. (Knock on wood).
* I wonder out of those names, who will emerge as a Razorback who will go down in Razorback lore as a well loved and fondly remembered player? Is there a D.J. Williams in there? Who will break some records? In time, should Darren McFadden be worried about Donovan Roberts or Jonathan Williams? I hope so! Should Jarius Wright be worried about Demetrius Wilson or Keon Hatcher? I really hope so! haha.
BIG PICTURE: OLD MAIN ISN'T FALLING DOWN PERSPECTIVE:
Thanks to the guys over at bloghawgs for this wider picture of recruiting classes.
2008 24th Overall - 6th in SEC
2009 20th Overall - 9th in SEC
2010 35th Overall - 9th in SEC
2011 17th Overall - 7th in SEC
2008 36th Overall - 9th in SEC
2009 16th Overall - 7th in SEC
2010 49th Overall - 10th in SEC
2011 24th Overall - 9th in SEC
As you can see, the Hogs have not ever finished in the Top Five in the conference when it comes to recruiting under Petrino. But the Hogs just finished the season in the Top Five nationally in the poll that matters. I think that says a lot about Petrino and his coaching abilities (staff as well) and something too about only how far these recruiting rankings can take you. The Hogs sure have not been finishing 9th in the SEC on the field.
If by chance any of you recruits are reading this website, let me sign off here by welcoming you again to the Razorback family. I think you made a great selection by choosing the Hogs, for you will have a great set of dedicated coaches and fans pulling for you during the next four years. You will also get to live and study in a great college town in Fayetteville. And you get the unique opportunity to put your mark on not just the record books at the UofA, but also on Senior Walk where some day you might bring your grandkids to Fayetteville to show them your name amongst the class of 2016. Tusk smiles on you all.