I'm not a recruiting reporter.
I don't spend countless hours developing relationships with recruits and the people around them like the Arkansas recruiting reporters do. I discuss what's publicly available.
When K.J. Hill announced through Twitter Sunday afternoon that he was decommitting from the Razorbacks, it set off a firestorm - as these types of incidents always do with large fan bases (if you feel like rubbernecking someone else's misfortune, just go see how Texas A&M fans handled 5* Daylon Mack's decommitment a few weeks ago).
Of course, it's awful what people will often tweet directly to recruits in these situations. It's impossible to condone but there's no stopping it. When head coaches are implicitly encouraging fans to use outlets like Twitter to lavish positive messaging to prospects throughout the year, and recruits themselves show that they enjoy the attention, it creates a sense of attachment with people. When that recruit commits to a different school, or - often worse - commits and then decommits from your school, it hurts people's feelings. That excuses nothing, of course, but it is a natural albeit unfortunate aspect of social media culture. That's why if I was a high-profile athlete, I would probably just not participate in social media.
I don't pretend to know all the minutia regarding Hill's decommitment. He and his stepfather did make clear that the loss of Jim Chaney and non-extension (thus far) of Michael Smith had an impact because of concerns about Arkansas' offense in the future.
That's understandable given Bielema's (inaccurate) reputation as a guy who prefers the 9-offensive-lineman set whenever possible. I believe he knows he needs to have a balanced offense, and he ultimately is shooting for a pro-style attack. Not that opposing recruiters will care about that.
Additionally, assistant coaches are the ones whom recruits develop relationships with and welcome into their homes. They're the face of the program to the high school kids.
What bothers me about that is how rare it is for assistant coaches to stay at one place for four or more years.
Consider this: the last recruiting class at Arkansas to have the same offensive coordinator for four straight years? The 2002 group. And that's only really a technicality because Houston Nutt was infamously his own OC until he was forced to hire Gus Malzahn. Nobody has held the position for longer than two years since then. It's basically the Defense Against the Dark Arts job. The defensive coordinator spot for Arkansas has been only slightly more secure, but that's basically only because Bobby Petrino waited longer to fire Willie Robinson than anybody expected.
It's easy to overcomplicate this stuff. I would just advise not basing college decisions on a stat. Except for Georgia Tech. Don't know how they attract receivers running that triple option.
Obviously, we don't yet know how this Hill story will play out over the next two weeks. I don't think it's over yet. I do think, from a fan's perspective, a story of 10 highly-recruited in-state prospects coming together and leading the Razorbacks on a great run over the next few years is a pretty powerful story, and I think it will be sad if that doesn't happen. Not that Hill should base his decision on that, either. Plus, it's certainly possible other members of the group fall off at some point (but hopefully not).
Speaking of those other in-state prospects, Fayetteville tight end C.J. O'Grady received a big jump in the new Rivals rankings today, into the overall top 100 prospects in the nation at #90. He's now the top-rated prospect on the commitment list.
I think it says something about the coaching staff's ability to evaluate prospects when a player is offered as a relatively unknown prospect - or even before the rankings come out - and that prospect emerges as a top-rated talent in that class. Granted, it can sometimes work in the opposite direction, but it gives the staff credibility when they boastfully declare not to care about recruiting rankings.
It should also be noted, Houston offensive tackle Toby Weathersby is #98 on that list. He visited Arkansas last weekend and many think the Hogs have a nice chance to land him as well.
Another of last weekend's visitors, Nate Dalton, announced today that he's trimmed his list to four schools, including Arkansas:
Narrowing it down to my top 4: Michigan,Liberty,Kentucky,and Arkansas #NoOrder pic.twitter.com/I8EgPbikI6— Nathaniel Dalton (@TheN8Dalton) January 19, 2015
Don't ask me to explain Liberty. I got nothin.
Consecutive losses by the basketball team for the second time this season hasn't done much to instill confidence in many that the program is really headed in a great direction.
I think part of the reason for that is the quiet on the recruiting front. Arkansas definitely has one more scholarship available to sign somebody in the spring, and if Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls leave (which I don't think is certain but is speculated by many), the Hogs will be able to sign three more people.
The Razorbacks signed Jimmy Whitt in the fall, who is a great prospect at guard, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of attention around anybody else. That's not to say there isn't any. The basketball staff is notoriously more tight-lipped about leaking recruiting info compared to the football program. So we just don't really know who they might be looking at and how much interest any players have in Arkansas.
The Hogs did host highly-regarded Ted Kapita on an official visit during football season, and he recently listed Arkansas in his top 3 with Memphis and Missouri, but he's also been hurt this season by potentially-serious pinched nerve in his hip.
There's just very little out there regarding potential new players - save for the high-profile recruitment of Malik Monk, but if he does come to Arkansas it won't be until the 2016-17 season.
Considering of the five new players this season, only Anton Beard has shown significant potential for the future, it's easy to be a little nervous about how the future of the basketball program. They could end up with multiple signees this spring (depending on who leaves) and if they can get the season back on track, should hopefully have a lot of positive momentum throughout the process. Plus, the magical practice facility is scheduled to be completed this summer, so we'll see if that helps recruiting as we were told it would.
This spring signing period will be key for the Hogs' future (I know, all signing periods are), so hopefully Mike Anderson and the basketball staff has something up their sleeve. It'll be an interesting few months.