The hits just keep coming for Arkansas football.
Riding a three-game losing streak and dealing with numerous injuries, the Razorbacks are now feeling it on the recruiting trail, as 2024 four-star running back Braylen Russell has backed off his pledge.
The announcement, which Russell shared via a graphic on Twitter, came a day after Arkansas was blown out by Mississippi State 40-17 in Starkville, Miss.
“After consideration, I’d like to announce that I will be decommitting from the University of Arkansas,” Russell wrote. “Everything for me is still 100% open.”
Russell is arguably the top in-state prospect in the 2024 class. He is now at Benton after beginning his high school career at Hot Springs Lakeside.
He had been committed to the Razorbacks since Nov. 6 last season, when he was on campus and got swept up in the excitement of their 31-28 win over — coincidentally — Mississippi State.
It was an incredibly early pledge, as he was just the ninth player in the 2024 class to announce a commitment, according to the Rivals database and he was the earliest commitment Arkansas had received over a span of at least 20 classes.
Russell was the Razorbacks’ lone 2024 commitment. They are now one of five SEC teams, along with Kentucky, Mississippi State, Missouri and Vanderbilt, without a pledge in that class.
Recruitment of Braylen Russell
The Razorbacks offered Braylen Russell last summer when he attended a camp in Fayetteville and was clocked at 4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
At the time, it was the rising sophomore’s only offer. However, that didn’t stop him from earning a four-star rating from recruiting services. He is ranked No. 206 overall in the country by Rivals.
Since then, Russell has picked up offers from Arkansas State, Tennessee and Ole Miss — all of which he tweeted about this summer, despite being committed to the Razorbacks.
He’s taken numerous trips to Fayetteville since committing, but also made trips to all three of those programs. In fact, he attended a big recruiting event at Arkansas the day after visiting Ole Miss this summer. Following that visit, Russell told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he was “still firm” with his commitment to Arkansas.
Russell was on campus as recently as a week earlier for the Razorbacks’ loss to Alabama. Fast forward a month after that comment and a week after that visit, he is no longer committed.
Historic Commitment, Familiar Story
Research by Best of Arkansas Sports revealed that Braylen Russell was the earliest commitment Arkansas football has received since at least the 2004 class.
He announced his decision during November of his sophomore campaign, while most players don’t commit until — at the earliest — the summer between their sophomore and junior seasons.
However, the end result is an all-too-familiar story for Arkansas football. Assuming he doesn’t re-commit to the Razorbacks, Russell would become the fourth player since 2004 to decommit and sign elsewhere after being their first pledge of a class.
On top of those players, four others failed to qualify because of grades and six more made it to Arkansas only to eventually transfer out. Another three didn’t finish their career with the Razorbacks for various other reasons.
According to our research, the only one to play his entire career with the Razorbacks was Grant Freeman, a four-star tight end out of Paris, Ark., in the 2007 class who eventually converted to an offensive tackle.
Here’s a look at the list:
- 2004: Freddie Barnett — failed to qualify academically, went JUCO
- 2005: Brannon Kidd — failed to qualify academically
- 2006: Freddie Barnett — failed to qualify academically again
- 2007: Grant Freeman — played entire career at Arkansas
- 2008: Matt Hall — transferred to Ole Miss
- 2009: Colby Berna — career cut short by injuries
- 2010: Cam Feldt — transferred to North Texas
- 2011: Demetrius Dean — enrolled late because of grades, eventually quit the team
- 2012: Jalen Cobb — failed to qualify academically
- 2013: Jamel James — decommitted, signed with Texas State
- 2014: Rafe Peavey — transferred to SMU
- 2015: Ty Storey — transferred to Western Kentucky
- 2016: Jordan Jones — transferred to Cincinnati
- 2017: Derrick Munson — transferred to Nicholls State
- 2018: Connor Noland — left team to focus on baseball
- 2019: Ty Evans — decommitted, signed with North Carolina State
- 2020: Ze’Vian Capers — decommitted, signed with Auburn
- 2021: Terry Wells — still on the team
- 2022: JJ Hollingsworth — still on the team
- 2023: Shamar Easter — still committed
- 2024: Braylen Russell — decommitted
Rare Recent Decommitment for Arkansas Football
It is relatively common in this era of recruiting for players to commit to one school only to change their mind and end up elsewhere. Some — like current wide receiver Isaiah Sategna going from Texas A&M to Oregon to Arkansas — do it multiple times.
Luckily for the Razorbacks, they’ve mostly avoided that trend since head coach Sam Pittman took over following the 2019 season.
Braylen Russell is just their fourth decommitment over that span.
It’s worth noting that one of those players, quarterback-turned-tight end-turned-wide receiver Landon Rogers out of Little Rock Parkview, ended up still signing with Arkansas. So it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that Russell does the same, especially with early signing day for the Class of 2024 still more than two years away.
Another one of those players was four-star safety Myles Rowser from Michigan. He ultimately flipped to Campbell of the FCS ranks on National Signing Day, but grades were believed to be a factor in that decision.
The other was four-star wide receiver Anthony Evans III earlier this year, as the 2023 prospect backed off his pledge when he started getting pursued by larger programs. He has since committed to Oklahoma, but recently tweeted about an offer from Oregon and might have wandering eyes once again.
More coverage of Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…