Hogs’ Latest 5-Star Addition Propels Defensive Backfield into Rare Air Talent-wise

Jaheim Singletary

Although the 2022 season was the worst yet, as a program the Arkansas football team has struggled mightily with pass defense in the last two decades. The Razorbacks have finished in last place in the SEC in passing yards given up with disturbing regularity. Consistent struggles in this department are a big reason why the program hasn’t yet broken through to win an SEC title.

Indeed, the last time that the Razorbacks finished in the top 4 in the SEC in pass defense was 2003 under then head coach Houston Nutt and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack. That team won nine games and produced seven All-SEC players, but was also notable for its top-end talent in the defensive backfield. While safety Tony Bua, who converted from linebacker, wasn’t highly recruited coming out of high school, he left his mark in the Arkansas football annals by taking the program’s all-time lead in tackles – a record that stood until Bumper Pool’s 2022 season.

From a sheer talent standpoint, though, the 2003 team produced a starting pair at cornerback that no succeeding Razorback team – until now – has been able to match. On one side, you had 5’11” Lawrence Richardson, who had been the No. 2 overall ranked cornerback in the nation coming out of high school in Texas and chimed in with a .9773 247Sports composite score. For perspective, that’s higher than any recruit Arkansas has signed since 2016.

Then there was 5’10” Ahmad “Batman” Carroll, a five-star recruit who was considered by many outlets as either the best or second-best cornerback in the nation coming out of Atlanta, Georgia. Carroll is the Razorbacks’ second-highest rated recruit of all time in the modern recruiting era according to 247Sports Composite and he delivered in his time on the Hill, not only on the football field but also as a sprinter with the track team.

Enter Jaheim Singletary

Roughly two decades later, Arkansas has again gone to Georgia for a premier talent at cornerback.

This time the pickup is former five-star recruit Jaheim Singletary, who played one season for the national champion Georgia Bulldogs before transferring to Arkansas. Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman announced his signing at Tuesday’s spring football press conference. While the 6’2″ Singletary played only 13 snaps on the loaded Bulldogs and ended up redshirting in 2022, he is a major get based on his high school bona fides alone.

Playing against strong competition in Jacksonville, Florida, he racked up 10 interceptions and 20 pass break ups in a three-year varsity career and finished his senior year as nation’s No. 27 recruit according to the 247Sports Composite rating.

Indeed, Singletary’s .9878 score there puts him in a tie for sixth-highest recruit/transfer to play for the Razorbacks in the last 23 years:

Highest Rated Arkansas Football Additions

  1. Ryan Mallett: .9978 (Quarterback; Class of 2007 signed by Michigan)
  2. Jadon Haselwood: .9967 (Wide receiver; Class of 2019 signed by Oklahoma)
  3. Mitch Mustain: .9964 (Quarterback; Class of 2006)
  4. Ahmad Carroll: .9942 (Cornerback; Class of 2001)
  5. Drew Sanders: .9896 (Linebacker; Class of 2020 signed by Alabama)
  6. Tie at .9878 between Jaheim Singletary and Darius Winston (Cornerback; Class of 2009)
  7. McTelvin Agim .9869 (Defensive lineman; Class of 2016)
  8. Darren McFadden .9855 (Running back; Class of 2005)

Singletary’s signing is part of a major overhaul of the Arkansas secondary under new defensive coordinator Travis Williams and assistant coaches Marcus Woodson and Deron Wilson.

“I feel like we’ve really hit a home run with our hires,” Pittman said Tuesday afternoon.

Indeed, their ability to bring in big-time talents alongside seasoned veterans like the Baylor’s Alfahiym Walcott and Lorando Johnson has pushed the average overall grade of current Arkansas defensive backs into nearly the four-star range.

Arkansas had 18 defensive backs on scholarship last season. If you assume a .7000 247Sports composite grade for former walk-ons (Blair/Clark), then those 18 players an average grade of .8573, which is equivalent to a mid-tier three-star.

As things currently stand (they could still add more from the portal), the Razorbacks have 16 defensive backs on scholarship. If you again assume a .7000 grade for Clark, then they have an average 247Sports Composite grade of .8743, which is a high three-star. If you exclude Clark, our own Andrew Hutchinson points out, the average increases to .8860. That’s nearly four-star range.

Arkansas Defensive Backs in 2022 – 247Sports Composite Grades

Myles Slusher — .9281

Dwight McGlothern — .9024

Jalen Catalon — .9001

Quincey McAdoo — .8940

Trent Gordon — .8858

Anthony Brown — .8815

Jaylen Lewis — .8804

Keuan Parker — .8793

Zach Zimos — .8762

Jayden Johnson — .8752

LaDarrius Bishop — .8741

Latavious Brini — .8681

Chase Lowery — .8622

Malik Chavis — .8601

Jacorrei Turner — .8464

Khari Johnson — .8167

Simeon Blair — 0

Hudson Clark — 0

Arkansas Defensive Backs in 2023 – 247Sports Composite Grades

Jaheim Singletary — .9878

Jaylon Braxton — .9404

Dwight McGlothern — .9024

Quincey McAdoo — .8940

Lorando Johnson — .8913

TJ Metcalf — .8842

Dallas Young — .8828

Jaylen Lewis — .8804

Christian Ford — .8769

Jayden Johnson — .8752

LaDarrius Bishop — .8741

RJ Johnson — .8703

Malik Chavis — .8601

Dylan Hasz — .8411

Alfahiym Walcott — .8284

Hudson Clark — 0

Talent isn’t everything, of course. Arkansas has seen its fair share of blue-chip defensive back recruits (e.g. Darius Winston, Chevin Calloway) who didn’t live up to expectations, but it definitely matters if for nothing else than being a great foundation to then add the coaching and skills development.

It looks like the new coaches are giving Arkansas more hope in this arena than it has had in a long time. “Since [Travis] Williams arrived, more recruits are talking about their relationship with Arkansas’ defensive coordinator than I’ve seen in about 14 years on the job,” recruiting analyst Danny West wrote in a VIP article for HawgSports.com. “That can only be viewed as a breath of fresh air for Hog fans who are used to finishing near the bottom of the league in overall defensive talent.”

If this kind of effort combined with actual results like the signing of Singletary are any indication, it looks like Arkansas is developing into a program that can return to the top 4 in the SEC in passing defense.

Facebook Comments