To many in Razorback Nation, the fact that Arkansas was not on the shortlist for Little Rock Christian’s Walker White is a head scratcher. It stings even more that his choice ended up being another SEC West program in Auburn, a version of which no longer even includes Gus Malzahn.
White has another year to truly decide where he’ll end up, but his decision to commit this early to Auburn should NOT be an indictment on the recruiting ability of Dan Enos. Don’t blame Arkansas’ new offensive coordinator for White breaching the imaginary Razorback red wall that surrounds the state when it comes to highly sought after recruits.
Yes, many Arkansas football fans felt that having an offensive coordinator as well-renowned for coaching quarterbacks as Enos would help in attracting top-tier quarterbacks to Fayetteville. It will. However, by the time he returned to Fayetteville for his latest stint, the train had likely already left the station for this particular 6-foot-3, 215-pound, four-star specimen.
The Recruitment of Walker White
The fact is, Walker White had a lot of options. Among his top three were also Clemson and Baylor. Those who didn’t even make the short list included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and several others.
Who wouldn’t want him on their team? With his size and speed, White ran through Arkansas high school defenses like water through a slice of Swiss cheese. He gained 837 yards on just 102 carries (8.2 ypc) and threw for 25 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. These are very good numbers by any standard. The only chink in his armor appears to be his accuracy. As a junior, he completed just 53% (142 of 267) of his passes.
Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles expected a higher completion rate than that and he got it from Feleipe Franks and KJ Jefferson. They each completed nearly 70% of their passes over the past three seasons. In the seasons ahead, Dan Enos will expect something closer to that than 53% from his quarterbacks.
No rocket surgeon degree is required to understand that the competition in the SEC gets a lot stiffer than what Walker has seen so far. And it can be assumed any player who completes just over half of his passes in high school may struggle mightily without solid coaching in college. He could have had that at Arkansas under Enos.
While that may not have been on White’s mind during his recruiting process, it certainly is on the mind of other quarterback recruits. On the same day of White’s announcement, Richard Davenport of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on Sawyer Anderson, a sophomore at Dallas Parish Episcopal School who has offers from Arkansas, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas Tech, Arizona State, Missouri, Ole Miss, TCU and Oklahoma State among many others.
Sawyer said of Enos, “He has a great track record with quarterbacks coming from Alabama, Maryland and previously Arkansas, so his philosophy on quarterbacks is legit.”
The Keys to Flipping Walker White
If Sawyer Anderson can see what Dan Enos might be able to do for him, certainly Walker White can. too. So, the onus is on Enos to flip White before the early signing period in December.
Athletes at White’s level almost always believe, for good reason, they can compete for a starting position on whatever team they join. However, sometimes that athlete has to look reality in the face and consider who is ahead of him, as that clearly dictates what kind of playing time he can expect on a given team.
I believe Enos’ ability to potentially flip White rests on quarterback coaching and player talent.
First, there’s the coaching piece. Everyone knows how good KJ Jefferson is and that as long as he’s healthy, he will start every game and will be at the helm for the bulk of the snaps. There’s no questioning that.
The question is whether White and the rest of the world will see the same old great KJ Jefferson they’ve become accustomed to under Briles, or will they see a new and improved, even greater KJ in a different style offense under Enos?
This should matter to White because he will see in real time the difference Enos may, or may not, be able to make in the trajectory of a great college quarterback’s career and if Enos can turn him into a player NFL teams find truly attractive.
Second, there’s the talent piece. Will White get to see enough of backup quarterbacks Malachi Singleton and/or Jacolby Criswell on the field to figure out how long he will have to carry a clipboard before he actually gets his time in the sun?
An answer of “sooner rather than later” should help Enos flip him, if that turns out to be a possibility.
It’s no secret Jefferson’s rise was a direct factor in Malik Hornsby’s attempt to leave the Hogs after the 2021 season and his actual departure after the 2022 season.
There’s no question White is already considering the talent at other positions around him. Clemson, who was considered the strong favorite for White’s commitment, is loaded with elite quarterback talent considering incumbent Cade Klubnik and incoming true freshman Chris Vizinna. Auburn, meanwhile, projected to have a more barren cupboard in the years ahead after a commitment from Class of 2024 quarterback Adrian Posse fell through.
In any potential reconsideration of Arkansas, understanding the likelihood Singleton or Criswell takes over the top spot for Arkansas in 2024 will be paramount.
Comparing Arkansas Football to Other Options
Walker White should also take heart that the Hogs did well in the transfer portal to pull in some talented receivers this year. Add them to the talented receivers like Isaiah Sategna already here and incoming tight ends like Shamar Easter and Luke Hasz and it seems that any quarterback would find Arkansas to be an attractive option.
Of course, talent at the skill positions will not be a problem for any of the schools on his shortlist, but Walker could rest easy knowing that flipping to Arkansas would not mean throwing to lesser talent.
If White’s goal is to win a national title, then Auburn has unquestionably been the least nationally relevant team on his shortlist. Granted, Huge Freeze will likely change that on the Plains just as Sam PIttman is in the process of doing in Fayetteville.
Still, if White most wants to win a national championship ring, then Alabama or Clemson would make more sense. If he wants to be coached by a quarterback whisperer, Arkansas makes sense. If he wants to play close to home, but not AT home, Oklahoma or Ole Miss make sense.
However, if early and substantial playing time is his goal, then Auburn football appears to be the path of least resistance. It would be up to Dan Enos to convince him that going there for that reason is a mistake — even if, in the end, it’s not.
More coverage of Walker White and Arkansas football from BoAS…