Whether Arkansas is able to upset No. 18 on the football field on Saturday is left to be determined, but the Razorbacks and head coach Bret Bielema have beaten the Gators off the field this week for a prized tight end.
Plantation, Fla., High standout Ravian Pierce (6-4, 225) confirmed late Wednesday night that he had committed to the Razorbacks over Florida, Alabama and some 24 other offers.
Pierce, a former teammate of current Razorback freshman tailback Alex Collins, had taken his official visit to Arkansas last weekend when it hosted No. 10 Texas A&M.
"I committed to Coach Bielema about 20 minutes ago and he was very excited about it," Pierce said. "He said ‘welcome to the family and get ready to do some big things.' I am very excited about being a Razorback."
Pierce, who has an Arkansas connection with an aunt, uncle and three cousins living in Conway, is a four-star prospect and the 10th-best prep tight end in the country according to Scout.com.
He knew Arkansas was the place for him soon after arriving in Fayetteville and certainly after leaving.
"I pretty much knew after this weekend that it was Arkansas for me, but just wanted to think about it for a couple of days," Pierce said. " I think they have a great system for tight ends and I am excited that I am going to get to be a part of what they are building."
"Man, that sent a chill down my spine," noted Pierce. "That was one of the coolest things I have every experienced. It made me want to run out there on the field and play right away for the fans."
He raved about his weekend in Fayetteville and Bielema's program.
"It was just a great visit, a great visit and I loved everything about Fayetteville – the coaches, the players, the facilities and the fans," Pierce said. "Everything just stood out. They are my number one school. Just wished Arkansas could have come back and won the game."
Pierce joins Collins, offensive lineman Denver Kirkland, defensive tackle Ke'Tyrus Marks and safety De'Andre Coley as players from South Florida that Bielema and his staff have landed since arriving last December.
Plantation head coach Steve Davis, who also coached Collins, is pleased to see another one of his stars become a Razorback.
"Ravian is a very athletic tight end, a guy that can that can catch passes and also block," Davis said. "He is about 220-225 right now, but I see him being 250 when he steps on campus at Arkansas and has the training table and the weights and that sort of stuff.
"He is a guy that we flex out as a wide receiver at times and he has a great ability to get up the seam and make plays with his size and speed," Davis added. "He is so versatile and we think Arkansas is just perfect for him because they use the tight ends so much when a lot of other schools don't anymore.
"Arkansas and Ravian just seem like a perfect fit, just like it seemed for Alex as well," Davis continued. "We are so proud of these young men."
Scout.com recruiting analyst Chad Simmons praised the pick-up for the Razorbacks.
"Pierce is VERY athletic and he has started to really play tougher this season getting some snaps on the defensive side of the ball," Simmons said. "He is that new age tight end that can flex out, move around, and create mismatches. I have seen him practice and participate at two camps over the last year and he is one with a good amount of upside.
"He has to get stronger, continue to build that football toughness mentally, and become a solid blocker on the next level," Simmons added. "He has very strong hands, he has long arms, and he can run. He will be a real weapon at Arkansas.
"Pierce is a solid four-star nationally, he is a top 25 kid in Florida, and he has good potential in the SEC," Simmons continues. "VERY good get for Bret and company."
Collins (an SEC-leading 597 yards rushing this season) – carried the ball 14 times for 116 yards in the loss with Pierce cheering him on.
"He's doing great and he is just going to keep getting better and better," Pierce said. "He runs the ball so hard and makes great cuts."
Pierce has 27 offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Nebraska, Florida State, Wisconsin Louisville, Miami and Wisconsin.
Pierce said that Bielema and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge – who actually graduated from Plantation – are tops in his book.
"They are not only great coaches, but great guys and I know I would love playing for them," Pierce said.
He is really close with Partridge.
"I think Coach Partridge is a great guy and he and I have a great, great relationship," Pierce said. "He has made it clear how much he wants be to be a Razorback and how he wants to get me out there and committed as soon as possible."
Collins is one of several true freshmen playing key roles for Arkansas – a list includes starters in tight end Hunter Henry and both guards in Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper.
Other true freshmen including defensive back D.J. Dean, tailback Korliss Marshall, wide receiver Drew Morgan and linebacker Brooks Ellis have also seen snaps this season.
"He (Collins) loves it in Fayetteville and he thinks I will as well," Pierce said. "He told me - and you could see in the game - that they will play freshmen if they come ready to play. I certainly saw that Saturday."
Pierce also saw Arkansas throw the ball toward tight ends Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle.
"Everybody wants the ball," Pierce said. "I can tell Arkansas loves to throw it to the tight end."
Pierce had 12 catches for 208 yards and 5 touchdowns last season and has caught 11 passes for 226 yards and three scores this season in a 3-1 start for run-oriented Plantation.
"I think my versatility is my biggest strength," Pierce said. "If I have a cornerback or a safety on me, it's just like posting up in basketball and he's not going to be able to stop me from getting the ball.
"If a linebacker is covering me, I am going to be able to outrun him," Pierce added. "I need to work on everything to get better, but those are two things that I bring to the field."
Davis said you should not let the numbers fool you in terms of Pierce's production.
"We run the ball here all the time and that's been a very successful formula," Davis said. "But when we got to air, he is the guy we want to find. Usually when we throw to him, he ends up in the end zone."
Davis thinks Pierce is just scratching the surface of his potential.
"He is so explosive, has great feet, is so athletic and has a great frame," Davis said. "He is one of these new-wave tight ends they have in college and the NFL who are versatile and defenses just can't figure out how to stop in.
"Arkansas is going to watch this kid turn into a monster on the college level," Davis added. "It is going to be fun to watch."
Ravian's A Razorback
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