Allen Officially In As Recruiting Heats Up

Arkansas officially announces the signing and arrival of Florida prep offensive lineman Josh Allen (6-3, 305) as Razorback head coach Bret Bielema - who is looking to hire a new linebacker coach with some Florida recruiting ties - notes he will be looking to add 7 to 10 more prospects down the stretch depending on some factors.

With the meat and potatoes of 2015 recruiting done according to Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, the Razorbacks can now turn drive toward the finish looking for the best players available.

Bielema noted as much on Monday - a day when Arkansas officially announced the signing of Jacksonville, Fla., University Christian offensive lineman Josh Allen (6-3, 305).

“We can’t wait to see what Josh is going to bring to our program immediately,” Bielema said. “Josh’s fierce mentality and physicality will add to our offensive line and I’m excited to see how he will elevate that group. Josh’s talents coupled with his determination and work ethic embody all of the characteristics we look for in future Razorbacks on and off the field.”

Allen, who originally signed with North Carolina and arrived in Fayetteville this weekend, will have five years to play four and will be evaluated at both center and guard under Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman.

“Josh is a unique story that we were recruiting pretty hard a year ago,” Bielema said. “He committed to North Carolina early on. Things didn't work out in that world, so we stayed - Coach Pittman did a nice job staying on board on him. Didn't know what was going to happen.

“W brought him in a couple of weeks ago and cleared up everything,” Bielema added. “He's a nice interior player, probably play either center or guard for us. Actually was recruited by several D-I schools a year ago as a defensive tackle. We dabbled around in that, but right now we'll start him off as an interior offensive lineman.”

Allen is one of at least seven mid-term enrollees and 18 current signees/commitments in the 2015 class - one that is currently ranked 23rd nationally by Scout.com as national signing date looms on Feb. 5.

The other mid-term enrollees include Dumas tight end Will Gragg, Charleston quarterback Ty Storey, Fort Smith Northside defensive end Daytrieon Dean, Carrollton, Texas, Hebron center Zach Rogers, Denmark-born defensive end Hjalte Froholdt and Hutchinson, Kan., Community College defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter.

The Razorbacks could possibly add another in Florida prep offensive lineman Jalen Merrick, who is hoping to be ruled eligible by the NCAA Clearing House this week and then will enroll at Arkansas, Florida State or Florida.

“We only signed one junior college player this year,” Bielema said. “ I just think I would much rather probably go with the younger, more developed student-athlete that's a qualifier earlier out of high school and try to get him on campus here and work with him a little bit longer, rather than trying to go after an older player with a shorter career opportunity, you know.”

The defection of Arkansas linebacker coach Randy Shannon to Florida has the commit status Wachula, Fla., Hardee linebacker and Gainesville native Derrick Graham (6-4, 225) up in the air right now.

Razorback pledge and North Little Rock wide receiver K.J. Hill (6-1, 190), just back from the U.S. Army All-American game, has plans to visit Alabama on Jan. 16-18 and then Arkansas on Jan. 23-25.

“I always count the guys I say I know are real,” Bielema said. “We have a couple guys that I think are committed that feel they’re committed but until I see them 100 percent in.

“... So, I think we need probably about another seven, eight, maybe 10 guys to pop in the boat here,” Bielema said. “We got a really big recruiting weekend coming up on the 16th and on the 23rd. I think some guys that could make a huge impact on our program, but I would say I think the meat and potatoes of what our program is is already committed to us 100 percent, and that’s lies a lot within our state.”

Bielema noted that he has a list of some 15 candidates to replace Shannon and met with defensive coordinator Robb Smith, secondary coach Clay Jennings and defensive line coach Rory Segrest about those guys on Monday.

“I've got a list of probably about 15 guys that I've narrowed it down to,” Bielema said. “It was much bigger than that. I met with Robb and Clay and Rory a little bit earlier today, kind of pared it down a little bit more.”

The annual AFCAA Coaches Convention will happen Jan. 11-14 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I'll talk to a couple of guys at the convention, maybe have somebody in place in the next two weeks,” Bielema said. “As you guys know, I'm not a big guy to rush into things. It's easy to take an easy answer.

“I could have easily plugged somebody in there that I know, or Robb's known, or Clay or Rory,” Bielema added. “I could have just plugged it in, but I really want to find a dynamic fit for what our defense needs. Robb's coached both linebackers and DBs, so we'll look for the best fit for that in that regard.”

Bielema did say it would be optimal if he could hire someone who has recruited Florida in the past.

“I think it would be beneficial for us and the path I am going down first is to find a great linebacker coach that can fit in our system that can recruit the state of Florida,” Bielema said. “That would be ideal if I could pinpoint it.

“Florida is kind of the wild, wild west,” Bielema added. “I recruited New Jersey and the east coast and if you aren’t from there they kind of look at you a little different.

“I have recruited in Texas and have had success, but if you aren’t from Texas or you don’t have a certain draw they kind of look at you a little odd, too,” Bielema added.

“But if you go down to Florida, it is a little bit of a melting pot,” Bielema continued. “You can go in there and if you are going to work, as long as you have personality, as long as you have a little substance to you and you say what you are going to do and that is exactly what happens, you can have success down there.”

Bielema noted that he recruited Florida as a young assistant.

“I went down to Florida and I had never been there in my life and immediately had success,” Bielema said. “I just did what I was asked to do. To recruit the state of Florida is a little bit different. Now you get better at it over time, but it is not a very difficult spot because there are so many (football prospects) down there. It is not an overly tasking environment.”

Bielema noted earlier that Grady Ollison, Korliss Marshall and Will Hines will all be transferring, but doesn't know if they have found landing spots yet.

He also noted that some transfers had reached out to Arkansas both last year and this year.

“When I first got here, there was a couple of guys that wanted to come in and I couldn’t do that with them,” Bielema said, “and we lobbied and petitioned and now the SEC will allow those waivers and those guys that have graduated early to come in and play immediately and we’ve had several reach out.”





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