Sting of All-Time Low In-State Recruiting Class Soothed By What Arkansas Will Produce Next Year
When he finally puts pen to paper on National Signing Day, Shamar Easter will become the 20th high school prospect to sign with Arkansas Football in the class of 2023.
Most members of the group signed their National Letters of Intent in December, during the early stages, but the Ashdown tight end chose to wait until the traditional stage to give new tight ends coach Morgan Turner a little better advice could get to know.
That’s exactly what happened and he reaffirmed his commitment after an unofficial visit earlier this month, giving the Razorbacks a chance to finish with a rare top 20 recruit class.
Much attention has been focused on head coach Sam Pittman’s efforts to fill the class via the transfer portal, but it’s also hard to ignore the talented group of newcomers.
Arkansas relied heavily on the traditional Texas recruiting base, as a quarter of the players (five) were from the Lone Star State, as well as other border states (four from Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee) and newer focus areas within the SEC’s presence (three from Alabama and Georgia ).
The Razorbacks also dove into Florida and crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois to find recruits, but — like every year — worrying about business in their own backyard took priority. Unfortunately for Pittman and his staff, there weren’t exactly many options to choose from in the current senior class.
Shamar Easter will be only the third in-state signer for the Razorbacks in 2023, alongside Bentonville offensive lineman Joey Su’a and North Little Rock defensive lineman Quincy Rhodes Jr.
If that seems like an easy group, that’s because it’s a historically low number of Arkansas Football signers from the Natural State.
Best of Arkansas Sports has a largely complete database of high school football players who have signed to FBS programs since 1994, and the Razorbacks’ three-signing this year is the lowest total in a year during that period.
Given the more regionalized nature of recruitment prior to this time frame, not to mention the expanded grant limits and the fact that there were no annual caps on the number of players schools could sign, it’s probably safe to say that the three signers this cycle in the states is an all-time low for Arkansas football.
The previous low was reached in 2012 and was reached in the first two classes signed by Sam Pittman – 2020 and 2021.
|Year||player (school)||player (school)||player (school)||player (school)|
|2023||TE Shamar Easter
|EN Quincy Rhodes Jr.
(Northern Little Rock)
|OL Joey Su’a
|2021||LB Marco Avant
|TE Erin Outley
(Small Rock Park View)
|QB Landon Rogers
(Small Rock Park View)
|OL Terry Wells
|2020||EN Jasaud Stewart
|ATH Blayne Toll
|LB JT towers
|LB Catrell Wallace
|2012||DB Defonta Lowe
|EN Jeremy Sprinkle
|LB AJ Turner
(East Poinsett County)
|OL Jeremy Ward
The Razorbacks have almost hit rock bottom in each of the last two years, and a case could be made that they did in 2020 since Catrell Wallace never made it to campus, but he did sign. The following year, Landon Rogers disbanded briefly before eventually staying with Arkansas.
Landing just three in this year’s class wasn’t necessarily Pittman’s fault, as only six Arkansas natives have signed to Power Five programs overall — and the other three weren’t offered by the Razorbacks.
Pine Bluff athlete Jordon Harris remains in the SEC in Missouri, but he didn’t play football until his senior year of high school. Fort Smith Northside cornerback RJ Lester originally signed to Kansas State before moving to Oklahoma State. Pulaski Academy offensive lineman Allen Thomason went to Stanford as the preferred walk-on before being named to a full scholarship.
There’s a possibility that Star City linebacker CJ Turner will end up on a Power Five program since he was previously signed for Colorado before being dropped by new head coach Deion Sanders, but that seems unlikely at this point in the process.
It’s also worth noting that several state prospects continue their careers at the Power Five level as preferred walk-ons. Bentonville offensive lineman Trevor Martinez is traveling to Oklahoma state and Harding Academy kicker Kyle Ferrie is traveling to Mississippi state while the Razorbacks have received multiple PWO commitments from in-state recruits.
However, assuming the number of grantees stays at six, this would align with the Class of 2012 having the fewest Power Five signers from Arkansas. In addition to the four who signed with the Razorbacks that year, Jonesboro athlete Zac Brooks signed with Clemson and Pulaski Academy offensive lineman Jason King with Purdue.
Help is on the horizon in Arkansas Recruiting
Those who have followed recruiting in Arkansas for any time know that the state is often cyclical, with thin years typically followed by strong classes of prospects in the state.
That has never been more true than for the 2023 and 2024 classes, as the latter appears to be one of the Natural State’s best in recent memory, followed by one of its weakest.
The Razorbacks have already offered eight 2024 prospects in the state, and three more have been offered by one or more Power Five programs. At least another six have a group-of-five offering, three of which have multiples.
With more than 10 months to go until the early signing phase, a fantastic crop of recruits is developing, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Little Rock Christian quarterback Walker White, Benton running back Braylen Russell and Little Rock Mills defensive end Charleston Collins are already Four-Star and Top 250 contenders in the 247Sports Composite, with Bryant defensive end TJ Lindsey on the door of the four-star status knocks . Though unrated by Rivals and 247Sports, Valley View linebacker Brian Huff has a four-star rating from On3.
All five have lengthy and impressive bid sheets that pit some of college football’s greatest powers — Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon and others — against the Razorbacks for services.
Arkansas offered offensive lineman Vinny Winters to Malvern when he was still a freshman and was his first Power Five offer. He has since added Missouri and Kansas State while attending several other schools.
The two newest prospects in the state being offered by the Razorbacks are wide receivers: Bentonville’s CJ Brown and Pine Bluff’s Courtney Crutchfield. They were the sixth Power Five offer for Crutchfield, previously offered by Oklahoma and others, and the third for Brown after Purdue and Louisville.
A few other players to keep an eye on are two offensive linemen — Fort Smith Southside’s Kobe Branham and Lonoke’s Chauncey Johnson — who were offered by Texas A&M and Missouri, respectively, and Malvern running back Jalen Dupree, who was offered from Boston College and Kansas State.
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