Opposing Coach’s Comment Twists Knife into Hogs’ Recruiting Situation Even on “Successful” Weekend

JaQuentin Madison, Sam Pittman, Keiundre Johnson, Arkansas football
photo credit: Twitter/JaQuentin Madison / Craven Whitlow / Twitter/Keiundre Johnson

Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman continued his efforts to build his 2025 recruiting class as the Hogs landed a pair of defensive linemen on Sunday.

The first addition of the day was three-star defensive tackle JaQuentin Madison, who is the 158th-ranked defensive line prospect in the class, according to 247Sports. The Alpharetta, Ga., native has been a bit of a late riser, as he didn’t earn his third star until about a month ago. 

He received his first offer from Missouri in September, and was up to 14 offers by the end of January after wrapping up his junior season, where he totaled 16 total tackles and six tackles for loss in seven games.

Arkansas offered Madison in March, and he committed to the Hogs at the end of his visit over the weekend.

Keiundre Johnson joined in on the parade by committing just a few hours later. A three-star prospect from Terrell, Texas, Johnson’s versatility is apparent in his profile. Rivals lists him as an athlete and 247Sports has him as a tight end – but it was defensive line coach Deke Adams who served as his lead recruiter. It’s believed that Arkansas is recruiting him to play as an edge rusher.

As a junior, Johnson put up 57 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 10 games. His limited involvement on the offensive side of the ball saw him total 122 all-purpose yards. It will be interesting to see if he expands his two-way role as a senior or commits to the trenches as a defensive end.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Johnson’s athleticism jumps off the screen when you watch his highlight tape. He attracted the attention of a number of big-name schools, earning offers from LSU, Florida State, Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon and many others.

The addition of Madison and Johnson brings the Hogs’ total up to 12 pledges in the 2025 class. Unfortunately for Pittman, the newest pair of commitments leave behind more questions than answers for the Razorbacks.

Of the dozen 2025 commits on board as of now, not a single one is a four-star prospect, according to 247Sports, with only one reaching that level in the 247Sports Composite. Rivals has the Hogs’ class ranked 33rd in the nation, and 12th out of 16 teams in the newly-expanded SEC. Within the conference, Arkansas’ average star rating of 3.0 is only higher than South Carolina, Mississippi State and lowly Vanderbilt.

These numbers paint a damning picture of the growing talent gap between Arkansas and its SEC foes – especially with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma into the fold this season.

Latest Additions Don’t Move the Needle for Arkansas Football

While Madison has earned a total of 20 offers so far, just seven of those are from power conference schools – and that includes the likes of Kansas, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. While snapping up under-the-radar talent can be rewarding if a player exceeds expectations, it’s worth asking if these additions are going to do much to move the needle for Arkansas.

The Hogs have yet to ink a class that ranks higher than 9th in the SEC since Pittman took over, and the recently-finalized 2024 class was the lowest yet, at 14th in the conference. 

But even then, the Razorbacks’ signing day haul included nationally-ranked heavy hitters like defensive lineman Charlie Collins, defensive back Selman Bridges and linebacker Bradley Shaw – all of whom were consensus four-stars with big-time offers. The Hogs had to beat out Clemson in the eleventh hour to land Shaw’s signature.

When comparing the 2024 class to the latest cycle, it comes across as a bit underwhelming, to say the least. While you can argue that depth is important in recruiting class and filling the board with three-stars lays a nice foundation, it’s a necessity to bring in program-changing talents like the previously-mentioned trio of new Hogs.

It’s certainly possible for Pittman to turn the class around by landing some big fish to boost the numbers – but can that happen if big wins don’t come early in the 2024 season? Put frankly, it’s hard to envision top recruits signing on with a coach who’s one of the top names on the coaches’ hot seat rankings. If you aren’t even sure if the guy you’re committing to will be around by the time you enroll, what’s the point in considering that school? Just food for thought.

Opposing Coaches Weigh In On Sam Pittman’s Status

There’s evidence to believe this has become a common thought in the college football world. Lindy Sports Management spoke to three anonymous opposing coaches, who had this to say:

“They might be doing Halloween without the (current) Razorback staff,” one coach said.

Another coach added that “the offensive line was horrible (last year), and that’s Sam’s bread and butter.”

“Everybody says they brought in John Calipari because they didn’t want the basketball program to be subpar, just like I don’t think they want the football team to be subpar, either,” the final coach said. “There’s lots of money in Arkansas; some of the most powerful people in the world, and they want to win. I like Sam, but I thought he’d have a better program by now.”

Not exactly glowing reviews from Pittman’s peers. Granted, it’s in the best interests of these other coaches to badmouth their rivals and stir the pot by suggesting that there’s blood in the water in Fayetteville. Recruiting is a zero-sum game, and making other programs look worse makes yours look better by contrast.

Regardless, recruiting is not about the actual state of affairs. It’s a game of perception, and that’s a battle that Arkansas is losing ground on right now.

It can’t be understated how important it is for the Hogs to turn their on-field results around this season. Fans and prospective recruits need to see signs of life and promise coming out of the program. Otherwise, Arkansas will continue to dwell on the outside looking in towards the rest of the SEC in the recruiting landscape.

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