Disturbing Trends around Carius Curne’s Turncoating Can’t Be Denied

Sam Pittman, Carius Curne, Arkansas football, LSU football
photo credit: Craven Whitlow / Twitter/Carius Curne

Despite some recent momentum, Arkansas took a significant loss on the recruiting trail Thursday when Carius Curne announced his commitment to LSU.

The four-star offensive lineman from Marion picked the Tigers over the home state Razorbacks and Missouri, all three of which he officially visited in the past month.

Ranked as high as No. 25 nationally by On3, Curne checks in at No. 109 overall in the 247Sports Composite and is the consensus top in-state player in the 2025 class.

He was actually committed to Arkansas for about 1.5 months earlier this year, but backed off his pledge to reassess his options, which also included offers from the likes of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee.

Despite half of the SEC being after the east Arkansas native, it looked like the Razorbacks were close to reeling him back in following his visit to Fayetteville on the weekend of June 7-9. Curne spoke glowingly about Sam Pittman and the coaching staff, praising them for the way they treated him even after he decommitted.

He also told reporters that he didn’t think he was going to make his planned trip to LSU the following weekend. That led to some, like longtime recruiting analyst Otis Kirk, publicly predicting Curne would ultimately end up at Arkansas.

However, he ended up making the visit and, less than a week later, announced he’d continue his career in Baton Rouge.

With the news, Arkansas’ 2025 recruiting class remains at 13 players, with only one four-star commit. The group is ranked 33rd nationally and 11th in the SEC by both Rivals and 247Sports.

LSU, meanwhile, jumped from 11th to 7th in the 247Sports Composite rankings with the addition of Curne.

Carius Curne Picks LSU Football

Typically, losing out on a recruit isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Carius Curne choosing to join the LSU football program instead of staying home, though, should hammer home some pre-existing concerns in Fayetteville.

It’s always tough to lose the top recruit in the state, especially to a fellow SEC program that many consider one of the Razorbacks’ biggest rivals. It stings even more when “a huge factor” in the decision, according to Death Valley Insider, was a former UA assistant coach (Brad Davis).

The thing that should sound the alarm bells for Arkansas football fans, though, is what Death Valley Insider reported as the “biggest factors” in Curne picking LSU: development and preparation for the NFL.

Keep in mind that Sam Pittman was widely regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the country before taking over the Razorbacks as head coach. The hire was criticized by a lot of outsiders, but those who remembered his first tenure in Fayetteville believed he’d at least get Arkansas back up to snuff in the trenches by recruiting top-notch offensive linemen and pumping them into the NFL.

That has not happened.

Pittman has certainly raised the caliber of offensive line recruits Arkansas has signed compared to the four-year stretch between his two stints in Fayetteville, but it’s not to the level of his time here as an offensive line coach and not even close to what he was doing at Georgia.

While the fact that he inherited a dumpster fire from the coach-who-shall-not-be-named can’t be ignored and dealt with a global pandemic in Year 1, Pittman did have the Razorbacks in the top 25 his second year on the job. They were arguably a KJ Jefferson injury away from replicating that in 2022, too.

The wheels fell off last season, but even before then, Arkansas hasn’t seemed to develop its homegrown offensive line talent. Out of 240 total offensive line starts during Pittman’s tenure, only 21 – or 8.9% – were made by players signed by Pittman out of the high school ranks.

Three players account for all of those starts and two of them – Devon Manuel (Florida) and Andrew Chamblee (SMU) – have transferred out. Patrick Kutas is the only one who remains and currently the only one projected to start in 2024. Three starters are transfers who joined the program this offseason and the other is a transfer who came in the previous offseason.

Some of that can be attributed to the current climate, in which the transfer portal is a major factor in college football, but it should also be noted that the reason Arkansas had to be so active in the portal is because it hadn’t developed players who were waiting in the wings into SEC-ready offensive linemen.

Pittman has also had only two offensive linemen taken in the NFL Draft since his return to Arkansas, and he inherited both of them: Ricky Stromberg (3rd round, 2023) and Beaux Limmer (6th round, 2024).

That’s less than his total from his three-year stint as offensive line coach under Bret Bielema, which included a first-round pick (Frank Ragnow), a third-round pick (Travis Swanson) and a Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner as the best offensive lineman in the SEC (Sebastian Tretola). Pittman also had a pair of linemen who stuck in the NFL as undrafted free agents in Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper.

During his four years at Georgia, Pittman coached 10 offensive linemen who went on to be taken in the NFL Draft, including three first-rounders. And that doesn’t include those he recruited for the Bulldogs before leaving.

No one expected Pittman to replicate that level of NFL talent at Arkansas, but going into Year 5, many probably figured he would have produced more than he has so far. By comparison, LSU football has had four offensive linemen drafted over the last three years, since Davis – whom Pittman once called the best offensive line coach in the nation – took over.

“Ultimately, Brad and him have a really tight relationship,” Marion High coach Lance Clark told Death Valley Insider. “He already holds him accountable and that’s what the kid likes and needs, but he also loves on him. He trusts Brad, and Brad Davis did a really good job of being consistent, so that was the key for him.”

Recruits have apparently taken note of Davis’ abilities, as the reported biggest factors in Curne’s decision indicate.

Carius Curne, LSU football

Arkansas Football’s In-State Recruiting

It’s well documented that the Natural State doesn’t produce a ton of blue-chip recruits in football, especially compared to other states in the SEC footprint. That’s why recruiting areas like Texas have always been important to the Razorbacks’ success.

However, keeping the top players from the state home – or “building a fence” – has long been a talking point for Arkansas football coaches.

Sam Pittman has struggled with that of late. In fact, this is the second straight year he’s landed a commitment from a player viewed as No. 1 in the state, only to lose him to an SEC rival. In the 2024 cycle, it was Pine Bluff wide receiver Courtney Crutchfield who flipped to Missouri.

The Razorbacks have also made history – and not the good kind – in each of their last two classes when it comes to in-state recruiting.

They signed only three players from Arkansas in 2023, which is believed to be the fewest in program history, based on extensive research by Best of Arkansas Sports.

Of course, that could be written off as the side effect of a down year in the state, but that wasn’t the case the following year. The 2024 class was one of the stronger years on record, with 14 in-state prospects signing with Power Five programs.

Only five of those prospects inked with the Razorbacks. At 35.7%, it was the lowest percentage of homegrown Power Five-level players coming to Arkansas since at least 1994. Considering the regional nature of recruiting before the 1990s, it’s not a stretch to say it was also an all-time low.

The 2025 in-state crop isn’t exactly trending in the right direction, either. Not only has Carius Curne committed to LSU football, but the Razorbacks also saw Bauxite four-star safety Marcus Wimberly decommit and land at Oklahoma.

Two of the top running backs in the state – Bryant’s Daniel Anderson and Beebe’s Kiandrea Barker – are committed to Notre Dame and Penn State, respectively. The latter was only recently offered and the former seemingly hasn’t even been recruited by Arkansas.

The Razorbacks do have commitments from Conway quarterback Grayson Wilson and Little Rock Parkview athlete Quentin Murphy, and are actively pursuing Little Rock Parkview Omarion Robinson, who is widely considered the second-best player in the state.

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