While it has been very active in the transfer portal this month, things were mostly quiet on the traditional recruiting trail for Arkansas football until getting some good news Sunday evening.
Ashdown tight end Shamar Easter, the top in-state player in the 2023 class, reaffirmed his commitment to the Razorbacks with a graphic shared via Twitter that read “100% locked in.”
The announcement came following an unofficial visit to Fayetteville during which Easter got to spend time with new tight ends coach Morgan Turner, something he didn’t have the opportunity to do before the early signing period in December.
The traditional signing period begins Feb. 1, which would be the earliest Easter can officially sign with the Razorbacks, but he has at least ended any speculation that he might follow former tight ends coach Dowell Loggains to South Carolina.
Easter was the lone holdout among Arkansas’ high school commitments and, although head coach Sam Pittman didn’t rule out landing others, he should tie the bow on a 20-man signing class that will be filled out by players from the transfer portal.
Nine transfers have already committed to the Razorbacks and they’re expected to add several more to reach the 85-man scholarship limit for 2023. Even including all three potential super seniors who’ve yet to announce their plans, Arkansas needs to add nine more players, according to Best of Arkansas Sports’ projections.
Shamar Easter Resume
Playing for the same small southwest Arkansas high school that produced recent four-star defensive backs Montaric Brown and LaDarrius Bishop, both of whom signed with the Razorbacks, Shamar Easter made a name for himself on the other side of the ball at Ashdown High.
His talent was evident very early on and Sam Pittman ended up extending a scholarship offer in April 2020 — just four months after taking the job and before Easter had even played a snap of varsity football.
A little over a year later, in August before his sophomore season, Easter committed to stay in state. In doing so, he became the first Arkansas football pledge for the 2023 class.
Now listed at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, he is considered one of the top tight ends in the country. Easter has a four-star rating on all of the major recruiting services and is ranked as high as No. 152 overall in the On3 Consensus.
Rivals has him a few spots lower at No. 163 overall, but tabbed him the sixth-best tight end in the country, while the other services have him between No. 9 and No. 13 among tight ends.
What it Means for Arkansas Football
The Razorbacks had a trio of four-star tight ends committed in the 2023 class, but Dowell Loggains leaving to become the offensive coordinator at South Carolina threatened to unravel what was one of the strongest single-position hauls in the country.
Jaden Hamm ended up flipping to Kansas, but Luke Hasz stuck with Arkansas despite a late push by Nick Saban and Alabama, signing last month to make things official. That left only Shamar Easter up in the air.
He actually used an official visit to check out the Gamecocks in December, but it wasn’t enough to get him to sign early. Much to the Razorbacks’ delight, he put off signing and gave new tight ends coach Morgan Turner to sell him on staying home, which he apparently managed to do Sunday.
Arkansas is now one of two teams, along with Georgia, that has two of the top 10 tight ends in the country for 2023. That is particularly important for the Razorbacks considering starter Trey Knox entered the transfer portal and followed Loggains to South Carolina.
Nathan Bax could return as a super senior, but he hasn’t announced his plans and he isn’t a threat in the passing game, and Hudson Henry appears to be moving on. That leaves a gaping hole and the Razorbacks are hopeful their young talent — redshirt freshman Ty Washington and incoming freshmen Easter and Hasz — can fill it, with the possibility of also adding help from the portal.
That’s a stark contrast to the situation at Georgia, where the Bulldogs’ pair of top-10 tight end signees will be behind reigning Mackey Award winner Brock Bowers.
Impact on Recruiting Rankings
Before Shamar Easter ever sets foot on campus, though, his impact will be felt in a way that might go unnoticed by some fans.
The Razorbacks’ recruiting class is currently ranked 18th nationally on Rivals and 21st in the 247Sports Composite. With Easter staying on board, those rankings should hold pretty steady, barring the teams around them gaining or losing commitments during the upcoming traditional signing period.
Had he decommitted, Arkansas would have dropped to 24th in both rankings, so Easter is the difference between Sam Pittman breaking into new territory in the recruiting rankings and being where the program traditionally ends up.
Something similar unfolded last year, when four-star safety Myles Rowser didn’t sign with the Razorbacks. Grades are believed to be why he ultimately signed with an FCS program, but losing him dropped the class from 16th to 26th on Rivals and 23rd to 28th in the 247Sports Composite.
Not being able to hang on to Micah Tease, Jaden Hamm and Stephen Johnson down the stretch certainly hurts — the class would be ranked 17th and 20th, respectively — but locking in Easter at least puts Arkansas in position for just its third top-20 finish in the 22-year history of Rivals.
The only other times the Razorbacks cracked that ceiling were in 2009 and 2019, when they finished 16th and 20th, respectively.
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