Arkansas football still has a top-10 recruiting class — for now.
With the latest commitment from linebacker Brad Spence, the Razorbacks are still solidly within the top 10 classes in the country on Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN.
Their 22-man group is No. 6 nationally in the class of 2023, according to Rivals, and one spot behind that at No. 7 on 247Sports and ESPN. Each of those services also have them second in the SEC. The 247Sports Composite, which draws from all of the services, has them at No. 10 overall and No. 4 in the conference.
That lower ranking could be due to On3 — the newest of the services — having Arkansas’ class at No. 15 overall and No. 5 in the SEC.
While an Arkansas football fan’s immediate reaction may be to simply dismiss the On3 ranking because the site obviously “hates the Hogs,” it’s worth looking into why there’s such a difference. Upon further investigation, it’s clear the reason is much more logical — and one Best of Arkansas Sports has previously addressed.
Balancing Quality vs. Quantity for Arkansas Recruiting
Last month, BoAS columnist Eric Bolin (accurately) touched on the fact that the primary reason Arkansas was ranked so highly in the recruiting rankings is the sheer quantity of players in the 2023 class compared to the rest of the country.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and that still rings true, as the Razorbacks have seen their class double in size — from 11 to 22 — since June 19. They are now tied with Baylor for the third-most commitments among Power Five schools, trailing only Duke (25) and Texas Tech (23).
Tennessee has the next-most commitments in the SEC with 18, followed by LSU with 15. Recruiting juggernauts Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia, which finished in the top three spots nationally last season, are sitting at five, 11 and 13 commitments, respectively.
On3, which launched last August, tries to account for those variances by weighting its team recruiting rankings based on the average number of commits for Power Five schools (currently 14). Because of this, On3’s Arkansas recruiting ranking of 15th likely better reflects where they actually stand nationally.
Insiders Project Razorbacks’ Final 2023 Class Ranking
Where Bolin might have been wrong, though, was in writing the class will “most likely” pan out “the same way they have for most of the last 20 years” — meaning land somewhere in the top 35 nationally and near the bottom of the SEC, ahead of the likes of Vanderbilt.
This very subject was brought up during Pig Trail Nation’s latest “Ask Mike” segment and long-time sports reporter Mike Irwin mentioned a conversation he had with Arkansas recruiting expert Otis Kirk.
“It is better, it’s going to be better,” Irwin said about the class. “They’re not going to stay No. 1 in the SEC. … I think, and Otis says this, when it’s all set and done, the class will be somewhere around 5 or 6 in the SEC and in the top 20, which is an improvement, so he’s getting there.”
As the On3 rankings seem to indicate, that’s not just a view through rose-colored glasses. Teams like Alabama, Georgia and a few others will almost certainly jump the Razorbacks, but not as many as usual.
If you need more convincing, take it from someone on the national scene with no ties to Arkansas. Cooper Petagna, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports who was recently on The Morning Rush radio show, echoed Kirk’s sentiment.
“I feel pretty good about where they’re sitting right now,” Petagna said. “Arkansas is sitting well within the top 10 right now at No. 6. There’s still a couple of programs that have to make their move…but if you’re Arkansas, I think there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get that done and they’ll end up in the top 20.”
As things currently stand, the Razorbacks have 234.14 recruiting “points” in the 247Sports Composite and 1,967 recruiting “points” on Rivals. Calculated in each service’s unique way, those points determine where a team is ranked at any given time during the recruiting cycle.
Last year, those totals would have ranked 17th and 14th nationally in the Class of 2022, respectively. The year before that, for the Class of 2021, they would have ranked 18th and 17th, respectively. That further confirms Arkansas has an excellent chance to finish the 2023 class inside the top 20, even if it doesn’t land another recruit the rest of the way.
More Arkansas Football Commitments in the Pipeline?
Of course, it’d be foolish to think head coach Sam Pittman and the Razorbacks are done on the recruiting trail. While they have most of the class complete, there are still a few spots available to fill.
Technically, Arkansas coaches could sign as many recruits as they want thanks to the NCAA recently eliminating the annual cap, but teams are still required to stay within the overall limit of 85 scholarships.
Considering they’ll probably also want to save room for transfers, the Razorbacks will likely take only a few more high school players in the 2023 class.
In fact, wide receiver Davion Dozier is scheduled to announce his decision at 1 p.m. CT Wednesday. A high three-star prospect from Alabama, he’ll choose between Arkansas, Duke, Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Arguably the two most notable targets still on the board are a pair of four-star recruits: offensive lineman Vysen Lang from Alabama and wide receiver Joshua Manning from Missouri.
Lang, a four-star prospect on Rivals, has been on campus a couple of times for unofficial visits and is planning to return to Fayetteville for an official visit on Oct. 1, when the Razorbacks host Alabama. His top six, which he announced Tuesday, also includes Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Texas, but Arkansas seems to be in a good spot with him. Both Crystal Ball predictions on 247Sports are in favor of the Razorbacks.
Manning, a 247Sports Composite four-star prospect, is the son of a former Arkansas women’s basketball player — Roxanne (McCrory) Manning — and officially visited Fayetteville last month. He was set to announce his decision July 3, but quickly postponed his commitment with no new date set. At the time, all signs were pointing toward Kansas State, but now his decision is a mystery.
Landing either, or both, of those prospects would add to the Razorbacks’ total of 12 players with a four-star rating from at least one of the major recruiting services.
That is approaching the high-water mark over the past decade, as the 2019 class featured 15 such recruits. Lang and Manning could potentially push them up to 14. On top of that, there’s a possibility of current high three-star commitments like Brad Spence picking up a fourth star before the rankings are finalized.
Hear from Mike Irwin about Arkansas recruiting at 19:45 here:
More coverage of Arkansas recruiting from BoAS…