National Signing Day Editorial: Evaluating the 2013 Arkansas Recruiting Class


Arkansas Razorbacks head football coach Bret Bielema signed an undertated 2013 recruiting class. Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Fayetteville, Ark. – The ink has dried on 23 National Letters of Intent for Arkansas’ 2013 recruiting class now its time to see how Bret Bielema and his staff did on their first go around for the Razorbacks.

The top three college football recruiting services vary on the class the Hogs signed. Rivals ranks Arkansas No. 26, rated them No. 32, and 247Sports placed the Hogs at No. 22. The average ranking places Arkansas at No. 26 in the nation; not too bad.

Recruiting services vary on how the rest of the SEC faired. Rivals ranks Arkansas No. 11 out of 14 schools. Vanderbilt was ranked No. 19, Tennessee No. 20, South Carolina No. 21, and Mississippi State No. 25, not a big discrepancy between the five programs with Arkansas coming in at No. 26.

247Sports placed the Hogs (No. 22) ahead of No. 24 MSU, No. 25 Tennessee, and No. 30 Vanderbilt. This means Arkansas had the ninth best recruiting class in the SEC by their rankings.

A FYI, Rivals rated six SEC schools in their Top 10: Alabama No. 1, Florida No. 4, LSU No. 6, Mississippi No. 7, Auburn No. 8, and Texas A&M No. 10.

Another thing to take into consideration is the total number of recruits signed. MSU, USC, and Tennessee only signed 21 recruits, Arkansas signed 23. The final rankings could fluctuate in time if a couple of junior college transfers or late signees ink a LOI with each school.

Vanderbilt signed 26 players which will automatically help their ranking numbers rise. Georgia is credited with 32 players, Texas A&M 31, Ole Miss with 27, LSU 26, and Florida with 28. The extra recruits help bump up the final rankings. How the final numbers for each class works out will depend if each recruit has the grades to make it to their respective campuses.

The underlying theme is some of these classes may have some extra puff or hype to their class that may not be warranted. Kind of like when former Arkansas Razorback head coach Houston Nutt would sign 32 kids knowing 8-9 would end up at a junior college.

Rivals and 247Sports agree on the total number of four-star and five-star athletes the Hogs signed, 4. The difference between the two recruiting services comes with the total number of three-star players. Rivals only gives Arkansas credit for 14 while 247 gives the Hogs 17.

Cornerback/wide receiver Melvinson Hartfield, defensive tackle Ke’Tyrus Marks, and safety Tiquention Coleman are rated as a three-star on 247 but not on Rivals.

Looking deeper into the rankings of Bielema’s class one has to be impressed with the number of immediate starters and contributors he signed.

The Hogs needed depth at linebacker and signed two JUCO linebackers that should get immediate playing time in Myke Tavarres and Martrell Spaight, both considered Top 10 linebackers.

Carroll Washington is rated as the No. 1 JUCO corner in the nation. Another need the Hogs had to address after finishing No. 113 out of 120 FBS programs in pass defense in 2012.

Arkansas needed depth along the offensive line and signed three players that could step in with valuable minutes in 2013 between Denver Kirkland, Reeve Koehler, and John McClure; expect the two-time JUCO All-American McClure to start in 2013.

An argument could be made that Arkansas signed the No. 1 high school tight end in the nation. Rivals and 247 both have Hunter Henry in their Top Four. The statistics the Parade All-American put up are on par and surpass some of the top wide receivers in the nation.

If Henry comes to campus physically strong, strong enough to block SEC defensive ends on running plays, he could see immediate time in 2013 stealing playing time from Demetrius Dean, Austin Tate, and Alex Volelzke.

Osceola, Ark., running back Korliss Marshall might be the most overlooked recruit in this class. He has blazing 4.3 forty-yard dash speed that one cannot coach. Bielema commented that they recruited him as a safety but look for him to return punts or kickoffs if he shows he can handle the pressure. Marshall could be the game changer Arkansas had in 2011 with All-American Joe Adams within two years.

If Korliss Marshall is the overlooked 2013 recruit then punter Sam Hill is the neglected and oft forgotten playmaker the Hogs needed.

Graduated senior Dylan Breeding was No. 8 in the nation in punting average during the 2012 college football season flipping the field with booming kicks at 45.6 yards per punt. Hill brings the same abilities showing his worth at the JUCO level kicking with both his left and right leg earning first-team JUCO All-American honors in 2012.

The player to look out for over the next four to five years is defensive tackle Ke’Tyrus Marks. Marks racked up a Suncoast record 19 sacks in 2012 earning all-district honors. The classification he played at hurt his recruiting and “star” rankings among recruiting services.

Marks seemingly has the perfect aptitude, desire, and will power to be a great player for the Hogs for several years. He might be a little undersized coming in, think Malcolm Sheppard, but after a year in the weight room and a year of college level practice experience he could blossom into a memorable Razorback before his time in Fayetteville is over.

The signee everyone has gushed about and rightfully so is running back Alex Collins. Collins is considered among the top running backs in the nation with 247 and Scout listing him within the Top Five in the nation.

Collins will be looked upon to help provide immediate depth in the Razorback backfield with talented true sophomore Jonathan Williams. Williams is slated as the No. 1 starter heading into spring practices.

Williams ran for 231 total yards in 2012 on 45 carries for a 5.13 yard per carry average. Williams was stuck behind seniors Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo, Jr., and preseason Heisman candidate Knile Davis on the depth chart before getting snaps towards the end of the season. Chalk it up however one wants to, but in about two games worth of work for a traditional starting running back he average 115.5 rushing yards per game.

The one-two punch of Williams and Collins, however this may play out, should help the Hogs have a viable running game coupled with a young but talented offensive line for years to come.

In summation, the Hogs signed the No. 1 cornerback in the nation (Washington), a two-time JUCO All-American offensive lineman (McClure), a two-time All-American JUCO linebacker in Spaight, a JUCO All-American punter in Hill, one of the top tight ends in the nation in Henry, and perhaps the top running back in the nation in Collins. In all six players signed were among the top of their class at six different positions, not too bad.

Arkansas added quality players to develop in Austin Allen, Brooks Ellis, Tevin Beanum, and Denzell Evans. Offensive tackle Dan Skipper has the frame to be an All-American and future first round draft pick listed at 6’10”, 300 pounds, while the Hogs staff added athletes in Damon Mitchell, Marvinson Hartfield, Drew Morgan, D.J. Dean, Alex Brignoni, and De’Andre Coley.

Expect Collins, Washington, Coleman, McClure, Spaight, Tavarres, Hill, Kirkland, and Koehler to compete for starting positions at the beginning of next season. Marshall could avoid a redshirt if he is used on special teams as a gunner or return specialist. Henry’s participation should depend solely on his physical strength. If he comes ready, expect him to see action at tight end and in the slot. Evans could be forced into early action should the Hogs have an injuries in the backfield, again, all depends on how physically ready he is in August.

Eight of the 23 signed should see immediate roles next season with another three worked onto the field depending on injuries and depth before 2013 is over.

Arkansas has room to add a late signee or two like 2012 recruit Mekale McKay, another player with All-American capabilities.

Razorbackers grade: A-

Arkansas Razorback Commitments for the 2013 Recruiting Class

1. QB Austin Allen, 6’2”, 217 pounds, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 4-Star

2. LB Brooks Ellis, 6’2”, 215 pounds, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 3-Star

3. SS Alex Brignoni, 6’1”, 190 pounds, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 3-Star

4. TE Hunter Henry, 6’6”, 235 pounds, Little Rock, Arkansas, 4-Star

5. LB Myke Tavarres, 6’2”, 220 pounds, Weed (JC), California, 3-Star*

6. CB Carroll Washington, 6’0”, 175 pounds, Salinas (JC), California, 4-Star*

7. DE Tevin Beanum, 6’4”, 235 pounds, Forrest City, Arkansas, 3-Star

8. OT John McClure, 6’4”, 310 pounds, El Dorado (JC), Texas, 3-Star*

9. WR Drew Morgan, 6’0”, 185 pounds, Greenwood, Arkansas, 3-Star

10. SS Tiquention Coleman, 5’10”, 200 pounds, Milledgeville (JC), Georgia, 3-Star*

11. LB Martrell Spaight, 6’0”, 220 pounds, Coffeyville (JC), Kansas, 3-Star*

12. P Sam Irwin-Hill, 6’3”, 210 pound, City College of San Francisco (JC), 2-Star

13. OG Reeve Koehler, 6’3”, 320 pounds, Honolulu, Hawaii, 4-Star

14. FS De’Andre Coley, 6’1”, 185 pounds, Miami, Florida, 2-Star

15. CB D.J. Dean, 5’10”, 185 pounds, Newton, Texas, 3-Star

16. DT Ke’Tyrus Marks, 6’2”, 285 pounds, Riviera Beach, Florida, 3-Star

17. OT Dan Skipper, 6’10”, 292 pounds, Arvada, Colorado, 3-Star

18. SS Korliss Marshall, 6’0”, 190 ponds, Osceola, Arkansas, 3-Star

19. RB Denzell Evans, 6’0”, 205 pounds, Bellaire, Texas, 3-Star

20. CB Melvinson Hartfield, 5’11”, 185 pounds, Dallas, Texas, 3-Star

21. OT Denver Kirkland, 6’5”, 333 pounds, Miami, Florida, 4-Star

22. QB DamonMitchell, 6’2”, 190 pounds, Egg Harbor City, NJ, 4-Star

23. RB Alex Collins, 5’11”, 210 pounds, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 5-Star*

* Denotes already enrolled at Arkansas.

Arkansas Razorback Commitments for the 2014 Recruiting Class

1. QB Rafe Peavey, Bolivar, Missouri, 4-Star

2. DT Bijhon Jackson, El Dorado, Arkansas, 4-Star

3. RB Juan Day, North Little Rock, Arkansas, not rated

Verbal commitments are non-binding.

Arkansas Razorback Walk-ons for 2013

1. QB A.J. Derby, Iowa City, Iowa

2. FB Patick Arinze, San Diego, California

3. OT Austin Boice, Lamar, Missouri