FAYETTEVILLE – Sifting postgame last Saturday through the ashes both a 52-3 annihilation administered by No. 1 Alabama but also a 3-7 SEC season vastly improved over the 1-7, 0-8, 0-8 SEC campaigns of the three Razorbacks football teams immediately preceding his Arkansas tenure, Sam Pittman was asked about recruiting needs headed into Wednesday’s start of the 3-day December early signing period.
“There are several different places that obviously we need some help,” Pittman said on postgame radio. “I love the kids we have on the team but we’ve got to get bigger. At about every position we could use some plug and play guys. We’re not a totally go out and get a junior college squad. We’re not a transfer squad. I think you build a program through high school recruiting and that’s what we’re going to do and we’ll plug in a few transfers.”
The 3-7 record in an entirely SEC season likely suffices for a bowl bid next Sunday in these abnormal covid-19 times, but even granting the Hogs should be 4-6 given the SEC admitted officiating error handing Auburn back its fumble that the Razorbacks recovered enabling the Tigers to kick a 30-28 last-play, game-winning field goal, the Razorbacks still won less than they lost.
So does the message to recruit remain sign now for the chance to play right away?
“I think that’s probably the message that you give to every single class, no matter where you’re at,” Pittman said. “Because if you don’t give them hope that they have a possibility to play, you know, then you’re probably not recruiting them as high as they want to be. We certainly need guys to come in here and help us.”
Pittman, who coached the biggest offensive line in all of football college and even pro, during his 2013-2015 tenure coaching Arkansas’ offensive lines under Bret Bielema, arrived at Arkansas vowing to reinstitute what started changing in Bielema’s final two seasons in 2016 and 2017 and changed radically to smaller offensive lines in particular and the team in general under Chad Morris in 2018 and 2019.
“We have to get bigger,” Pittman reiterated.
And deeper. This year of covid-19 roster reductions and players opting out during the season strained most everyone’s depth in a sport where injury attrition already is the norm.
“ Y’all don’t have any idea what going through covid and opt-out are about,” Pittman told media. “I mean none. You basically put your team together on Friday because the (covid-19) tests come back on Thursday. And so there’s a lot that goes into all that stuff.”
Stuff with one vaccine now in initial distribution and others closer to to approval that next year’s football teams maybe won’t have to face.
“Hopefully if the vaccine gets out,” Pittman said. “And our depth will be better and kids aren’t afraid of the virus. And at that point the virus, opting out would be a thing of the past. I think our depth is probably better than it looks, simply because of the virus and opting out. But we do need some young kids to come in here and help us..”
He does assert help is on the way.
“Obviously we feel like we’ve got a good class,” Pittman said.
Wednesday’s class includes one already enrolled, receiver Jaquayln Crawford, 5-10, 172, transferred from the University of Oklahoma.
The others are all verbal commitments who cannot be officially added until they sign letters of intent.
Committed to sign Wednesday as midterm graduates eligible to enroll in January for the University of Arkansas spring semester are incoming freshmen linebacker Marcus Avant, 6-3, 212, Jonesboro, as the only early arriving Arkansan; quarterback Lucas Coley, 6-2, 205, San Antonio, Texas, Cornerstone Christian; running back Javion Hunt, RB, 6-0, 205, Oklahoma City, Okla. Carl Albert; wide receiver Ketron Jackson, 6-2, 185, Royse City, Texas; receiver Jaedon Wilson, 6-3, 172, DeSoto, Texas; linebacker Christopher Paul, 6-1, 235, Cordele, Ga. Crisp County; safety Jermaine Hamilton-Jordan, 6-1, 195, Kansas City, Mo. Lincoln College Prep;
safety Jayden Johnson, 6-2, 193, Cedartown, Ga.; athlete Raheim Sanders, 6-2, 210, Rockdale, Fla.; and place-kicker Cameron Little, 6-2, 170, Moore (Okla.) Southmoore.
Expected to sign Wednesday and enroll in the summer after completing their high school graduation this spring are three from instate: quarterback Landon Rogers, 6-5, 215, Little Rock Parkview; tight end Erin Outley, 6-4, 248, Little Rock Parkview; and
offensive lineman Terry Wells,, 6-5, 306, Wynne.
Committed from Oklahoma to sign with Arkansas are running back AJ Green, 5-11, 190, Tulsa Union; receiver Bryce Stephens, 6-0, 165, Oklahoma City John Marshall; defensive lineman Solomon Wright, DL, 6-1, 275, Vian; and cornerback Keuan Parker, CB, 6-0, 173, Tulsa Booker T. Washington.
From Louisiana, offensive lineman Devon Manuel, 6-8, 300, Arnaudville Beau Chene, has verbally committed to sign as have two from Texas: offensive lineman Cole Carson, 6-6, 290, Bogata Rivercrest; and cornerback Chase Lowery, 6-0, 180, Frisco.