LITTLE ROCK — Wrapping up Arkansas’ recruiting for a while, label 2014 disconcerting and 2015 encouraging.
Before proceeding with details, know that the just-signed class is a one-year snapshot and that I thought Arkansas coach Bret Bielema short-changed himself a year when he mentioned getting a handle on the 2014 class in two years.
Documented more than a week ago with the classes of Alabama, Florida State, Florida and Texas, ranking recruiting classes is an inexact science. The same is true of individuals, a point illustrated on signing day by an ESPN graphic.
From 2006-13, Florida signed 105 players in the network’s top 300 and 10 of those were first-round picks in the NFL draft. Alabama had the best percentage, 14 first-round picks of 84 signed.
Other leaders with totals and first-round selections:
—USC, 87, 12.
—Texas, 87, 7.
—Georgia, 79, 5.
—LSU, 77, 10.
While the experts were jabbering, the network provided a rundown of recruiting classes, including Arkansas at No. 30. Itemized, the Razorbacks’ top five included the No. 6 defensive tackle, the No. 9 offensive tackle, the No. 19 athlete, the No. 10 dual threat quarterback, and the No. 22 offensive tackle. I thought Arkansas’ haul was pretty good at the top until copying down the best of No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 8 Auburn, and No. 18 Ole Miss, all Arkansas opponents in the Western Division of the SEC.
Without names — a year from now, I couldn’t recall any of them anyway — the numbers are stark.
Alabama’s top five included the No. 1 OT, No. 2 DE, No. 2 CB, No. 2 ATH, and No. 5 CB. LSU has the No. 1 RB, No. 1 WR, No. 2 S, No. 2 ILB, and No. 3 WR. A&M has three No. 1s at their postions. Auburn has five players in the top 10 and Ole Miss has three.
Arkansas’ class included three players in ESPN’s top 300. Alabama had 19, LSU 16, A&M 10, Auburn 12, and Ole Miss 4.
Once the recruiting experts get past the top 20 or so at each position, I wonder how they differentiate between the No. 35 inside linebacker and No. 36. Is one guy a quarter-inch taller or five pounds heavier? Maybe there is a secret code like the little league baseball manager who attached P.M. to some of the lesser kids in the draft. The initials stood for pretty mother, he confided.
Anyway, at some point, the pecking order must blur. That said, the raw numbers in some hypothetical mix and match scenarios project strongly in favor of Arkansas opponents.
For instance, Arkansas needed help at linebacker, defensive back and wide receiver.
Perusing the UA’s breakdown of each signee, the highest ranked linebacker is No. 52. Also projected as a linebacker is the No. 69 safety in the country. Ostensibly, they will be asked to tackle running backs ranked No. 1 and No. 5 when Arkansas plays LSU and Auburn. Arkansas’ highest ranked cornerback is No. 42 and highest ranked safety is No. 38. They must cover the No. 1 and No. 3 wide receivers from LSU, react to the No. 1 pocket passer throwing to the No. 11 receiver vs. A&M, and read the eyes of No. 2 pocket passer against Auburn.
Arkansas signed three wide receivers, none higher than No. 59 out of high school. One is No. 20 in junior college. They must get open against the No. 2 and No. 5 cornerbacks at Alabama, the No. 2 safety at LSU and the No. 8 and 9 cornerbacks at Auburn.
Simply things to ponder.
Bielema needs at least three recruiting classes to make over the Razorbacks and the building blocks for his third class are above par. Five athletes have committed, including the No. 1 center, the No. 9 quarterback and two defensive ends ranked in the top 20.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau.