Latest Razorback Commit Evokes Royalty in 2 Sports Worlds

Kobe Branham, Arkansas football, Arkansas recruiting, Fort Smith Southside

He did his due diligence, but deep down, Kobe Branham likely always knew he’d end up continuing his career with Arkansas football.

The three-star offensive lineman out of Fort Smith Southside announced his commitment to the Razorbacks on Monday, a day after returning home from another trip to Fayetteville for his fourth and final official visit.

Ole Miss was the top competitor, with Oklahoma State and SMU also receiving official visit and Texas A&M getting an unofficial, but ultimately, none of them could beat out the school just an hour away from his hometown — especially considering the relationship he’s developed with Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman and offensive line coach Cody Kennedy.

“I grew up a Razorback fan,” Branham said. “Coach Pittman and Coach Kennedy are great guys. They’re both O-line guys, which helps a lot. The facilities and dorm — everything here is real nice.”

Branham — who measured at 6-foot-7, 325 pounds at his senior physical — first visited Arkansas for a junior day back in January, just nine days after receiving his first offer from Texas A&M offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino. It was another couple of months before the Razorbacks followed suit, doing so on March 12.

Since then, he’s been back to Fayetteville for the annual Red-White spring game in April and to support some of his high school teammates at a camp earlier this month, all while checking out the other schools, as well.

With the Razorbacks, Branham is expected to be an offensive guard. He’s considered a mid-tier three-star recruit on all of the recruiting services, with a 0.8650 rating in the 247Sports Composite. That makes him No. 66 overall among interior offensive linemen and the ninth-best recruit in Arkansas for the 2024 class.

Branham is the first offensive lineman in Arkansas’ 2024 recruiting class, which is now up to 12 total commitments.

Check out some highlights of Arkansas football commit Kobe Branham:

Harkening Back to Barry Lunney’s Heyday

Assuming he sticks with his commitment, Kobe Branham – who’s named after legendary NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant – will end a lengthy drought for what was once one of the top high school football programs in the state.

According to a database compiled by Best of Arkansas Sports, the last time Arkansas football signed a player from Fort Smith Southside was 2003, when it inked linebacker Derek Moore.

Moore, who is now an assistant coach at Springdale High, was a senior on Barry Lunney Sr.’s last state championship team with the Rebels-turned-Mavericks.

Lunney won four Class AAAAA state championships in 16 years at Southside before heading to Bentonville in 2005 and winning four more titles over the next decade.

During his tenure in Fort Smith, the Razorbacks signed four of Lunney’s players. In addition to Moore, they also landed defensive tackle Chase Pressley in 2002, offensive lineman Gary Hobbs in 1998 and, most notably, quarterback Barry Lunney Jr. in 1992.

The Mavericks did win another title (2006) and have sent players to Tennessee (wide receiver Slick Shelley in 2005) and Mississippi State (running back Ethan Stockett in 2007) since Moore signed with Arkansas, but they haven’t been a consistent factor in the state’s largest classification since Lunney’s departure – something Branham will try to change during his senior year after they went 4-7 and lost in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Since retiring from coaching following the 2014 season, Lunney has been involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

Updated Look at Arkansas’ 2024 In-State Class

Four of the Razorbacks’ commitments for 2024 hail from the Natural State, as Kobe Branham joins Little Rock Mills defensive end Charleston Collins, Pine Bluff wide receiver Courtney Crutchfield and Bentonville wide receiver CJ Brown.

That’s already more than the number of in-state players Arkansas football signed in the 2023 class, which was believed to be an all-time low. That group featured Ashdown tight end Shamar Easter, Bentonville offensive lineman Joey Su’a and North Little Rock defensive end Quincy Rhodes Jr.

If Sam Pittman gets his way, the Razorbacks aren’t done either. They could easily double last year’s total because it’s a particularly strong year for in-state recruiting.

Arkansas missed out on Little Rock Christian four-star quarterback Walker White, who’s committed to Auburn, but it is still in the mix for Benton running back Braylen Russell, Valley View linebacker Brian Huff and Harding Academy linebacker Wyatt Simmons.

Where those three players end up remains to be seen, but each of them will almost certainly sign with a Power Five program. Throw in Fayetteville quarterback Drake Lindsey and Lonoke offensive lineman Chauncey Johnson, who are committed to Minnesota and Oklahoma State, respectively, and that’s already 10 Power Five-caliber players in the state.

There are also a handful of other in-state players with Power Five offers:

  • Pine Bluff athlete Austyn Dendy: Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss and Purdue
  • Earle athlete Joseph McVay: Penn State, Purdue, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
  • Lake Village linebacker Aquavious Dunbar: Vanderbilt
  • Malvern offensive lineman Vinny Winters: Arkansas, Kansas State, Missouri
  • Malvern running back Jalen Dupree: Boston College, Kansas State, Purdue
  • Little Rock Parkview defensive tackle Alex Martin: Cincinnati, Kansas State
  • West Memphis defensive end Marquaze Parker: Cincinnati

Even without defensive end T.J. Lindsey, who recently announced he’s leaving Bryant to play his senior year at IMG Academy in Florida, the 2024 class is likely to surpass the 2022 class – which had 15 – as the deepest in-state group since 2008, when there were 18 such players.

Arkansas Football Commits in Class of 2024



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