New Research Shows UA Signing Class Made History In Way Sam Pittman Wouldn’t Like

Sam Pittman, Arkansas football, Arkansas recruiting
Credit: Craven Whitlow

For the second year in a row, Arkansas football has made history with its in-state recruiting efforts. Unfortunately, it’s probably not the kind of history Sam Pittman would like to be part of.

After signing what’s believed to be a record-low three players from Arkansas in the 2023 class, the Razorbacks inked only five of the 14 in-state prospects who signed with Power Five programs Wednesday.

Based on research by Best of Arkansas Sports, that is the lowest percentage — 35.7% — of homegrown Power Five-level players coming to Arkansas since at least 1994. The previous low was 38.5% in 2010, when the Razorbacks signed five of 13.

Considering the regional nature of recruiting before the 1990s, it’s not a stretch to say this is also an all-time low for the Arkansas football program.

Despite missing out on some of the top players from the Natural State, Pittman sounded pleased with the group he did sign when he met with reporters Wednesday.

“We wanted to stay as loyal as possible to the kids from the state,” Pittman said. “Sometimes you’re not going to get them all and it’s disappointing because we feel like for their life and for their career and for their passion, they help us win.

“But at the same time, we have to make decisions. I’m not telling you we’re always right and those things, but we have to make decisions. We make them and we worry about the ones that are here and not the ones that aren’t.”

The Razorbacks’ in-state crop is highlighted by Little Rock Mills defensive end Charleston Collins, who was tabbed the top player in the state by Rivals and On3. They also reeled in Benton running back Braylen Russell, another four-star prospect, as well as Harding Academy linebacker Wyatt Simmons, who had a lengthy offer list and might have been ranked higher if he cared about such things and attended camps.

Bentonville wide receiver CJ Brown and Fort Smith Southside offensive lineman Kobe Branham also had multiple other Power Five offers, but chose to stay home and go to the school in their backyard.

Strong In-State Crop for 2024 Class

What makes the Razorbacks’ record-low percentage particularly disappointing to Arkansas football fans is that a class like this doesn’t come through the Natural State very often.

Not only were the 14 total Power Five signees in this class the second-most over the past 16 years, but the top of the class was highly coveted across the country — especially in SEC country.

Including TJ Lindsey, who played at Bryant before transferring to IMG Academy for his senior year, six in-state recruits have four-star ratings in the 247Sports Composite. Another four are high three-star recruits.

The 247Sports Composite rankings now go back a quarter-century (since 2000) and there have never been six four-star — or 10 high three-star or better — recruits from Arkansas in the same class. The previous high was five four-star recruits (in 2004, 2015 and 2019) and nine high three-star or better recruits (2022).

The legendary 2008 class that provided the backbone of Bobby Petrino’s stellar 2010 and 2011 teams had a quartet of four-star recruits and another four who were high three-stars.

ClassFour-Star (or Better) RecruitsHigh Three-Star RecruitsTotal
20246410
2023246
2022459
2021213
2020235
2019516
2018246
2017213
20163*03
2015527
2014202
2013314
2012257
2011314
20102*13
20093*03
2008448
2007426
20063*25
20053*03
2004516
2003101
2002303
20014*04
2000202
*Total includes a five-star recruit

There is also quite the discrepancy among outlets regarding the No. 1 player in the state this year. Rivals and On3 gave that distinction to Charleston Collins. 

But Pine Bluff wide receiver Courtney Crutchfield (247Sports) and Little Rock Christian quarterback Walker White (ESPN) are the top in-state players on the other major services. They are headed to Missouri and Auburn, respectively.

While such a deep in-state class is typically a good thing for the Razorbacks, it also meant there’d be stiff competition to keep the top players. In fact, they did lose out on a few of them, but it could have been much worse.

There was a lot of smoke surrounding Collins possibly de-committing and going to Ole Miss or following his cousin, Crutchfield, to Missouri. Braylen Russell actually did de-commit and flirted with the likes of Tennessee and South Carolina. At one point, it seemed like Wyatt Simmons was heading out of state, with Auburn and Clemson his biggest suitors.

All three ended up sticking with the Razorbacks, though, despite watching them suffer through a miserable 4-8 season.

“Let’s face the facts: With our year that we had, it affected a lot of things,” Pittman said. “With our kids in the state that stayed with us with all the noise going on around the program, that’s big time for loyalty because we didn’t sign anybody that didn’t have several offers. … For (them) to stay here just proves that they’re going to be damn good Hogs because they wanted to be here.”

Assessing Arkansas Football’s In-State Recruiting in 2024

It’s worth noting that Arkansas didn’t even offer five of the in-state players who signed with Power Five programs elsewhere in the Class of 2024.

Of the four the Razorbacks pursued and missed on, Sam Pittman said he liked how his staff found other players outside of the state to replace them.

“Every year if you don’t get them all, you’re disappointed,” Pittman said. “But at the same time, we had done such a nice job in our recruiting department of having others ready.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the players headed to other Power Five schools and who Arkansas signed instead:

POSIn-State Player(s): HS —> College (247Sports)Arkansas Signee(s) — Home State (247Sports)
QBWalker White: Little Rock Christian —> Auburn (.9355)
*Drake Lindsey: Fayetteville —> Minnesota (.8667)
KJ Jackson — Alabama (.8917)
WRCourtney Crutchfield: Pine Bluff —> Missouri (.9380)
*Joseph McVay: Earle —> Vanderbilt (.8811)
Ashton Bethel-Roman — Texas (.9216)
CJ Brown — Arkansas (.8756)
Krosse Johnson — Louisiana (.8659)
OL*Chauncey Johnson: Lonoke —> Oklahoma State (.8614)Kobe Branham — Arkansas (.8656)
Zuri Madison — Kentucky (.8747)
DET.J. Lindsey: Bryant (IMG Academy) —> Auburn (.9051)
*Maraquaze Parker: West Memphis —> Cincinnati (.8528)
Charleston Collins — Arkansas (.9530)
Kavion Henderson — Alabama (.9163)
LBBrian Huff: Valley View —> Missouri (.8966)Justin Logan — Georgia (.8836)
Wyatt Simmons — Arkansas (.8853)
DB*Austyn Dendy: Pine Bluff —> Missouri (.8719)Jaden Allen — Texas (.8747)
Selman Bridges — Texas (.9439)
Ahkhari Johnson — Texas (.8753)
Tevis Metcalf — Alabama (.8736)
JuJu Pope — Mississippi (.8908)
*Arkansas didn’t offer

In-State Signees Under Pittman

2024

  • OL Kobe Branham – Fort Smith Southside
  • WR CJ Brown – Bentonville
  • DE Charleston Collins – Little Rock Mills
  • RB Braylen Russell – Benton
  • LB Wyatt Simmons – Harding Academy

2023

  • TE Shamar Easter – Ashdown
  • DE Quincy Rhodes Jr. – North Little Rock
  • OL Joey Su’a – Bentonville

2022

  • OL Andrew Chamblee – Maumelle
  • TE Dax Courtney – Clarendon
  • DE Nico Davillier – Maumelle
  • OL E’Marion Harris – Joe T. Robinson
  • LB Kaden Henley – Shiloh Christian
  • DE JJ Hollingsworth – Greenland
  • RB James Jointer Jr. – Little Rock Parkview
  • WR Quincey McAdoo – Clarendon
  • LB Mani Powell – Fayetteville
  • WR Isaiah Sategna – Fayetteville

2021

  • LB Marco Avant – Jonesboro
  • TE Erin Outley – Little Rock Parkview
  • QB Landon Rogers – Little Rock Parkview
  • OL Terry Wells – Wynne

2020

  • DE Jashaud Stewart – Jonesboro
  • ATH Blayne Toll – Hazen
  • LB JT Towers – Joe T. Robinson
  • LB Catrell Wallace – Bryant

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