Welcome to SEC Country’s weekly Arkansas recruiting mailbag with reporter Trent Shadid. In this edition, we discuss how firing Bret Bielema could impact recruiting, how prospects are viewing the Hogs’ struggles and more.
If Bielema were to be fired at the end of the season, would that hurt recruiting? And would it cause the de-commitment of some of the 2018 class? — Seth via email
If Arkansas fired Bret Bielema following the last game of the regular season — Missouri on Nov. 24 — I think it would potentially hurt the 2018 class significantly.
I’ve had several of the commits in that class — now at 11 — tell me they aren’t going anywhere unless something drastic happens. What drastic essentially means is unless Bielema is fired. When I was told these these things during the spring and summer, it wasn’t a realistic possibility that would happen. Now it is.
Recruits planning to sign with a school that may not be retaining its coach are in a bit of difficult spot with the new December signing period. Bielema has said he’s pushing for all his commits to sign at that time. But how can they plan on that not knowing if he’ll still be the coach? And what if he’s fired after that and they’ve already signed? That’s a new predicament recruits are having to deal with.
Essentially any time a coach is fired, a program hits the reset button in recruiting. The new coach would have to reconnect Arkansas with most of its commits to keep them locked in. There’s no way to know if that coach would or wouldn’t be hired ahead of the December signing period. So, some targets could already be officially off the market.
It’s also likely several current players would transfer as a result of a coaching change, giving Arkansas more available scholarship to fill. Thus the Hogs would have more work to do recruiting with a short time to get it done and options thinning.
The 2019 class would also certainly experience a setback, but with plenty of time to make it up. The new staff would be wise to get started re-establishing connections with the top in-state recruits (Treylon Burks, Hudson Henry, Darius Thomas, Jadon Jackson, etc.) as soon as a possible. All four of the players mentioned are recruits Arkansas can’t afford to miss out on. Henry has already expressed concern over Bielema’s job security.
This is all contingent, of course, on who Arkansas would hire if Bielema is gone.
Does this impact the way recruits view AR?
— GunMan (@Gunner_Jensen_) October 11, 2017
I think recruits view this disappointing start as both a negative and an opportunity. It just depends on the recruit.
Those who desire immediate playing time above all else may be looking at their position and getting excited. Others who wouldn’t mind a redshirt season if it means being on a winning team are going to be turned off. There are many over variables that go into it, but those are just two basic examples of common thinking.
As for your second question, I think fan negativity surrounding the program can obviously hurt. Most recruits consume a fair among of social media from week to week. Seeing nothing but Arkansas fans upset over the team probably doesn’t give off a great impression, especially for the in-state recruits who hear it more than anyone else.
That being said, recruits typically take what they hear from the coaching staff far more seriously than what they hear from fans. So, they’ll hear plenty of positives to negate the fan negativity.
Can Arkansas 2019 instates and others like Devonte Lee and Brian Williams help the razorbacks right away if they all hop on board and play?
— Grant Phillips (@gphilx) October 11, 2017
As I mentioned above, the top four in-state recruits in the 2019 class (Burks, Henry, Thomas and Jackson) are must-get players for Arkansas. They can lay a foundation that could help the program significantly going forward.
The key to building on that foundation is who the Hogs get from outside the state. You mentioned wide receiver Devonta Lee and defensive back Brian Williams. Those two are at the top of the 2019 wish list right next to those in-state players.
Arkansas getting all six of those players would obviously be the best possible scenario. It’s definitely quite a long shot and not something I’d count on, but let’s say it happens. At least at the top of the group, that would give the Hogs their most talented class of at least the past 20 years. And, yes, it would be a great building block to sending the program in a positive direction.
To submit a question for recruiting mailbags, email Shadid13@gmail.com or send a message to @Shadid13 on Twitter .
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