Arkansas Football Recruiting: Looking Ahead to the Razorbacks' 2015 Class
There's still a chance the Arkansas Razorbacks will add a few more prospects for the 2014 class, but most of head coach Bret Bielema and his staff's focus on the recruiting trail has now shifted to the 2015 class.
The Razorbacks are off to one of their best starts in the program's history for the '15 class, already owning four commitments from 4-star players and a highly rated 3-star to give them five so far. It's extremely early in the process, but the Hogs rank 10th in 247Sports' team recruiting rankings for 2015.
Bielema, at least on the recruiting front, has Arkansas headed in the right direction with the early success for next year's class. With that said, here's a look ahead to the '15 class, including current commits, positions of need and top targets.
All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.
It's no secret that the Hogs are desperate for a quarterback who can lead them back to the top of the SEC, and though Arkansas signed Rafe Peavey for 2014, Brandon Allen will be in his last year come the 2015 season and A.J. Derby will be gone after next year.
There's no guarantee that Peavey will become the signal-caller the Hogs need, so adding another quarterback was a priority, and they did that when 4-star Ty Storey chose Arkansas over offers from Alabama and Auburn. It was a big win for the Razorbacks to keep a top in-state prospect at home. He has all the intangibles to make him a great player and possibly the next big quarterback at Arkansas.
Keeping the top in-state recruits at home is a big part of succeeding in recruiting, and the Hogs are doing just that with the '15 class. Along with Storey, Arkansas also kept 4-star defensive end Jamario Bell and 3-star offensive tackle Colton Jackson in the Natural State.
Bell has a great frame at 6'6", 225 pounds and is an elite athlete. While he must get better at the point of attack, he has the skills to make an impact as a freshman. Jackson is a highly rated 3-star commit for the O-line who could become an All-SEC performer with some work.
Arkansas expanded its recruiting efforts to outside the U.S. borders by getting 4-star defensive tackle Hjalte Froholdt, who played last season in Ohio, from Denmark. He will return to the States for his senior year.
What stands out the most about him is his motor, which seems to be never-ending. He is a relentless pass-rusher and a great athlete who should be a force on the interior for the Razorbacks once he steps onto the field.
The fifth commit is 4-star offensive guard Zach Rogers, a Texas native who chose the Hogs over offers from Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas back in July of 2013. While he isn't massive like a lot of the linemen who have been signed under Bielema, he is very strong and is an advanced run and pass-blocker.
The Razorbacks are off to just about as good as a start as the elite programs across the country and already have more 4-star commits than they did in the 2014 class. If they can continue to build upon the '15 class, it could turn out to be the best one they have signed since joining the SEC in 1992.
Positions of Need
Arkansas addressed a lot of needs with the '14 haul and will have to continue to do so in 2015 to get where the program wants to be.
With Storey on board, the Hogs will have five quarterbacks come time for the 2015 season, including Damon Mitchell from the '13 class. That's as long as nothing changes, which means Bielema will probably just take Storey for next year's class.
Though the Razorbacks will have four running backs in 2015, Jonathan Williams and Kody Walker will be seniors, and Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall will be juniors. Both Collins and Williams have the talent to possibly leave after their junior years, so expect Arkansas to add two to three backs in this class.
Tight end is a huge priority for for the '15 class. As it stands today, the Hogs will have two seniors in 2015 in Mitchell Loewen and Alex Voelzke, as well as two juniors in Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle. Voelzke, a walk-on, and Loewen are rarely used, but when they are, it's primarily for pass-blocking purposes. Henry is a star in the making, and Sprinkle has potential to be a good tight end.
Arkansas added 3-star Jack Kraus in this year's class but needs another pass-catching tight end, as there will be just three come 2016 with a good chance of Henry heading to the NFL early. The Hogs will look to add around two more for next February.
Another big priority will be defensive tackle, a position that the Razorbacks have added just three over the last two classes. Entering the 2015 campaign, the Hogs will have two seniors, three juniors and two players from the '14 haul that includes stud Bijhon Jackson. Arkansas already owns a commit from Froholdt for 2015, but Bielema could add as many as three more before it's all said and done.
Perhaps the weakest unit on the team is linebacker. By the time 2015 rolls around, Arkansas will have just one senior, one junior and the three signed this year. The depth at linebacker is, well, not good. You can fully expect the Hogs to load up at this position for the '15 class.
The secondary has also been a major problem. Arkansas added three cornerbacks and two safeties this year and can afford to add another two to three corners and a few safeties in 2015.
While defensive end isn't a huge priority, Bielema likes to have a lot of depth at the position. Barring any changes, the Hogs will have three redshirt juniors, a redshirt sophomore and two from this year's class. Bell was a big pickup early on and could be joined by two to three more.
As far as the O-line goes, the Hogs are in great shape with talent across the board. However, Bielema and O-line coach Sam Pittman can never have enough offensive linemen, so expect a few more next year.
This is one of the better years for homegrown talent in the Natural State. The Hogs already secured commits from three of the state's top prospects and are hot on the trail of 4-star Pine Bluff tight end Will Gragg.
Rated the No. 131 player nationally, No. 4 tight end and the No. 2 prospect in Arkansas, he already has a long offer list that includes the Razorbacks, Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss. He has great hands, and his size and speed create mismatches against linebackers. His brother Chris played for Arkansas from 2008-12 and is now on the Buffalo Bills.
Gragg will announce his decision on Sept. 23, his birthday. As of today, the Hogs are in great shape to land him, and 77 percent of the experts on his crystal ball predictions have him choosing Arkansas.
Hill's recruitment has really begun to pick up, as he holds offers from the Hogs, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and South Carolina. He has all the intangibles to be a great college receiver, including speed, route running and hands. He has a good motor, and with some work, he could become a valuable addition to the '15 class.
Arkansas has always had a big presence on the recruiting trail in Texas, and 2015 will be no different. High on the board are 4-star offensive tackle Keaton Sutherland and 3-star wideout Jaelan Austin. Sutherland, with some added weight, has the potential to be an anchor in the future for Arkansas, and Austin is a big-play receiver who can stretch defenses.
Tight end is a big need,and along with trying to sign Gragg, the Razorbacks also are pursuing 4-star in-state prospect C.J. O'Grady. If the Hogs can add Gragg and O'Grady, it would be a huge win for the program and for the future at the position.
In addition, 4-star linebacker Roquan Smith is listed on Arkansas' 2015 Big Red Board by Rivals.com and is high on the team's wish list. He was being recruited by Taver Johnson, who left to coach the secondary at Purdue, so that may affect Smith's decision, but the Hogs have plenty of time to raise his interest.
Anthony McKee, a 4-star linebacker from Ohio, is also high on the Hogs' wish list. Arkansas is in desperate need of more linebackers, and McKee would help the depth tremendously. He is a great tackler and plays from sideline to sideline.
Another big O-line prospect Arkansas is chasing is 3-star offensive guard AJ Harris from Kansas. He has a lot of power and very good footwork. He needs to improve on his pass-blocking skills, but he's a good run-blocker and is quick off the snap.
There are many other prospects the Razorbacks are seeking for the '15 class, and landing even half of the guys mentioned would make for a spectacular haul. There's a long way to go until next February, but Arkansas is off to a great start, and the outlook is bright.
Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals