Just a few months ago, 16-year-old Blayne Toll did the improbable.
As his friends watched with bated breath, Toll tensed and lifted 410 pounds over his head. It was the most Toll, one of the state’s top-ranked prep football players, had ever bench pressed.
He and his friends shouted ecstatically at his accomplishment. The 6’5″ 242 pound Toll bolted up, yelling “Let’s Go!”
And, on Friday, Hog fans everywhere joined him.
Blayne Toll announced he chose the Razorbacks over Oklahoma and Tennessee, the latest commitment in the Hogs’ class of 2020 class. For his age, Toll is one of the most physically impressive athletes to ever hail from Arkansas.
Last year, the Hazen native clocked a 4.88 40-yard dash, measured a 31-inch vertical and a 78-inch wingspan. This spring, he won second place in the state’s high school weightlifting competition and plays the highly unusual combination of defensive end and quarterback. At either position, he wreaks major damage with his size, strength and speed.
“Running a 4.88 40-yard dash, Toll is explosive off the line and though he doesn’t quite have that really quick second-gear, he runs fast and hard until the whistle is blown,” Hawgsports’ Demerick Gary wrote.
“Toll uses his hands very well for someone who doesn’t just play defensive end. He’s good at using his hands to shed blocks. He’s a quick twitch player who responds to change well and he has great football instincts.”
Hunter Vincent, Hazen High’s former defensive coordinator, said that Toll’s explosion and power are his most elite qualities: “His body has developed so much and he’s worked on it so much in the last year, he looks better than some NFL players look right now and he’s 16 years old.”
The kicker in all this is that Toll should actually be entering 11th, not 12th, grade. He skipped eighth grade. At this rate, “you don’t know how big he’s going to be when he’s 18, 19 or 20 years old. So he’s got a tremendous amount of upside,” Hazen head coach Joe Besancon told KATV.
After his announcement at the Hazen High gym, Blayne Toll said he had wanted to be a Razorback since childhood. But Hogs coach Chad Morris was also a big draw.
“He’s a really great guy. He wants all his players to grow spiritually and that’s really important. He doesn’t push it on them but he encourages it. I think that’s really important in a program,” he said.
UPDATE: Toll also said he chose Arkansas over Tennessee and Oklahoma because of Steve Caldwell (the Hogs defensive line coach) and John Chavis (defensive coordinator). He felt they were the best coaches to help prepare him for the NFL as a defensive lineman, he told Tye Richardson and Phil Elson on the Halftime Pod. Toll, who plans to enroll early at Arkansas, will start his Hogs career at defensive end after growing up idolizing former Hog great Jake Bequette (Toll keeps a signed Bequette Razorback jersey in his home).
He also chose the UA because of his 30-year-old brother, who works as a policeman in the Fayetteville area. “I never got to be around him growing up so I wanted to experience that,” Toll said.
As far as the recruiting process goes, he’s glad it’s finished. “It’s a real stress relief,” Toll said. “It’s been a real stressful process. I’m just thankful for everything God has blessed me with, and I think it’s just a good time for it to be over.”
Plus, there’s that little matter of focusing on bringing home some championship hardware his senior year…
Arkansas Football’s Class of 2020 So Far
Blayne Toll is generally ranked between the No. 1 and No. 3 player in the state. Rivals, for instance, has him third behind Ole Miss offensive line commit Robert Scott and UNC QB commit Jacolby Criswell. He’s the 10th commitment of of the Hogs’ class of 2020 and the second from Arkansas.
Here’s the current list via 247 Sports, where the class is ranked No. 43 in the nation. I have boldfaced the 4-star prospects. The numbers after the height/weight reflect the 247 Sports composite ratings:
- Ty’kieast Crawford Carthage (Carthage, TX) 6-5 / 335 0.9364 OT
- Chandler Morris Highland Park (Dallas, TX) 5-10 / 172 0.8929 DUAL-THREAT QB
- Blayne Toll Hazen (Hazen, AR) 6-5 / 244 0.8887 SDE
- Savion Williams Marshall (Marshall, TX) 6-4.5 / 200 0.8722 WR
- John Gentry North Shore (Houston, TX) 5-10 / 186 0.8714 RB
- Jamie Vance Edna Karr (New Orleans, LA) 5-10 / 155 0.8701 CB
- Jashaud Stewart Jonesboro (Jonesboro, AR) 6-1.5 / 221 0.8566 WDE
- Mason Mangum Westlake (Austin, TX) 5-11 / 171 0.8561 WR
- Allen Horace Crockett (Crockett, TX) 6-4 / 233 0.8539 TE
- Brandon Frazier McKinney North (Mckinney, TX) 6-7 / 247 0.8519 TE
Watch Blayne Toll be a bad, bad man here:
Can he and the rest of this class of 2020 “Diamond Gang” group, and the extremely talented class which has come before them, take Arkansas football to new levels in the 2020s?
Outside of a few good years, Arkansas has historically struggled since joining the SEC in 1992. The Hogs have yet to win an SEC title. The program has winning records only against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and South Carolina, as you can see in the chart below.
Arkansas football vs. SEC schools since 1992
The farther southeast the opponent, the worse Arkansas does, generally speaking. Among SEC opponents, the Hogs win the least against Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
See below for a breakdown of the Hogs’ records against all conference opponents on a decade-by-decade basis:
Arkansas football vs. SEC schools in 2010-2018
[Statistics via reddit]
Arkansas football vs. SEC schools in 2000-2009
Arkansas football versus other SEC schools in 1992-1999