Signing Day Sadness
Wednesday was a miserable day to be a Razorback fan. Yes, of course, I'm very happy for all the players who signed with the Hogs and am excited to watch their careers develop. That goes without saying. This isn't about them.
This is about the fact that Arkansas whiffed on their Signing Day targets and closed the class with a whimper. It's clear from watching all the Signing Day ceremonies throughout the day that several schools are able to get multiple Signing Day commitments and watching the Razorbacks miss on Tyrie Cleveland, Kristian Fulton, Kyle Porter (on Tuesday), and the worst - just because he was actually committed to Arkansas - was losing Joseph Putu to Florida. So not only did Arkansas' class not get better on Signing Day, they actually lost a player, so it got worse.
That's the picture-perfect definition of a bad close. The past few years, Arkansas has been able to pull of some sort of surprise or late signee. Not this year. It was disappointing.
Bad Close Does Not Equal Bad Class
All that being said, this is still, by Arkansas' standards, about the same level of class as the Razorbacks usually sign. The class is currently ranked 25th in the composite rankings, which is generally close to where Arkansas finishes. And considering Arkansas only offered and signed four in-state recruits (down from 10 last year), that's a notable accomplishment.
The Hogs were able to get the signatures of highly rated out of state recruits like Devwah Whaley, Briston Guidry, and Jake Heinrich which really helped to boost the class. There are players here to be excited about.
Filling Needs? Maybe. Meeting Goals? No.
No matter what I or anybody reading this or anybody on talk radio or whatever message board thinks about this class, Bret Bielema outlined his own expectations for the class in a recent interview, and they came up short in some key areas. He said they wanted to sign 24-25 players. They signed 20. He said they wanted to sign 4-5 offensive linemen. They signed 3. He said they wanted to sign 2.5 running backs (with the assumption that T.J. Hammonds was the .5). They signed 1.5-2. They signed zero cornerbacks.
That doesn't mean they didn't meet some of their needs. They got the numbers they wanted at linebacker and the class doesn't include the return of Randy Ramsey. The defensive line class is great, but overall there are some really visible holes in certain places.
Since Arkansas only signed 20 players, they can add players later or roll the spots to next year if they can find some early enrollees, but with what's expected to be a weak in-state recruiting class, they'll probably need to do a better job finding out of state guys who can come in early. Arkansas only had two members of this year's class enroll this spring.
Back to Texas and Louisiana
After making recruiting in South Florida a priority for his first three classes at Arkansas, Bielema is only bringing in two signees from the Sunshine State this year (ironically, this is the year Arkansas was in some recruiting battles with Florida) in Deon Edwards and Alexy Jean-Baptiste.
However, a renewed focus on Texas and Louisiana players paid off as Arkansas brought in eight total players from the two neighboring states. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue. This is one of the reasons Arkansas is trying to play a lot of games in Texas, so it would be nice if that paid off.
In addition to the eight signees, many of Arkansas' top targets at the end were from those states so the number could easily be higher. Traditionally, those are areas where Arkansas can make inroads, so it's good to see that really starting to take shape.