When a team has such a rough season as Arkansas has had, the discussion goes to one of two places, finding a new coach or recruiting. Chad Morris is in his first year as head hog so no logical discussion is going to be had about firing him. So Hog fans have turned to recruiting, a chance to build the future, and there is some real optimism to be had there! But there’s a problem, not one that’s meant to be seen as the sky is falling but is definitely needing to get more attention than it’s getting.
The Hogs’ 2019 class is 16th on 247Sports and an outstanding 11th on Rivals. Now that’s likely to drop some when the usual late push from west coast schools happen and a few more elite guys choose some more traditional blue blood programs, but that is still outstanding. It’s the first time since the Class of 2015 where the Hogs had a top-25 class in both Rivals and 247Sports. They came close as well in 2017 when that class was 24th at Rivals and 27th at 247Sports.
This class is better in terms of overall quality, it will easily be top-25 and should be top-20, but there’s a big issue. Recruiting rankings don’t account for positional needs. You can get nothing but elite wide receivers and have an outstanding ranking, problem is you can’t put a team full of receivers out on the field and expect success, you need to have multiple balanced classes, and to have real success it requires multiple classes.
That brings us to the concern of this class, a big lack of high quality offensive linemen. Chad Morris has three committed, but they’re the 19th, 22nd, and 24th ranked recruits out of the 24 current commits. Beaux Limmer is the highest ranked at 753rd in the 247Sports Composite ranking. The other two, Brady Latham and Dylan Rathcke, don’t even crack the top 1,000. This especially hurts when there were two in-state blue chip prospects on the offensive line, and they’re going to Oklahoma and Ole Miss.
Take a quick guess of how many of the top-15 classes on Rivals have blue chip offensive linemen. It’s 13. The two that don’t are Arkansas and Clemson, and the Tigers have five of those in their previous three classes so they’ll be okay. Here’s how the classes stack up.
- Alabama: 0 5-stars, 3 4-stars
- Oregon: 0 5-stars, 2 4-stars
- Texas A&M: 1 5-stars, 0 4-stars
- Clemson: 0 5-stars, 0 4-stars
- Oklahoma: 0 5-stars, 2 4-stars
- Texas: 0 5-stars, 2 4-stars
- LSU: 1 5-stars, 3 4-stars
- Georgia: 0 5-stars, 2 4-stars
- Michigan: 0 5-stars, 1 4-stars
- Tennessee: 1 5-stars, 2 4-stars
- Arkansas: 0 5-stars, 0 4-stars
- Notre Dame: 0 5-stars, 3 4-stars
- Penn State: 0 5-stars, 2 4-stars
- Auburn: 0 5-stars, 1 4-stars
- Florida State: 0 5-stars, 1 4-stars
That’s 1.8 blue chippers per class, and the Hogs are one of two that have none. That number is only going to grow as well. There are nine blue chip offensive linemen that haven’t committed yet and seven are predicted by Rivals to go to schools already in the top-15. The other two are predicted to USC and Florida, two big time recruiting schools.
These past two seasons of Arkansas football have shown, you need a quality offensive line to run whatever offense you want. That’s also true all across college football, you’ll find a huge correlation between teams success and quality of offensive line play. Arkansas needs help there fast and in the worst way. That’s especially true with three graduating seniors, including Hjalte Froholdt, leaving the program. The numbers are likely to be thin for the Hogs on the offensive line, this is what they look like after losing Dylan Hays and Jalen Merrick to medical hardships.
- 2019 Seniors: Colton Jackson, Austin Capps
- 2019 Juniors: Ty Clary, Tyler Hall
- 2019 Sophomores: Kirby Adcock, Shane Clenin, Dalton Wagner, Noah Gatlin, Audry Horn
- 2019 RS Freshmen: Ryan Winkel, Silas Robinson
- 2019 Freshmen: Beaux Limmer, Brady Latham, Dylan Rathcke
There’s still the preferred walk-on and potential JUCO players that could join but that is not a deep group. I’m not saying Limmer, Latham, and Rathcke can’t develop into quality players for this program, but expecting them to be instant impact guys rather than developmental prospects is asking a lot, especially against the quality of defensive linemen that the SEC consistently puts out.
All of this isn’t to say this recruiting class is bad. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the most successful recruiting classes this program has had. The team needs an infusion of talent at just about every position and they’re getting it at wide receiver and defensive end. But if you’re expecting a significant turn around on offense you need difference makers on the offensive line, and this class is lacking in that.
So yes, celebrate the recruiting ranking because it’s a big accomplishment for Morris in his rebuilding process, but the top-20 number doesn’t mean as much in a vacuum as it seems to. But like I mentioned earlier, it takes more than one successful recruiting class to be successful, and Morris knows this. So keep a close eye on the offensive linemen in the class of 2020 as well, because if those fall through as well, there could be an issue.