Nick Saban’s recently finished 17-year run of dominance didn’t help the Razorbacks on the field in head-to-head matchups, but it appears to be helping them in recruiting.
The Crimson Tide’s success has ensured that, per capita, Alabama keeps producing some of the most high-level football recruits in the nation. Of that talent, the two major in-state programs – Alabama and Auburn – will always sign the highest number of recruits. It’s easy to assume that a program in a bordering state would sign the most after the Crimson Tide and Tigers, but that hasn’t been the case lately.
Thanks to the addition of the Metcalf brothers, along with class of 2024 signees Kavion Henderson, KJ Jackson and Bradley Shaw, Arkansas is tied for the lead among all out-of-state Power Four schools in signees from Alabama over the last two recruiting cycles:
- Arkansas: 7
- Georgia Tech: 7
- Clemson: 4
- Miss. State: 4
- Tennessee: 4
- Vanderbilt: 4
On top of that, Arkansas would have sole possession of No. 1 had defensive cook Jeremy Cook signed with the Hogs in the early signing period as originally planned. That didn’t happen and at this point going JUCO appears to be the most likely route.
It’s easy for naysayers to jump in and point out that not all of these recruits were highly coveted by big-time programs. But that’s overlooking guys like Bradley Shaw, who chose Arkansas over Clemson, or Kavion Henderson, who went with Arkansas over a Crimson Tide offer despite the fact his grandfather was pushing him toward Alabama.
Then there’s TJ Metcalf and his younger brother, Tevis. Both are Mississippi natives who didn’t move to Alabama until middle school. It’s noteworthy that they chose Arkansas over the Rebels considering both of their parents attended Ole Miss, TJ was born in Oxford and their second cousin, DK Metcalf, starred at wide receiver for Ole Miss.
Alabama Football Recruiting a Testament to Hogs Staff
Tying for No.1 in this Alabama football recruiting stat is a testament to Sam Pittman and his staff actually producing results. Razorback coaches constantly talk about and, to varying degrees, work toward recruiting pipelines to bordering states but a pipeline to a Southern state farther away has been harder to achieve despite sporadic success in a place like Florida (think Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland).
Pittman, as a former assistant under Saban disciple Kirby Smart, has helped make Georgia and especially Alabama into fertile grounds for recruiting for the Razorbacks.
Things started back in 2022 when Arkansas, inexplicably, landed linebacker Drew Sanders from Crimson Tide via the portal. This was, mind you, the year the transfer portal exploded into what we now know. All the usual suspects proclaimed Sanders as a big-time transfer – like they do for literally everyone who played at a power-conference school or had good numbers at even a lesser-tier school – but in this case, they were right. Sanders played just one season with Arkansas, but it was enough to turn the Texas native into a second-round NFL pick.
Arkansas then went out in 2023 and landed two potential rotational defensive backs in TJ Metcalf and Dallas Young, and a potential No. 1 wide receiver in Davion Dozier. Then the aforementioned foursome in the class of 2024.
Arkansas has even pulling in Alabama guys through the transfer portal again. The most recent addition is Alabama native Miguel Mitchell, who played at Florida.
In the entire decade before, Arkansas had a total five players from Alabama. Only two – defensive end JaMichael Winston and defensive tackle Darius Philon – really panned out, though Myles Mason had some playing time in the secondary.
Arkansas Football’s Future in Alabama
Of course, it remains to be seen what will come of any of the seven players from Alabama on the roster (or soon-to-be on the roster). Players leave through the portal even faster than they enter through it, so it’s possible none of them even stick around for a majority of their theoretical four eligible seasons of college football.
These Alabama natives didn’t necessarily grow up Razorback fans, so if the playing time they expected when they arrived doesn’t pan out, then transferring becomes a greater possibility.
Still, so long as they enjoy whatever years they stay in Arkansas, there’s a chance that Arkansas can maintain this Alabama football recruiting pipeline. The current Alabama natives will report back to their family and friends back home that, while Fayetteville is farther away than the Ole Misses and Tennessees, there are plenty of positives to make the distance worth it.
Granted, an in-state powerhouse program like Alabama is going to usually have a leg up in a head-to-head recruiting battle with Arkansas, but with Saban’s departure there is no guarantee that the Crimson Tide will maintain its current level of dominance under Kalen DeBoer. The last time the Crimson Tide got a head coach from the state of Washington, that didn’t go so well.
Pittman and his Arkansas football staff, meanwhile, will likely continue making a push into Alabama. In fact, according to Rivals’ database, they’ve already extended 14 offers to Alabama natives in the 2025 class and five in the 2026 class.
In the below interview, the Metcalfs talk about some of the benefits of growing up in Alabama.
Tevis Metcalf says: “I feel like the competition was a lot higher in Alabama because there’s a lot more available training than people have in Mississippi,” especially in a metro area like Birmingham.