Thanks to the success of players like Grant Morgan, Hayden Henry and Bumper Pool, Arkansas football has become a destination of sorts for linebackers.
For those who have followed the Razorbacks for several years, that is a shocking development considering their struggles to build depth beyond one or two players at the position.
However, the cupboard is more full than it’s been in a while. Now in Year 3 of the Sam Pittman/Barry Odom era, Arkansas is starting two former blue-chip recruits — Pool was a four-star and Drew Sanders was a five-star — with highly regarded three-star prospects Chris Paul Jr. and Jordan Crook backing them up and rotating in.
Pool will certainly be gone after this season because he’s a super senior and Sanders, if he continues to play like he has the first two games, could test the NFL Draft waters (Pro Football Network just put Sanders on its radar as a 2023 NFL Draft “sleeper”). Still, for the first time in recent memory, the future looks promising.
On top of Paul, Crook and the other linebackers on campus, the Razorbacks have three more committed in their 2023 recruiting class. The group is headlined by Carson Dean, a four-star recruit on Rivals.
Playing at Hebron High in Carrollton, Texas, Dean showed why he is so highly touted in a 54-40 win over Northwest Eaton last week. Despite the flurry of points hitting the scoreboard, he was all over the field defensively. In addition to racking up 12 tackles — including five TFLs and one sack — Dean had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, and blocked two kicks.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and, depending on where you look, anywhere from 220-235 pounds, Dean appears to have all the makings of a standout, versatile linebacker at the next level. He’s classified as an outside linebacker on Rivals and ESPN, but an EDGE defender on 247Sports and On3. The Dallas Morning News, which has him at No. 28 on its list of the top 100 area recruits for 2023, has even speculated that he could end up on the defensive line in college.
If all that sounds familiar, it’s because Dean’s story is lining up to be quite similar to that of Drew Sanders. Sanders was about the same size coming out of Denton’s Ryan High School, where he was once ranked as Texas’ No. 1 recruit, and then played an outside linebacker/edge rusher position at Alabama.
He wanted to be more of a traditional, stand-up linebacker, so he came to Arkansas, but Odom still has a 3-3 package in which Sanders is the third linebacker and lines up as essentially a stand-up defensive end who gets after the passer.
Sanders already has two college seasons under his belt to help him reach dominance through two games with the Razorbacks, so it’d be unfair to place those kind of expectations on Carson Dean — he’s ranked about 500 spots lower in the 247Sports Composite, after all — but it’s easy to imagine him growing into a similar role when he gets to Fayetteville, especially if he keeps having performances like the one he had last Friday.
Arkansas Football QB Commit Has Surgery
A week after a Herculean effort nearly led his team to a big win, Malachi Singleton had surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot and is expected to miss at least the rest of the regular season, according to 247Sports’ Rusty Mansell. There is hope that he’ll be able to return in time for the playoffs.
Singleton apparently knew he was dealing with an injury going into No. 3 North Cobb’s showdown with No. 1 Buford back on Sept. 2, but he played through the pain and nearly led the Warriors to a dramatic comeback.
His numbers weren’t great, as he completed just 8 of 18 passes for 99 yards, one touchdowns and two interceptions, but he also had 87 yards and a score on 13 carries — remember, with a broken foot — and both of his touchdowns came in the second half, erasing a 14-0 halftime deficit to tie the game with 5:55 remaining.
Unfortunately for North Cobb, that was plenty of time for Buford to answer. A field goal with 1:29 left actually broke the tie, but Buford opted to take the points off the board when North Cobb was flagged for roughing the kicker. The way Singleton was playing, Buford head coach Bryant Appling didn’t want to give him any more time than he had to.
“I didn’t want to give them any time with the ball,” Appling told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They found an issue with our defense and I didn’t want to try adjustments. I wanted to give them the least amount of time on the clock as we could.”
Sure enough, the gamble worked because Buford scored a touchdown with 42 seconds left. A last-ditch effort by North Cobb ended when Singleton was picked off in the closing seconds. It remains to be seen if that will be the final pass of his high school career or if he’ll get a chance at redemption in the playoffs.
Updated Recruiting Rankings
A couple of rankings updated in the past week, albeit in different sports, for different classes and on difference services.
First, Prep Baseball Report (PBR) updated its 2023 ranking and several Arkansas baseball commitments benefited. Most notably, infielder Aidan Miller from Florida checked in at No. 3 overall.
“Always a consummate performer, Miller hardly rested on his talents, but rather raised them to new heights,” wrote PBR’s Scooter Hunt. “Now, a sturdy 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete, the right-handed hitter has emerged as an elite bat in the class with the ability to drive the ball to all fields with authority.”
Miller was named the MVP of the High School All-Star Game and won the High School Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium during MLB’s All-Star Week and is currently tearing it up for Team USA at the WBSC U18 World Cup.
The full top 500 is behind a paywall, but PBR did single out Arkansas baseball commits right-hander Barrett Kent (No. 26) and infielder Walker Martin (No. 33) as “mega risers” in their rankings.
In hoops, 247Sports updated its list of the top players in the Class of 2024, expanding it to 150 players, and a pair of Arkansas natives saw a dip in their ranking. Little Rock Central’s Annor Boateng fell 18 spots to No. 54, while Little Rock Parkview’s Dallas Thomas fell 30 spots to No. 47.
Click here for a full rundown from HawgSports’ Curtis Wilkerson of where Arkansas’ offers and targets are now ranked.
Finally, Rivals unveiled its initial top 100 football prospects in the Class of 2025 — meaning the best sophomores in the country. That list featured one in-state recruit: Little Rock Parkview cornerback Omarion Robinson, who checks in at No. 75.
Arkansas, which offered him back in January, hosted Robinson on an unofficial visit for the Cincinnati game. He also has offers from Baylor, Louisville, Ole Miss, TCU, Utah, Arkansas State and Memphis.
Other Arkansas Recruiting Nuggets
- Despite the 11 a.m. kickoff, the Razorbacks were still able to host a couple of 2024 prospects on unofficial visits for the South Carolina game. Linebacker Brian Huff, an in-state product out of Valley View High in Jonesboro, had a much shorter trip than offensive lineman Fletcher Westphal, a four-star, top-200 prospect from Virginia.
- Arkansas continues to hand out offers, but one that caught our attention was offensive lineman Max Anderson. A top-150 prospect out of Reedy High in Frisco, Texas, he has an older sister who graduated from Arkansas. However, it’s worth noting that his older brother plays at Oklahoma, so he has family ties working for and against the Razorbacks. Here’s a look at what he brings to the table:
- Arkansas basketball 2023 commit Layden Blocker, who was recently elevated to five-star status in the 247Sports Composite, has been invited to participate in the Team USA Junior National Training Camp in October. He was also recently named the MVP of the inaugural NFT JAM, a 2-on-2 tournament in Atlanta.
- Blocker’s younger brother, Landren, is a touted prospect in the 2024 class and is still at Little Rock Christian. He has offers from UAPB, Creighton, Tulane, UCA, Ole Miss, Missouri, TCU and St. John’s and is coming off a sophomore season in which he averaged 14.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3 assists in conference play. Arkansas has its eye on him, as head coach Eric Musselman and assistant Gus Argenal made their way to Little Rock Christian on Wednesday. Not only were they checking out Blocker, but the Warriors also have a 2026 prospect worth watching: JaShawn “JJ” Andrews — the 6’5″, 180 pound son of former Arkansas offensive lineman Shawn Andrews. Considered by at least one outlet as a national Top 50 player in the freshman class, he already has offers from Ole Miss, Missouri and UAPB.
- Another hoops tidbit: Cousins and big men Baye Fall and Assane Diop are expected to be in Fayetteville for their official visits this weekend. Fall is a five-star prospect, while Diop is a four-star recruit in the top 100. Fall is coming off a visit to Rutgers and recently canceled plans for a Texas visit. According to The Knight Report, the Rutgers site in the Rivals network, Arkansas, Rutgers and Seton Hall are the three schools he’s talking to regularly and he’s planning to announce his decision the first week of November.
More coverage of Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…