Otis Kirk: Razorbacks Focus On Defense, Green-Beckham Looking At January Visit

by Otis Kirk, Hawgs247.com  on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011 9:23 am  

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Arkansas is clearly working to upgrade the talent level on defense.

Coach Bobby Petrino replaced Willy Robinson as defensive coordinator with Paul Haynes and now the Razorbacks will try to sign a recruiting class that can provide some help on defense. Arkansas suffered a little bit of a setback on Tuesday when Eastern Arizona College cornerback Mo Seisay (6-2, 202) chose Nebraska. In typical Petrino fashion, the Razorbacks quickly rebounded to land 4-star defensive end Austin Flynn (6-4, 260) of Los Angeles Harbor College and Manvel (Texas) defensive end Taiwan Johnson (6-3, 240).

Flynn signed with Arkansas Wednesday morning. Flynn chose Arkansas over Oregon State, but also had offers to Miami, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Utah State. Johnson chose Arkansas over Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Washington State as well from about 25 scholarship offers. Johnson is rated an 89 by 247Sports which is the highest-rated 3-star possible. A 90 is the cutoff for making a 4-star recruit.

The defensive line was supposed to be a strength of the team this year, but never quite came around like the coaches thought they would. In addition to Flynn and Johnson, Arkansas has also gained commitments from Carrollton (Texas) Hebron defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. (6-5, 240) Memphis (Tenn.) Ridgeway defensive end Brandon Lewis (6-4, 230) and Mobile (Ala.) Vigor defensive end JaMichael Winston (6-5, 240). In addition, White Hall's Jeremy Sprinkle (6-6, 215) has committed, but could start out at tight end or defensive end.

Winston is considered a soft commit to Arkansas. He has a visit to Arkansas on Jan. 13, but is slated to visit Michigan State and Clemson in the weekends following the Arkansas trip. It's uncertain if Winston keeps those visits if he will have a scholarship remaining to Arkansas.

It's still possible Arkansas could add an interior defensive lineman. They have visits lined up with Tyler Nero (6-2, 280), who is committed to Auburn but his father, Norman Nero, played at Arkansas. Nero will visit on Jan. 20 and is rated a 4-star recruit.

Scottsdale (Ariz.) Junior College defensive tackle Mike Pennel (6-5, 350) recently committed to Arkansas and then less than a week later de-committed from the Razorbacks. He now says he is still considering Arkansas, but has several others he's looking at as well.

At linebacker, Arkansas is still searching for some help. Fullerton (Calif.) Junior College middle linebacker Mark Wilson (6-3, 245) is a possibility if he can get the academics required to transfer to Arkansas. Wilson was once committed to Illinois and was recruited by then-Arkansas assistant Paul Petrino when he came out of high school in Florida. Wilson will visit Arkansas Jan. 13 and has said he's committed to Arkansas.

Arkansas has commitments from East Poinsett County 4-star A.J. Turner (6-2, 208) and Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby's Jakarri Thomas (6-2, 200). Turner is a 4-star recruit who is also one of the top basketball players in Arkansas. Turner finished the season with 205 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 4 recovered fumbles and an interception he returned 57 yards for a touchdown. Thomas had 46 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 recovered fumble and 1interception despite missing several games with an injury.

Van (Texas) 4-star linebacker Dalton Santos (6-4, 245) is committed to Tennessee, but has a visit slated for Arkansas on Jan. 20. Santos visited Arkansas for its spring game on April 16 and Arkansas remains hopeful of flipping him from the Vols.

Arkansas currently has three cornerbacks committed. The Razorbacks have Fort Bend (Texas) Missouri City Marshall's John Gibson (5-10, 170) Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge's Ray Buchanan Jr. (5-11, 180) and Tulsa (Okla.) Booker T. Washington's Jared Collins (6-0, 165). All are rated 3-star recruits by 247Sports.

Arkansas is still trying to battle Missouri for Waco (Texas) cornerback Will Hines (5-11, 185). Hines committed to Missouri over Arkansas and others in the spring, but recently his recruiter at Missouri left to take the defensive coordinator job at Memphis. Hines will be in Fayetteville on Jan. 13 to visit the Razorbacks. Former Missouri commit and current Arkansas commit 4-star running back Jonathan Williams of Allen (Texas) is actively recruiting Hines for the Razorbacks.



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