Latest Defection Pushes Arkansas Farther Down Recruiting Pecking Order in SEC

Ashton Bethel-Roman, Arkansas football
photo credit: Instagram/ashto_beans8

One of Arkansas’ prized recruits in the 2024 class won’t make it to campus after all, as Ashton Bethel-Roman has been released from his letter of intent, a UA spokesperson confirmed.

The four-star wide receiver signed with the Razorbacks during the early signing period in December, but was one of their three signees who did not enroll for the spring semester.

Coming out of Ridge Point High in Missouri City, Texas, Bethel-Roman was ranked as high as No. 134 nationally by 247Sports and turned down offers from the likes of Ole Miss, Oregon, TCU and several others before committing to Arkansas on July 4.

He is the son of former LSU and NFL defensive back Mark Roman and was set to bring even more speed to the Razorbacks’ wide receiver room. He posted multiple sub-22-second times in the 200-meter dash in track as a junior.

Instead, Bethel-Roman will play his college career elsewhere. According to WholeHogSports, he is expected to sign with another school next week, with Wednesday marking the start of the traditional signing period.

Perhaps that’s not too surprising because he was one of the biggest uncertainties for Arkansas heading into the early signing period. He visited Missouri in late November and was at Texas A&M the weekend before signing with Arkansas.

Even on signing day, Bethel-Roman was one of the last players to send in his paperwork. In fact, when Sam Pittman spoke with reporters that afternoon, he said he “got the thumbs up” on him as he made his way to the press conference.

Asked how the Razorbacks kept him locked in, Pittman credited the relationship they developed with Bethel-Roman, which included then-wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton, as well as new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, who had spent about an hour on the phone with him for a few days leading up to signing day.

“Kenny obviously did a nice job with the family,” Pittman said. “Bobby, I think, has done a tremendous job of getting to know him since he’s been here. … Bobby did a tremendous job with him, as well, of showing him why he wants him, how he’s doing to use him. But I think it goes back to say a lot about the young man. He wanted to come to Arkansas and the parents allowed him to make the choice, whatever his choice was.”

It’s unclear what exactly went into Bethel-Roman’s decision, but Guiton has since left to take the same position at Wisconsin and been replaced by Ronnie Fouch, who is in his first on-field position at the FBS level.

Bethel-Roman’s Impact on Recruiting Rankings

Heading into last season, the Razorbacks were in position to possibly reel in a top-20 class, which is something they’ve rarely done during the recruiting rankings era.

Since then, though, Arkansas has gone 4-8 and changed offensive coordinators. Perhaps not surprisingly, the class has somewhat fallen apart.

It managed to keep Benton running back Braylen Russell on board, but saw four-star commits Noreel White (Ole Miss), Kai Greer (Georgia Tech), Jadan Baugh (Florida) and Courtney Crutchfield (Missouri) back off their pledges and sign elsewhere. JUCO tight end Gregory Genross, a three-star prospect, also de-committed.

Losing Ashton Bethel-Roman is just the latest — and hopefully final — blow that puts the Razorbacks at risk of falling outside of the top 30.

In fact, Rivals already had them at No. 30 in the recruiting rankings and they dropped another four spots to No. 34 without him. In the 247Sports Composite, Arkansas fell two spots to No. 29. On both sites, the Razorbacks are now 15th out of 16 — welcome, Oklahoma and Texas — teams in the SEC.

They were already 15th on Rivals, but were neck-and-neck with South Carolina. Now they are closer to Vanderbilt than the Gamecocks in Rivals’ recruiting points that are used for the rankings. In the 247Sports Composite, Mississippi State was one of the two teams that jumped Arkansas, leaving only the Commodores behind the Razorbacks in the SEC rankings.

Of course, in this era of college football, a case could be made that the transfer portal is just as important as traditional high school recruiting — if not more important.

Arkansas has assembled a solid 13-man transfer class, but its placement in the league varies. Rivals is higher on it than most, ranking it 17th overall and 5th in the SEC. The group is No. 27 nationally and No. 9 in the league on 247Sports.

On3, which also factors in what each team lost to the portal, is smack dab in the middle of those two outlets, as the Razorbacks are No. 22 nationally and No. 7 in the SEC.

What it Means for Arkansas Football

The loss of Ashton Bethel-Roman is certainly felt in recruiting rankings, but that’s just a number based on a recruiting service’s opinion and compared to other teams.

To determine how much it actually impacts the Razorbacks, you must take a closer look at the wide receiver room he was set to join in 2024. Bethel-Roman was going to be one of three freshmen in the group, joining CJ Brown from Bentonville and Krosse Johnson from New Orleans. (Johnson was a late add in response to losing Courtney Crutchfield to Missouri.)

The Razorbacks also added a receiver from the transfer portal, bringing in Jordan Anthony from Texas A&M, and returned almost everyone else in the room from a year ago. Sam Mbake was the only scholarship wide receiver to transfer out and he was dismissed from the team late in the season.

Bryce Stephens was welcomed back after spending time in the transfer portal and all three potential super seniors — Andrew Armstrong, Tyrone Broden and Isaac TeSlaa — are back for one final season.

That left the Razorbacks with 12 scholarship wide receivers on the projected 2024 roster, which is a large number for that position. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see a player leave after spring ball. That may still happen, but Bethel-Roman no longer coming might prevent it.

As a team, Arkansas football is now at 82 scholarships for next season, according to our unofficial tracker, which means they have three more spots to fill at this moment.

2024 Arkansas Recruiting Class

High School Signees

  • QB KJ Jackson
  • RB Braylen Russell
  • WR CJ Brown
  • WR Krosse Johnson
  • OL Kobe Branham
  • OL Zuri Madison
  • DE Kavion Henderson
  • DE Charleston Collins
  • LB Justin Logan
  • LB Wyatt Simmons
  • LB Bradley Shaw
  • DB Jaden Allen
  • DB Tevis Metcalf
  • DB Selman Bridges
  • ATH Jeremy Cook
  • ATH Julius Pope
  • ATH Ahkhari Johnson

Transfer Portal Additions

  • QB Taylen Green – Boise State
  • RB Ja’Quinden Jackson – Utah
  • TE Andreas Paaske – Eastern Michigan
  • WR Jordan Anthony – Texas A&M
  • OL Keyshawn Blackstock – Michigan State
  • OL Fernando Carmona – San Jose State
  • OL Addison Nichols – Tennessee
  • DE Anton Juncaj – Albany
  • LB Xavian Sorey – Georgia
  • CB Doneiko Slaughter – Tennessee
  • CB Marquise Robinson – South Alabama
  • S Miguel Mitchell – Florida
  • K Matthew Shipley – Hawaii

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