Closing Strong

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated, Dudley E. Dawson writes about how the additions of highly regarded defensive ends Austin Flynn (6-5, 255, 4.55) and Taiwan Johnson (6-3, 235) have moved to 16th in the 2012 recruiting rankings. This story is free and sponsored by the Arkansas Toyota Dealers.

What does Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino want for his program post-Christmas?

My educated guess is a middle linebacker, a cornerback/safety type, a tight end and a DGB – along with the two other best players available.

With the addition of a couple of highly-regarded defensive ends – junior college standout Austin Flynn (6-5, 255, 4.55) and Texas prep star Taiwan Johnson (6-3, 235) on Wednesday, Arkansas jumped to No. 16 in the team recruiting rankings.

Flynn – who had 11 sacks and 21 quarterback hurries - should be ready to play right away while Johnson – who had 11 sacks among his 85 tackles this season - could also challenge for time.

Here's an assessment of his talent from Midlands recruiting writer Ahmard Vital.

"Johnson is a solid, fundamentally-sound defensive end," Vital writes. "In the scheme at Manvel, Johnson was not the type of end who just came in like a mad man. Instead, he came off, making contact with the tight end of tackle, read the play and reacted.

"With his speed, he closes on his target in a hurry," Vital added. "He works well with his hands, getting good extension, not allowing lineman to get under his pads. When he gets to the ball carrier, he breaks down and makes the play. And though he does bring plenty of force to make tackles, he is known for his ability to wrap up to ensure that the player is down."

While that technically gives the Razorbacks 22 commits of a class the SEC now limits to a hard 25, it's thought the Arkansas staff will add 5-6 more commits.

That's because there are a few commits needing to shore up their academics – and with the new rules you just can't afford not to sign 25 and not have one make it to campus.

In fact, there are some current Razorbacks that will start and others that will play significant minutes that likely would not be on the roster if the current SEC rules had been in place.

But those are the rules and all 14 teams – including newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M – also have to play by so it's a level playing field in that regard.

While 16th in the nation, that's still just good enough for seventh in the SEC.

Alabama (3), Florida (6), LSU (7), South Carolina (13), Tennessee (14th) and Auburn (15) are ahead of Arkansas.

It is a razor slim margin between 13-16 – a step the Razorbacks could certainly make with the addition of Springfield Hillcrest wide receiver Dorial Green Beckham (6-6, 230, 4.4) and other top players down the stretch.

That would put Arkansas fourth in the SEC rankings and certainly make the class a big success.

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