We're under a week from Signing Day, and Arkansas still has about a third of its class left to fill. Several top targets won't announce until Signing Day, meaning fans have been spending time tirelessly searching for commitment clues in basically the same way many of us search for clues to Rey's parentage in Star Wars or Jon Snow's life status in Game of Thrones. At least, that's what I've heard about people doing. Not that I would know.
Last year, Arkansas' class was almost entirely committed by this point. Dominique Reed was really the only Signing Day story. Bret Bielema remarked afterward something to the effect that he does his best to plan out his classes with players who announce early and don't go through the Signing Day spectacle, so naturally his next class will hang in the balance until players put on hats next week.
The Razorbacks are finalists for enough top prospects this year that if all the dominoes fall toward Fayetteville, the Hogs will easily end up with their highest-rated class of the modern recruiting era, but unfortunately, Arkansas is not considered the clear favorite for most of them.
So let's take a quick look at how things stand. As of this writing, Arkansas has 17 commitments and a total score of 212.62 on the 247Composite, the recruiting class rankings that average the grades from all the major recruiting outlets. The class is currently ranked 23rd, but that will change as the Hogs and other schools collect last-minute commitments over the next few days.
Looking back over the last couple of class rankings, a team would need a little over 217 points to crack the top 25 - which Arkansas seems in great shape to do - and about 233 points to sneak into the top 20, which Arkansas can do if enough of the top prospects call the Hogs next week.
The highest-profile prospect still considering Arkansas is 5-star cornerback Kristian Fulton from Metairie, Louisiana. LSU is the clear favorite for him, especially considering his father is known to be a huge Tigers fan and is active on LSU message boards. Fulton did visit Fayetteville last weekend and has apparently convinced his father to let the Arkansas coaches come for an in-home visit that was most recently scheduled for today (Thursday). It's been a fluid situation so we'll see how that visit shakes out.
It would be a big surprise if he didn't pick LSU. SB Nation wrote the following in predicting Fulton to LSU:
Let's apply the annual LSU rule that seems to work extremely well:
- Prospect is from somewhere in Louisiana South of Highway 84? Check,
- LSU expressed interest throughout the cycle? Check,
- Prospect does not have family connection to another contender: Check,
- Confirm that Alabama is not the top competitor: Check,
- Predict prospect to LSU
Bret Bielema does have experience getting high-profile players to come to Arkansas when their parents aren't totally on board. Jalen Merrick was such a case last year and we all remember Alex Collins' mother running off with his LOI to keep him from signing it. Bielema will have navigate through those swampy waters again to get Fulton. If Bielema can pull the miracle, it alone would push Arkansas up to over 227 points.
However, one top prospect many think the Razorbacks are in great shape with is wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland. Cleveland is a very high 4-star recruit from Houston who is technically committed to his hometown Cougars. Since Cleveland's visit to Fayetteville last weekend, though, there have been a few predictions for Cleveland to Arkansas on his Crystal Ball. He'll visit Florida this weekend and the Gators, along with TCU, are thought to be his finalists. He'd put the Hogs to over 226 points.
Arkansas already has the top-rated running back from Texas committed in Devwah Whaley, and if they're able to snag Cleveland, the state's top receiver, that would be a pretty amazing coup for Bielema and Arkansas.
The Hogs have also been targeting a second top running back from Texas for a long time in Kyle Porter. Porter has been uniquely silent to recruiting reporters throughout the year, but he's taking his three official visits to Texas, TCU, and this weekend to Arkansas. The Texas people didn't seem to feel too confident following the Austin visit, and there have been some Crystal Ball predictions made for TCU, but with the upcoming Arkansas visit still to go, the Razorbacks feel very much in play here. Porter would move Arkansas up to almost 220 points.
The other 4-star prospect who's visited recently is safety Brandon Jones, but most people seem to think he'll end up at one of the Texas schools. Post visit reports indicated his mother in particular was very impressed with the Hogs, but there hasn't been much buzz for him with Arkansas this week and I haven't seen any predictions he'll end up in Fayetteville. It would be a pleasant surprise. If he did pick Arkansas, he'd give the Hogs' a similar boost to Cleveland.
Of course, there are still several 3-star prospects who've visited recently or are scheduled to visit. Juco All-American cornerback Joseph Putu should arrive in Fayetteville today. Florida visited him recently but his first major offer was to Arkansas and that's where he's taking his visit this weekend. Have to like Arkansas' chances there. Linebacker Dee Walker is coming for a visit, and he's teammates with Hog commit Kiel Pollard - although Pollard will announce on Sunday whether he'll stick with the Hogs or flip to South Carolina. Juco offensive tackle Paul Ramirez is also visiting this weekend.
Natually, the recruiting reporters say there is at least one more secret visitor coming in this weekend as well. One of last week's secrets was former 4-star offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman, who will graduate from Michigan this spring with two years of eligibility remaining. However, Arkansas has apparently not yet offered and I'd be surprised, given his legal situation, if the SEC would even allow him in the league. The SEC has taken a hard stance on accepting any graduate transfers with any sort of disciplinary issues in their background, such as their refusal last year to allow Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson to enter the league. Arkansas could apply for a waiver or things might change if he's acquitted, but as of now, I'm not holding my breath. Y'all can thank Houston Nutt for those strict transfer rules, by the way.
Arkansas is also awaiting word from safety, Calvin Bundage, receiver/corner Tyrell Alexander, and defensive end Allen Cater. Chris Daniels, the 4-star from Dallas who is an Arkansas native, reportedly told Arkansas he'd visit A&M this weekend and not officially visit Arkansas, so that seems it won't happen now.
Any commitments will boost Arkansas' class scores on some level. As you can see, it could get pretty high or it could stay reasonably close to where they are. I think the Hogs will have a top 25 class. But the potential is there for more.