When he made the short trip up from the River Valley to Fayetteville this weekend, Kobe Branham had no idea he’d return home with an offer from Arkansas football.
However, the big offensive lineman out of Fort Smith Southside did just that, with head coach Sam Pittman extending the opportunity himself during Branham’s unofficial visit to watch the Razorbacks’ practice Sunday afternoon.
“It was a surprise for sure,” Branham said. “We were just planning spring practice dates and stuff and we ended up getting to Arkansas’ spring practice. We went up there and the offer came out of nowhere.
“I was speechless really. He was talking about other stuff then he just said that. I really didn’t know what to say.”
Listed at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Branham plays right guard for the Mavericks and is a high three-star recruit, according to On3, which gives him an 87 grade. The other recruiting services have not yet assigned him a rating.
Since the calendar flipped to 2023, Branham’s recruitment has taken off. In the span of two months, he’s received nine Division I offers. It started on Jan. 12, when he announced Bobby Petrino had offered him on behalf of Texas A&M. Oklahoma State and now Arkansas are his only other Power Five offers at the moment.
While crosstown rival Northside has produced five Power Five signees in the past nine classes, Fort Smith Southside has not had as much talent come through its program.
According to Best of Arkansas Sports’ database, the Mavericks’ last FBS signee was defensive tackle Hunter Moreton, who went to Arkansas State in 2017. You have to go back another decade to find their last Power Five signee, as running back Ethan Stockett landed at Mississippi State in the 2007 class.
It has been more than two decades since the Razorbacks signed a player from Southside, with the last being linebacker Derek Moore in 2003.
Branham also visited Arkansas for Prospect Day on Jan. 21 and was at Texas A&M the following week. He plans to visit Memphis and Ole Miss this week, Oklahoma State on March 25, and then Texas A&M again and SMU next month. He could potentially make his way back to Fayetteville for the spring game on April 15.
There is no set timeline, but Branham said he’d like to make a decision before his senior season begins this fall.
He is the ninth in-state prospect in the 2024 class to receive an Arkansas football offer. Little Rock Christian quarterback Walker White has already committed to Auburn, but Little Rock Mills defensive end Charleston Collins, Benton running back Braylen Russell, Pine Bluff athlete Courtney Crutchfield, Valley View linebacker Brian Huff, Bryant defensive end TJ Lindsey, Bentonville wide receiver CJ Brown and Malvern offensive lineman Vinny Winters are still on the board.
From Billboard to Offer
It has been nearly two years since Bear McWhorter drew headlines for his unique efforts to catch the eye of Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman.
Then just 13 years old and going into eighth grade, his father paid for a billboard on Interstate 49 in Fayetteville that featured his picture and a simple message: “Coach Pittman, I want to be a Hog.”
Sure enough, McWhorter has evolved into a legitimate Power Five prospect. Despite being just a freshman, which means he’s a Class of 2026 recruit, the Georgia native already has offers from Arkansas, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee, UCF and Virginia Tech.
Although he’s visited Fayetteville before, this weekend was McWhorter’s first trip since the Razorbacks gave him an opportunity to fulfill his billboard wish by extending an offer on Jan. 18.
“I enjoyed my time,” McWhorter said. “I got to talk to Coach Pittman and Coach Kennedy for awhile. We had a good talk. … (Pittman) took me back in his office for about 30 minutes and we had a great conversation.”
Even though he made it seem as though Arkansas was his dream school with the billboard back in 2021, it appears that McWhorter will take his time with the recruiting process, as he’s been busy taking visits and has several more scheduled.
Arkansas Football Makes Top 6 for RB
The Razorbacks are loaded at running back for the foreseeable future, but that hasn’t stopped Jimmy Smith from going after more in upcoming classes.
Traevon Dunbar, a running back out of Midland Valley High School in Graniteville, S.C., included Arkansas football in his top six schools on Saturday. The other five schools he’s considering are Boston College, Maryland, Penn State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
A high three-star prospect pretty much across the board, he has an 88 rating from 247Sports, 87 rating from On3 and a 5.7 rating from Rivals.
Dunbar took an unofficial visit to Fayetteville for the Ole Miss game on Nov. 19. It’s unknown exactly when he’ll announce his decision, but it appears he likes Arkansas considering the photos he tweeted out back on Jan. 5:
New Arkansas Football Offers
Just as was the case a week earlier, the Arkansas football program had numerous touted prospects in town over the weekend and many of them returned home with offers. In addition to the aforementioned in-state offensive lineman, Kobe Branham, here are a few others who tweeted about being offered…
It may be too late to get him at this point, as he recently released a top 10 that included the likes of Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC, but Aaron Flowers is a four-star recruit in the 2024 class from Forney, Texas.
The son of former NFL tight end Eric Kattus, Tucker Kattus is a 6-foot-5, 285-pound offensive lineman out of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati. Other offers for the Class of 2025 prospect include Michigan, Boston College and Kentucky. His older brother, Josh, is a tight end at Kentucky.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Joshua Moses is another big offensive lineman in the 2025 class. He attends Legacy the School of Sport Sciences in Spring, Texas, and already has offers from Arizona State, Texas A&M, Houston and a few others.
Arkansas has thrown its hat into the ring for Class of 2026 wide receiver O’Mari Johnson, who already had offers from Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Penn State and South Carolina. He attends Wesson Attendance Center in Wesson, Miss., and reports a 4.4-second 40-yard dash.
Another 2026 prospect already garnering a lot of attention on the recruiting trail, Chaston Smith also has offers from Michigan, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Michigan State. He’s a defensive back out of Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tenn.
Tyreek King is also a 2026 recruit from Knoxville, but attendance Knoxville Catholic. He lists himself as an “athlete” on Twitter, but considering he tagged Marcus Woodson and Deron Wilson in his tweet, he’s probably being recruited as a defensive back. His only other reported FBS offer is Tulane.
Yet another 2026 recruit from Knoxville, Shavar Young Jr. has actually been offered by the hometown Volunteers, as well as Virginia Tech, Colorado, Louisville, Michigan, Ole Miss and others. He’s also considered an “athlete,” but tagged Woodson and Wilson in his tweet. He attends the Webb School of Knoxville.
Other Arkansas Recruiting Visitors
Here’s a look at several other Arkansas football recruits who were in town over the weekend…
An in-state prospect from Greenwood, Cody Taylor is a Class of 2026 offensive lineman who already has offers from Kentucky, Ole Miss and a handful of other Group of Five schools. He has yet to be offered by the Razorbacks, but he’s visited several times and there appears to be genuine interest.
It has been nearly two years since Arkansas gave him his first scholarship offer, but Xadavien Sims seems to still be interested in the Razorbacks despite picking up many more offers since then. The Durant, Okla., native is a top-75 overall recruit in the 2024 class and had good things to say after this weekend’s visit.
The younger brother of current Arkansas defensive end Landon Jackson, Lance Jackson is the No. 32 overall recruit in the 2025 class, according to 247Sports, with offers from the likes of Oklahoma and Tennessee. He was offered by the Razorbacks nearly two years ago and attends Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Texas.
Blake Stovall Jr. is a 2025 safety from Keller, Texas, who was recently offered by Penn State.
Ashton Hampton had a long trip from Tallahassee, Fla., as he goes to Florida State University School. He’s a defensive back in the 2024 class who reports offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and many others, but is a low- to mid-three-star recruit.
Offered by Arkansas last February, Kenyan Kelly made his way to Fayetteville this weekend. He’s a 2024 four-star safety on 247Sports and a high three-star on Rivals and On3. Other offers for the Denison, Texas, native include LSU, Oklahoma, TCU and several others.
More coverage of Arkansas recruiting and Arkansas football from BoAS…