Much in life is perspective. Politics. your love life Occupation. Nothing is as bad as it seems, but nothing is as good as it seems either. But as humans, we tend to organize things in binary terms: things are either good or bad. This also applies to sports. The chestnut states: “If you don’t get better, you will get worse.”
Things that are “okay” or “usual” are boring. We want something to shake it up. In the 16 years I’ve spent as a professional sportswriter, I’ve always said the same thing to fans, too. I’m not a Razorbacks fan when reporting this. I’m not a Razorbacks hater either. My hope every season is that the team will be 12-0. But after that 0-12. Why? These seasons generally produce the best stories, the best things to write about (OK, John L. Smith’s “Smile” comment didn’t technically come during a winless season, but you get the point). It’s that Houston Nuttian 6-6 seasons of treading water that really sucks for people like me.
Arkansas football recruitment is currently in this busy country. But depending on your perspective, you might be over the moon or wondering why it still lags behind the rest of the league.
It’s being addressed right now because it’s almost July. The SEC Media Days are in a few weeks. The basketball transfer portal is ready. Baseball’s glorious, if heartbreaking, season has come to an end. This is mid south. There is almost always football here. And with some moves and shakes at the top of the Class of 2023 recruit leaderboard, we thought it was a good time to check on the Razorbacks.
Update on the Arkansas Recruiting Class of 2023
In the past five days alone, Coach Sam Pittman and his staff have made two additional commitments to the class. You lost one too. Their total number of dedicated recruits for 2023 is 16, so the class is about three-quarters full anyway. Maybe a touch less, depending on what the future brings.
Overall, a cursory glance makes it seem like Arkansas is in dynamite form. Pittman picked up Oklahoma state No. 1 in Luke Hasz and in the early moments the Hogs were ranked as high as No. 3 in the class. Already, their class is nearing completion, and the Razorbacks are ranked No. 9 in the country for the Class of 2023. With five four-star players on the roster, Arkansas are just two players shy of reaching last year’s class mark of seven. You could easily get there. Pittman made Arkansas relevant on the field and he’s held his own down the recruiting path.
However, a closer look reveals some worrying trends.
First a note: “affect” is subjective. The class will almost certainly finish with an overall placing in the top 35 in the country. That’s a decent recruitment class. Arkansas has only been outside that demarcation line once, when the Razorbacks finished 45th in 2018.
Focusing on the now, however, Arkansas’ class seems valued so highly because of sheer quantity. Only two other SEC teams, Georgia and Tennessee, have up to 12 commits. Ten of the league’s teams have totals in the single digits. Auburn only has two, both of whom are four-star recruits. Of course, if Arkansas can win more stars, so can the others, and they have more space to fill on top of that.
Arkansas has long been constrained in the recruiting game due to its failure to get the nation’s most elite recruits. The Class of 2023 has only two players in the top 300 in the country. Last year’s class had seven four-star players, two of whom were in the top 300. This class finished 13th in the 14-team SEC. The year before that, there were three four-stars, although all three were top 300 (ninth in the SEC). For the class of 2020 it was four and three (11th in SEC). In 2019 it was 11 and 4 (10th place in the SEC). The last time Arkansas landed a five-star recruit — we’re assuming 247Sports’ composite rankings, by the way — was in 2016, when McTelvin Agim stayed at Natural State.
Keeping talent in the state is admirable, but the way high school football works, it won’t be enough to propel the Razorbacks into the major leagues. The state of Arkansas alone just doesn’t produce enough SEC talent to make that priority *a* priority. Texas, Georgia, Florida. Arkansas will continue to need to recruit from those states (nothing new), especially since all three are in Southeastern Conference geography and their best players will often end up at the competition otherwise.
In other words, it’s basically July. Silly season, indeed. Things will turn out however they turn out. Most likely, they will do so as they have done for the past 20 years, the span of time that high school recruitment has become more of a business. Arkansas will be good. The Razorbacks will end up ahead of Vanderbilt and likely a few other teams, possibly even Auburn as the Tigers are expected to continue their fight.
No, the question is, is “barely good” enough to continue climbing the mountain? Winning begets wins, so we’ll see.