Locking Horns with Former UA Coaches, Back-to-Back No. 1s + More Arkansas Recruiting Nuggets

Barry Lunney Jr., Tre Johnson, Arkansas recruiting, Arkansas football, Arkansas basketball
photo credit: Illinois Athletics / Twitter

Few teams have been as successful in the transfer portal this offseason as the Arkansas football program, but with only a couple spots left to fill, Sam Pittman is exploring a more traditional avenue to complete his 2023 roster.

Wide receiver and center are the positions he would like to add with his final two scholarships and the Razorbacks have zeroed in on Amaury Wiggins from Coffeyville C.C. as their target for the latter.

A first-team all-conference performer at guard last season, Wiggins got work at center this spring. He’s set to graduate this month, so he’ll be able to move on to a four-year school this summer and it looks like he’ll be doing so in the Power Five.

On Wednesday, not long after his visit to Fayetteville, he revealed a top five that included Arkansas, as well as Penn State, Miami (Fla.), Illinois and Texas A&M. That means the Razorbacks are going head-to-head with two of its three most recent former head coaches.

Bobby Petrino is in his first year as the offensive coordinator for the Aggies, while Bret Bielema is entering his third season leading the Fighting Illini. It’s also worth noting that Illinois’ offensive coordinator is Barry Lunney Jr., who played and coached at Arkansas.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Wiggins is originally from Pensacola, Fla., and went to Pine Forest High School, where he graduated as part of the Class of 2021. He spent the last two years playing at the same Kansas junior college that produced recent former Razorbacks like Dominique Reed, Martrell Spaight, AJ Derby and Robert Thomas.

So far in the 2023 class, Arkansas has yet to sign a junior college transfer to a scholarship. Cornerback Chris Rhodes from Butler C.C. committed to the Razorbacks earlier this week, but he’s a preferred walk-on.

Rhodes began his career at South Dakota State in 2021, but redshirted and then transferred to Butler C.C. He showed some promise before being sidelined with an injury. He’ll have three years of eligibility at Arkansas, with the potential to apply for a medical redshirt that’d give him a fourth year.

Hogs Offer Deion Sanders’ Top Receiver

As for the Arkansas recruiting efforts at the other position of need, a new target recently emerged in Shane Hooks. The Razorbacks offered the former Jackson State wide receiver on Thursday.

Hooks originally committed to Ole Miss a few weeks ago, but backed off his pledge a few days later and has since been offered by UCF, Utah, Mississippi State, Liberty, Auburn and Louisville — in addition to Arkansas.

It’s easy to see why the 6-foot-4, 205-pound wideout is an attractive option despite playing at the FCS level. Playing for the Deion Sanders-led Tigers that went 12-1 and won the SWAC, he led the team in all three major receiving categories, catching 66 passes for 775 yards and 10 touchdowns.

That came after a 2021 season in which Hooks racked up 199 yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions in just six games. According to his bio on the Jackson State website, that was his first action after two years of not playing. He began his career at the FBS level, appearing in four games and redshirting at Ohio in 2018.

Although he was a fifth-year senior last season, Hooks has one year of eligibility remaining because of the bonus year granted by the NCAA in response to the pandemic.

The Razorbacks have shown they aren’t afraid to bring in wide receivers from lower levels of college football, as none of their three midyear transfers came from a Power Five program. Andrew Armstrong played at Texas A&M-Commerce (FCS), Isaac TeSlaa played at Hillsdale College (Division II) and Tyrone Broden played at Bowling Green (Group of Five).

Arkansas Basketball in the Mix for No. 1 Recruit…Again

Prior to Eric Musselman’s arrival in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks had landed the best recruit in the country only once — Corliss Williamson from Russellville in the Class of 1992.

That was well before modern recruiting rankings, though. The first time Arkansas accomplished the feat during that era was just last year, as North Little Rock’s Nick Smith Jr. — the No. 1 player in the 2022 class, according to 247Sports — chose to stay home and play for the Razorbacks.

A knee injury prevented Smith from reaching his full potential during his lone season on campus and now he’s on the brink of becoming a first-round NBA Draft pick. Luckily, Arkansas basketball fans might not have to wait another 30 years before landing another No. 1 player.

The Razorbacks are widely viewed as the frontrunners to land Duncanville’s Ron Holland — 247Sports’ No. 1 player in the 2023 class — when he’s released from his National Letter of Intent with Texas and now they’re in the mix for the top player in 2024.

Tre Johnson, a 6-5 shooting guard at Lake Highlands High in Dallas, is the unanimous No. 1 overall recruit in the rising senior class and recently included Arkansas in his top six, along with Alabama, Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas.

According to On3, Johnson will likely announce his commitment before the EYBL Peach Jam in July.

“Tre Johnson is as natural a scorer as there is in the class,” Joe Cook wrote for On3. “He’s able to get the shot off over defenders. What really stands out is his ability to create space. His balance is great and can’t talk enough about the footwork. He still needs to continue working on the strength and distinguishing between a shot you can get and a good shot. Johnson has a smooth jump shot, with a repeatable form and release, no matter the level. He averaged 24.0 points on 40.7% 3P in Phoenix.”

Other Arkansas Recruiting Nuggets

  • Tyler Larco, a kicker/punter from UT-Martin, committed to Arkansas as a preferred walk-on Monday. He was a two-time second-team All-OVC selection and Freshman All-American during his three years at the FCS school, handling all of the Skyhawks’ kicking duties. He was particularly good as a punter, averaging 41.6 yards on 118 career punts, but has also made 26 of 40 field goals and 108 of 112 PATs in college.
  • Fort Smith Southside offensive lineman Kobe Branham, who included Arkansas in his top five, shared via Twitter that he measured 6-foot-7, 325 pounds at his senior physical Monday. He is set to announce his decision between the Razorbacks, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, SMU and Texas A&M on June 26.
  • A pair of Arkansas baseball commits helped Springdale Har-Ber win the Class 6A state championship, as the Wildcats beat Bentonville X-X on Thursday. Ross Felder, a 2024 pledge, earned the win by allowing only one unearned run on four hits and four walks while striking out six in six innings. He also went 1 for 3 with a walk and two runs. Luke Cornelison, a 2025 pledge, started at third base and went 1 for 4, with his lone hit driving in the game’s first run.
  • Three other Arkansas baseball state championship games, all of which are played at UCA’s Bear Stadium in Conway, will feature future Razorbacks:
    • Lawson Ward (2024) and Keaton Mathis (2026) will suit up for Valley View in the Class 5A title game against Little Rock Christian at 7 p.m. CT Saturday.
    • Lonoke’s junior trio of Cole Spears, Tripp Sullivan and Steele Eaves are all part of the 2024 class and will lead the Jackrabbits against Ashdown in the 4A title game at 10 a.m. CT Friday.
    • Kade Smith, a 2023 signee, will try to lead harding Academy to a 3A title against Rivercrest at 4 p.m. CT Saturday.


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