Arkansas Scores a First in Rivals Recruiting Era with Latest Standout Commitment

Brad Spence
Brad Spence is the third linebacker in Arkansas' 2023 recruiting class. (photo credit: Twitter/@BradSpence_)

The good times continue to roll on the recruiting trail for Arkansas football, as the Razorbacks have landed yet another one of their top targets.

Brad Spence, a high three-star linebacker from Texas, announced his pledge to Arkansas on Tuesday, picking the Hogs over Texas and California. He is the Razorbacks’ 22nd commitment in the 2023 class.

A talented athlete out of Klein Forest High School in Houston, Spence had a slew of offers, which he narrowed down to a top 10 list that also included Utah, Mississippi State, Arizona State, Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Duke.

Living not too far away from Austin, he was able to take multiple unofficial visits to check out the Longhorns this spring before taking official visits to Arkansas and Cal on back-to-back weekends in June. He was in Fayetteville the weekend of June 10-12.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Spence is a two-time first-team all-district performer for the Eagles, who compete in Texas’ largest classification. That includes a stellar junior season in which he racked up 72 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 6 pass breakups and 7 quarterback hurries.

“You’re going to be getting a guy that just dominates in run stopping and rushing the passer,” HawgBeat’s Alex Trader said in a video reacting to Spence’s commitment. “He really is an aggressive player. He’s going to go after it. He knows where he needs to be to fill those holes as well as being able to get to the quarterback very, very quickly.”

Although Spence previously said he’d be fine with being a stand-up defensive end or an outside linebacker in college, Spence is being recruited by the Razorbacks for the latter, with linebackers coach Michael Scherer serving as his primary recruiter.

Despite all of his success on the field, Spence was a relatively late bloomer on the recruiting trail. In fact, Arkansas didn’t even offer him until Feb. 17 — after which he’d received well over half of his 32 total offers.

That was after a strong showing at the National Combine in San Antonio in January, during which he also caught the attention of Rivals’ recruiting analyst Cole Patterson.

“Spence more than held his own against top offensive linemen and consistently stood out in the Alamodome,” Patterson wrote after the prestigious event, which annually showcases some of the country’s top underclassmen. “His quickness off the edge and ability to win one-on-one situations caused him to have one of the better days from any defender.”

Brad Spence again impressed Patterson a couple of months later at an Under Armour camp in Dallas. There, the analyst specifically commented on Spence’s “long arms” and “great frame to grow into.”

Those impressive performances on the camp circuit helped Spence evolve into a legit high three-star prospect on most services. Rivals gave him a 5.7 rating, which is just below the 5.8 four-star status, and ranked him the No. 30 overall outside linebacker in the country.

On3 and 247Sports each consider him an edge rusher, giving him an 88 and 85 three-star grade, respectively. The On3 Consensus — which weights all of the services equally — ranks him as the 54th best edge rusher in the class.

The Razorbacks’ 22 commitments in 2023 are tied with Baylor for the third-most among Power Five programs, trailing only Duke (25) and Texas Tech (23). The group has doubled in size over the last three-plus weeks, with 11 players jumping on board since June 19.

Arkansas Football Becoming Attractive Spot for Linebackers

Arkansas used a three-man rotation for its two linebacker spots last season, with Grant Morgan, Hayden Henry and Bumper Pool playing more than 93 percent of the total snaps at the position.

Each of them made 100-plus tackles and gave the Razorbacks their best overall group of linebackers in decades — even though a couple of them weren’t particularly heralded prior to arriving in Fayetteville.

Originally a walk-on from Greenwood, Morgan was a second-team All-American in 2020 and the Burlsworth Trophy winner last season. Sandwiched between his four-star brothers, Henry was a two-star blueshirt recruit before becoming a starter as a super senior. Then there was Pool, a former four-star prospect who earned second-team All-SEC honors last year.

During the offseason, Arkansas landed former five-star recruit Drew Sanders as a transfer from Alabama. He told reporters that one reason he picked the Razorbacks was the productivity of their linebackers.

It seems like high school recruits are taking notice, too. Arkansas now has three linebackers committed for 2023 and each of them are solid prospects.

Before Spence, the Razorbacks landed four-star outside linebacker Carson Dean from Texas and high three-star inside linebacker Alex Sanford from Mississippi. Much like Spence, both of them had multiple other SEC offers and each member of the trio has at least a 5.7 rating on Rivals.

Since Rivals went to that rating system in 2004, it’s the first time Arkansas has ever landed three linebackers of that caliber in the same class. In fact, the only other time it signed more than one with a rating of 5.7 or better was 2012, when it inked Otha Peters (5.8) and A.J. Turner (5.7).

It’s still early, but Scherer – despite being a first-time position coach – and defensive coordinator Barry Odom appear to be making Arkansas a destination for linebackers, similar to how it’s been for running backs and offensive linemen in recent years. That’s an impressive development considering how difficult it’s been for the Razorbacks to build quality depth at the position.

With three guys already on board for this class, Scherer and the Razorbacks can also shift their focus to 2024. They’ve already hosted several of the top linebackers in that class and can now really zero in on them.

“A massive, massive pickup for linebackers coach Michael Scherer and for the rest of the defense, as well,” Trader said. “Because it does likely shore up this linebacker room and provide Scherer with a chance to move on to a 2024 class that Arkansas looks to be really pushing and have a chance to get some positive momentum early.”

See Brad Spence in action here:

Family Affair for Brad Spence

Similar to fellow 2023 commit TJ Metcalf, whose younger brother — 2024 athlete Tevis Metcalf — is being recruited by Arkansas, Spence also has a sibling the Razorbacks hope eventually joins him in Fayetteville.

Already listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds as a rising sophomore, Trent Spence is another edge rusher/outside linebacker prospect in the Class of 2025. Arkansas gave him his first scholarship offer during his older brother’s official visit and Cal followed suit the next weekend.

Even though he’s still pretty young, it’s probably a safe bet that the offer will prove to be a good one for the Razorbacks.

Not only is his older brother a highly recruited prospect, but their father, Armand Spence, was a linebacker at Oklahoma in the late-1990s. Like his two sons, Armand Spence was listed as a defensive lineman/linebacker coming out of Christian Brothers in St. Louis in the 1997 class.

Updated Arkansas Recruiting Ranking for 2023

Rivals: No. 6 overall / No. 2 in SEC

247Sports: No. 7 / No. 2

247Sports Composite: No. 10 / No. 4

On3 Consensus: No. 15 / No. 5

The Razorbacks currently have a top-10 class, but where will they end up in the recruiting rankings? Experts weigh in…

Arkansas Recruiting Class of 2023

  • TE Shamar Easter — Ashdown (Ark.)
  • TE Jaden Hamm — Eudora (Kan.)
  • OL Joey Su’a — Bentonville (Ark.)
  • CB Dallas Young — Gardendale (Ala.)
  • DE Kaleb James — Mansfield (Texas)
  • TE Luke Hasz — Bixby (Okla.)
  • DE Quincy Rhodes — North Little Rock (Ark.)
  • LB Carson Dean — Carrollton (Texas) Hebron
  • OL Luke Brown — Paris (Tenn.) Henry County
  • QB Malachi Singleton — Kennesaw (Ga.) North Cobb
  • RB Isaiah Augustave — Naples (Fla.)
  • S Christian Ford — McKinney (Texas)
  • DT Ian Geffrard — Mableton (Ga.) Whitefield Academy
  • CB RJ Johnson — McDonough (Ga.) Eagle’s Landing Christian
  • LB Alex Sanford — Oxford (Miss.)
  • DT Stephen Johnson — Fayetteville (Ga.) Whitewater
  • S TJ Metcalf — Pinson (Ala.) Valley
  • ATH Dylan Hasz — Bixby (Okla.)
  • OL Paris Patterson — East St. Louis (Ill.)
  • ATH Micah Tease — Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington
  • CB Jaylon Braxton — Frisco (Texas) Lone Star
  • LB Brad Spence — Houston (Texas) Klein Forest

Learn more about the latest Arkansas recruiting commitment at 11:25 here:

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