Double-Barreled Blast of Recruiting Bad News Puts Hogs in Uncharted Hot Waters

Sam Pittman
Craven Whitlow

Sam Pittman was dealt a double-barreled blow on Monday with de-commitments from two blue-chip recruits. First, there was consensus four-star offensive lineman Carius Curne. The Marion native is rated as 247Sports’ top prospect in the state of Arkansas in the class of 2025, and the No. 183 prospect nationally.

Then, just a few hours later, four-star running back Jamarion Parker decided Arkansas football fans hadn’t chugged enough Pepto Bismol on the day. He, too, declared he was stepping away from his oral pledge. His decision was much less surprise, as the St. Louis native had committed in September when Jimmy Smith was the running backs coach. Smith has since left for TCU and been replaced by Kolby Smith. 

Jamarion Parker, rated by 247Sports as the No. 4 recruit in the state of Missouri, boasts a raft of offers, including Michigan and Oregon and seven SEC schools.

Curne had only six offers, but all of them were from within the SEC – including heavyweights like Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. Curne made his pledge to Pittman and new offensive line coach Eric Mateos on Feb. 7, and his decommitment less than two months later comes as a surprising and hurtful loss for the Razorbacks at a position of need.

Fallout from Losing Carius Curne, Jamarion Parker

These defections are just the latest in an increasingly long line of disappointments on the recruiting trail for the Head Hog. Seeing two recruits – and blue-chip ones at that – decommit on the same day without a head coach firing is likely uncharted territory for the program. 

It’s a carryover from the unsettling way the 2024 recruiting cycle ended. That class started strong and looked promising, but faltered at the very end, as Pittman failed to get many of his top pledges to actually put pen to paper.

Perhaps other schools, particularly Arkansas’ SEC foes, smelled blood in the water after the controversial decision to retain Pittman after a miserable 4-8 season. With the prominence of “poaching” in the NIL era, the appearance of a sinking ship is an easy way to start bleeding recruits fast.

That’s what happened in the case of the Hogs’ two prized recruits at the wide receiver position. Just a few weeks after stomping Arkansas in Razorback Stadium by a score of 48-14, Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz swooped in to snatch the commitment of Pine Bluff’s Courtney Crutchfield, the top player in the state of Arkansas. In February, Texas A&M stole some more food off of Pittman’s plate with four-star Ashton Bethel-Roman.

This fizzling out in the leadup to National Signing Day meant that the Razorbacks finished the cycle ranked 15th out of 16 teams in the SEC – ahead of only Vanderbilt. Arkansas was also tied with South Carolina for the fewest signings in the conference with just 16, though the Gamecocks’ average prospect rating was over a full point higher. The Hogs’ class ranked a measly 39th nationally according to Rivals.

The departures of Carius Curne and Jamarion Parker throw a wrench into Pittman’s effort to produce a much-improved class of 2025, as the Razorbacks now sit 12th in the SEC with just three commits for the next cycle – three-star QB Grayson Wilson, three-star RB Markeylin Batton and unranked kicker Evan Noel.

Curne and Parker were previously the only four-star prospects in the class. Without them, the Hogs have gone into freefall down the national recruiting rankings. After Curne’s announcement, 247Sports had Arkansas at 41st in the nation. Parker’s news sent them tumbling out of the top 50 entirely, settling at 54th.

Simply put, that is far from the firepower the Razorbacks need to compete in the new-look SEC. Curne’s February commitment was seen as a desperately-needed momentum boost for the Hogs in the recruiting department, but that optimism has since disappeared entirely.

Disturbing Arkansas Football Recruiting Trend 

With the loss of Curne and Crutchfield, the Razorbacks have now missed out on the top prospect in the state of Arkansas two years in a row. This has been a recurring issue, and a troubling trend for a head coach with a mantra of being a “proud damn state”.

Discounting Pittman’s inaugural class that he scraped together on short notice just after taking the job, the Head Hog went on a three-year streak of landing the state’s top player – offensive lineman Terry Wells in 2021, wide receiver Isaiah Sategna in 2022 and defensive lineman Quincy Rhodes Jr. in 2023.

As of late, however, the staff has started to let in-state recruits slip outside the borders far too often. Looking at the Razorbacks’ roster, this mass exodus of homegrown talent isn’t just occurring at the top of the recruiting rankings.

There were just 42 players from Arkansas on roster last year – a notable drop from past seasons. Additionally, according to research from Best of Arkansas Sports’ Andrew Hutchinson, there were four games in 2023 that didn’t feature a single Arkansan in the starting lineup – something that hadn’t happened since at least 2000.

For this to happen under Pittman, whose whole identity is rooted in state pride, is worrisome to say the least. It certainly continues to shake fans’ confidence levels in their head coach.

LSU Football’s Gain is Hogs’ Loss

Carius Curne’s announcement comes right on the heels of a visit to LSU – you can put two and two together there. The Tigers have been hot on his heels on the recruiting trail, and are looking to snap up the Natural State’s prized possession with the promise of competing for SEC and national titles.

If the tea leaves are being read correctly and Curne does in fact commit to LSU, it will be yet another player joining the Baton Rouge-to-Fayetteville pipeline that has proven to be a two-way street. At this point, you might as well build a highway between the two schools.

Former Hogs Greg Brooks Jr. and Joe Foucha made the switch to purple and gold, while former Tigers Dwight McGlothern and Landon Jackson made the trek north to don Razorback red. While it’s safe to say the Razorbacks got the best of that trade with two All-SEC standouts, it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting anything in return for Curne.

The Bayou pipeline is also extending to women’s basketball, as Arkansas transfer Jersey Wolfenbarger posted on her Instagram just a few hours before Curne announcing her commitment to LSU. The Fort Smith native and former McDonald’s All-American never quite lived up to her potential at Arkansas, but LSU coach Kim Mulkey and the defending champs are betting on the former five-star to shine for the Tigers next season.

It appears Wolfenbarger might not be alone in fleeing for swampy pastures, as her former teammate and fellow McDonald’s All-American Taliah Scott showed her support by commenting “GEAUX TIGERS” under the post. Scott, Arkansas’ leading scorer last year, announced last week that she was entering the transfer portal after just one season in Fayetteville.

What a brutal sight it would be for Mulkey’s Bayou Bengals to run rampant in the SEC next season with two former Razorbacks leading the charge.

Pittman’s Ex Golden Boy Gets His Poach On

In line with the trope of the student becoming the master, a former Arkansas assistant appears to be at the hands of Pittman’s newest predicament. Brad Davis was the offensive line coach on Pittman’s inaugural staff at Arkansas in 2020. After spurning initial offseason interest from USC, the Baton Rouge native headed home to LSU after one season in Fayetteville.

The 44-year-old has been down there ever since, and become one of the best position coaches in the SEC. On the Hunt Palmer Show, On3 Sports insider Billy Embody spoke about Davis’ impact for the Tigers.

“Brad Davis is continuing to turn over just about every single stone on the national recruiting front, and doing a good job of it,” Embody said. “He’s got [LSU] right in the thick of it…just continues to get it done. He’s been really impressive with what he’s been able to do with all the guys he’s recruiting, and managing that room and building it up for years to come.

Show host Hunt Palmer heaped more praise, saying that Davis “has just done an incredible job with his position group since arriving on campus a couple years ago, and they’re not slowing down.”

Given Arkansas’ recent offensive line struggles under Cody Kennedy, Pittman is surely looking to Baton Rouge and wondering “what if” his former apprentice had stayed in Fayetteville just a little bit longer.

Grappling with Offensive Line Struggles 

It hasn’t just been the recruiting trail where Sam Pittman will be feeling left behind – it’s on the field, too. Given his decades of experience as an offensive line coach, it was frustrating for fans to watch that unit struggle last year – and it must have especially angered the Head Hog himself, as seen by his more hands-on approach with the big boys this spring.

There’s also been a concerning lack of offensive line talents that Pittman has actually recruited and developed during his head coaching stint at Arkansas. Development was something he was known for as an offensive line coach with the number of Pro Hogs that he produced – such as Travis Swanson and Dan Skipper.

Looking at the Hogs’ current line, however, four of the five projected starters are transfers – Fernando Carmona Jr., Addison Nichols, Joshua Braun and Keyshawn Blackstock. The only exception is Patrick Kutas. While the prevalence of transfers has obviously changed the recruiting landscape, it’s concerning nonetheless to see such a lack of development of high school o-line recruits under Pittman. 

One Pittman recruit who can join Kutas in bucking that trend is E’Marion Harris – but he’d have to beat out either Carmona or Blackstock for one of the tackle spots.

The Andrew Chamblee situation is another head-scratching loss in the trenches. In a confusing turn of events earlier this month, the Maumelle native refuted his own head coach’s claim that he had “lost his love for the game” in a social media post claiming that he was “not done yet.”

Assuming he still has some love left for football and enters the portal, Chamblee – who made the SEC All-Freshman Team last year – will be the sixth Pittman-recruited offensive lineman to transfer out of Arkansas in the last three offseasons.

It’s troubling to note, when it comes to the former offensive line savant, that so many of the successful lineman during his tenure – including Beaux Limmer, Brady Latham, Myron Cunningham and more – were recruited by Chad Morris rather than Pittman himself.

In order to right the ship next season, the Razorbacks will have to improve upon that unit’s dreadful 2023 performance. Without returning to the road-paving lines that Pittman built his reputation on, it won’t matter how many future Jamarion Parkers the program holds on to or loses. In a do-or-die year for his regime at Arkansas, the longtime offensive line coach’s fate will likely come down to the team’s performance in his own area of expertise.


John Daly Tees Off on Arkansas Football Recruiting’s Epic Fail of a Day

The swaggering Arkansas golfer is concerned with the way NIL is wreaking havoc on the college sports and leading to kind of constant flux we see represented by the de-commitments of Curne and Parker. Granted, he doesn’t appear to be one of those people that thinks that NIL and the portal is ruining everything and you might as well throw up your hands and just cry yourself to sleep every night wondering what happened to the precious sport we once loved.

He just wants what one could argue is a rational gatekeeping in the new age, with some sort of restraints and fairness applied so you don’t have the star players making millions while everyone else is fighting over a $500 Visa gift card every month.

He gets into that more here:

Where Is Carius Curne Going?

Ever since Curne took his second-most recent visit to LSU, many believe that he’s a lean toward the Tigers.

That thinking only got more support when Byron Jenkins, who has multiple ties within the prep Arkansas football scene, posted this apparently about Curne:

However, don’t discount the possibility of others changing his mind. “I wouldn’t say he’s a lean anywhere,” his offensive coordinator Zach Tribble told “Whatever his last visit was is probably his favorite, because he’s still a kid to be real with you.”

On Wednesday, Curne finished a visit to Ole Miss – his second such trip in a little over a month. “His recruitment is still open,” Tribble said, speaking on behalf of the interview-avoidant Curne. “I think after official visits and stuff like that come June, he’ll be locked in somewhere.”

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