Otis Kirk: Strong Finish To 2012 Season Would Help Razorbacks Close On Big Name Recruits

by Otis Kirk, Hawgs247.com  on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 9:44 am  

Arkansas has made great strides under Coach Bobby Petrino. A SEC title would help Petrino and his staff close on big-name prospects in the future. (Photo by Mark Wagner)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Arkansas has completed its 2012 recruiting class, barring a late addition coming onto the recruiting radar.

The Razorbacks have one scholarship left after signing 24 prospects on National Signing Day. Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Chaparral 4-star wide receiver Davonte Neal holds an offer from Arkansas, but if he goes anywhere but Notre Dame it will likely be a surprise. It would be an even bigger surprise if he came to Arkansas if he doesn't opt for South Bend.

Arkansas signed a class that is at its customary spot in the bottom half of the SEC recruiting rankings. According to 247Sports, the Razorbacks signed the No. 27 class in the nation. That places them 10th in the SEC if you count Texas A&M as an SEC team. That left Arkansas ahead of only Missouri, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Ole Miss.

Arkansas hasn't really won the recruiting rankings since joining the SEC. However, the Razorbacks have been a Top-15 team the past two years in the final football polls including No. 5 following the 2011 season. It seems fair to say Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino's recruiting classes have been better than the recruiting services have rated them.

However, where the recruiting gurus ranked this year's class wasn't the biggest complaint many had when the class was finalized. The most vocal complaint has been about Arkansas' inability to close on many of the prospects at the end.

The Razorbacks did close well on Covington (La.) 4-star linebacker Otha Peters, who had committed to Tennessee but flipped to Arkansas following an official visit Jan. 27-29. However, fans had hoped to land some of the heralded Jan. 20-22 group of visitors that included such standouts as Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest 5-star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and Chicago (Ill.) Simeon 4-star offensive tackle Jordan Diamond.

During the Jan. 20-22 weekend the Razorbacks hosted 18 recruits. Among those, half were committed to Arkansas prior to the visit. However, Owasso (Okla.) 4-star wide receiver Keon Hatcher, though committed to Arkansas, had visited Oklahoma State the previous weekend and reaffirmed his commitment following the Arkansas visit.

That left nine recruits visiting that weekend that weren't previously committed to the Razorbacks. Arkansas also hosted Glendale (Ariz.) Community College 3-star wide receiver Demetrius Wilson, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity 3-star offensive lineman Joe Warburg, Van (Texas) 4-star linebacker Dalton Santos, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Gibbs 4-star cornerback Gary Simon, Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter 4-star safety Kenny Orjioke and Spring (Texas) Dekaney 5-star running back Trey Williams.

Of those nine visitors, Arkansas signed Wilson. Orjioke was committed to UCLA prior to the visit and stayed with the Bruins while Williams was committed to Texas A&M and signed with the Aggies. Green-Beckham opted for Missouri, Warburg switched his commitment from Illinois to Purdue, Santos opted to switch from Tennessee to Texas, Simon signed with Oklahoma and Diamond chose Auburn. As previously noted, Neal hasn't signed with any school yet.

Arkansas has won 21 games the past two seasons, gone to a BCS bowl game, won the Cotton Bowl and is expected to be among the top-ranked teams next season. While many felt those were credentials that should have allowed the staff to close better in recruiting, I think that deserves a closer look.

I think the fact Arkansas has won 21 games in two seasons, been ranked high and gone to a BCS game is what got them in the door with many of the nation's top prospects. However, I think Arkansas needs to add an SEC Championship to its resume before it can expect to close on its share of the 4- and 5-star recruits it has been on nationally.

Arkansas has made unbelievable strides under Petrino and gone to heights few envisioned in four years, but the fact remains the Razorbacks still aren't viewed as favorably nationally as they are locally. Arkansas, despite its lofty ranking in the final polls, still finished third in the SEC West. Arkansas lost both its featured games at LSU and Alabama in blowouts. Those were the two best teams in the nation and the Razorbacks had to play both on the road.



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