When he finally puts pen to paper on National Signing Day, Shamar Easter will be the 20th high school prospect to sign with Arkansas football in the 2023 class.
Most of the group signed their National Letters of Intent in December, during the early period, but the Ashdown tight end opted to wait until the traditional period so he could get to know new tight ends coach Morgan Turner a little better.
That’s just what happened and he reaffirmed his commitment following an unofficial visit earlier this month, giving the Razorbacks a chance to finish with a rare top-20 recruiting class.
A lot of attention has been focused on head coach Sam Pittman’s efforts to fill out the class via the transfer portal, but it’s also hard to ignore the talented group of incoming freshmen.
Arkansas leaned heavily on traditional recruiting base Texas, as a quarter of the players (five) are from the Lone Star State, as well as other border states (four from Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee) and newer areas of emphasis within the SEC footprint (three from both Alabama and Georgia).
The Razorbacks also dipped into Florida and crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois for recruits, but — as it is every year — taking care of business in their own backyard was a priority. Unfortunately for Pittman and his staff, though, there weren’t exactly many options to choose from in the current senior class.
Historic Low for Arkansas Football
Shamar Easter will be just the third in-state signee for the Razorbacks in 2023, joining Bentonville offensive lineman Joey Su’a and North Little Rock defensive lineman Quincy Rhodes Jr.
If that seems like a light group, that’s because it is a historically low number of Arkansas football signees from the Natural State.
Best of Arkansas Sports has a mostly complete database of high school football players who have signed with FBS programs since 1994 and the Razorbacks’ three signees this year is their lowest single-year total over that span.
Considering the more regionalized nature of recruiting before that timeframe, not to mention expanded scholarship limits and the fact there were no annual limitations on the number of players schools could sign, it is probably safe to say the three in-state signees in this cycle is an all-time low for Arkansas football.
The previous low was set in 2012 and matched in the first two classes signed by Sam Pittman — 2020 and 2021.
|Year||Player (school)||Player (school)||Player (school)||Player (school)|
|2023||TE Shamar Easter|
|DE Quincy Rhodes Jr.|
(North Little Rock)
|OL Joey Su’a|
|2021||LB Marco Avant|
|TE Erin Outley|
(Little Rock Parkview)
|QB Landon Rogers|
(Little Rock Parkview)
|OL Terry Wells|
|2020||DE Jashaud Stewart|
|ATH Blayne Toll|
|LB JT Towers|
(Joe T. Robinson)
|LB Catrell Wallace|
|2012||DB Defonta Lowe|
|DE Jeremy Sprinkle|
|LB A.J. Turner|
(East Poinsett County)
|OL Jeremy Ward|
The Razorbacks nearly set the low in each of the last two years and a case could be made that they did in 2020, as Catrell Wallace never made it to campus, but he did sign. The following year, Landon Rogers briefly decommitted before ultimately sticking with Arkansas.
Landing only three in this year’s class was not necessarily Pittman’s fault, as only six total Arkansas natives signed with Power Five programs — and the other three weren’t offered by the Razorbacks.
Pine Bluff athlete Jordon Harris is staying in the SEC at Missouri, but he didn’t play football until his senior year of high school. Fort Smith Northside cornerback RJ Lester originally committed to Kansas State before flipping to Oklahoma State. Pulaski Academy offensive lineman Allen Thomason was heading to Stanford as a preferred walk-on before being elevated to a full scholarship.
There’s a chance Star City linebacker CJ Turner ends up with a Power Five program, as he was previously committed to Colorado before being dropped by new head coach Deion Sanders, but that seems unlikely at this point in the process.
It’s also worth noting that several in-state prospects are continuing their careers at the Power Five level as preferred walk-ons. Bentonville offensive lineman Trevor Martinez is heading to Oklahoma State and Harding Academy kicker Kyle Ferrie is heading to Mississippi State, while the Razorbacks have landed several PWO commitments from in-state recruits.
Assuming the number of scholarship signees remains at six, though, it would match the 2012 class for the fewest Power Five signees from Arkansas on record. In addition to the four who signed with the Razorbacks that year, Jonesboro athlete Zac Brooks signed with Clemson and Pulaski Academy offensive lineman Jason King signed with Purdue.
Help on the Horizon in Arkansas Recruiting
Those who have followed Arkansas recruiting for a while know that the state is often cyclical, with thin years typically followed by strong classes of in-state prospects.
That has never been more true than with the 2023 and 2024 classes, as the latter appears to be one of the Natural State’s best in recent memory on the heels of one of its weakest.
The Razorbacks have already offered eight 2024 in-state prospects and three others have been offered by one or more Power Five programs. At least another six have a Group of Five offer, with three of them having multiple.
With more than 10 months to go until the early signing period, it is shaping up to be a fantastic crop of recruits in terms of both quality and quantity.
Little Rock Christian quarterback Walker White, Benton running back Braylen Russell and Little Rock Mills defensive end Charleston Collins are already four-star and top-250 prospects in the 247Sports Composite, with Bryant defensive end TJ Lindsey knocking on the door of four-star status. Although unrated by Rivals and 247Sports, Valley View linebacker Brian Huff has a four-star rating from On3.
All five have long and impressive offer sheets, with some of college football’s biggest powers — Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon and others — battling the Razorbacks for their services.
Arkansas offered Malvern offensive lineman Vinny Winters when he was still just a freshman and was his first Power Five offer. He’s since added Missouri and Kansas State while visiting several other schools.
The two most recent in-state prospects offered by the Razorbacks are wide receivers: CJ Brown from Bentonville and Courtney Crutchfield from Pine Bluff. They were the sixth Power Five offer for Crutchfield, who was previously offered by Oklahoma and others, and the third for Brown, following Purdue and Louisville.
A couple of other players to keep an eye on include a pair of offensive linemen — Fort Smith Southside’s Kobe Branham and Lonoke’s Chauncey Johnson — who have been offered by Texas A&M and Missouri, respectively, as well as Malvern running back Jalen Dupree, who’s been offered by Boston College and Kansas State.
More coverage of Arkansas football and Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…