Jason Ivester

Bielema Addresses 2016 Recruiting

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema covered several recruiting topics this week.

Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema confirmed again this week that he is working with a limited amount of scholarships for the 2016 recruiting class.

 Because of retention in his previous classes, that number right now stands at 16, but is likely to rise to the 18-22 range instead of the allotted 25.

“If you looked around right now I would probably have 16 scholarships guaranteed but obviously that doesn't take into effect attrition, juniors who come out early,” Bielema said. “Last year we had a (redshirt) sophomore (defensive tackle Darius Philon) come out early. 

“If there is one thing that jumped out to me, NFL scouts as they come through can’t directly talk about underclassmen, but it's interesting to watch them analyze certain spots.

“…In that junior class, that first class that we signed, we probably had eight draftable guys that are juniors in that class.  It's a pretty amazing talent level for that class.”

Arkansas, who recently put redshirt sophomore Kevin Richardson on scholarship, still has one scholarship available this season for a current walk-on that will not take away from next season’s number.

“We do have one more,” Bielema said. “I can give that really at any time. Kevin had helped us last year and was in our 2-deep as a starter on several units. He was kind of in a class of his own as far as being a No. 1 that was gone.

“But now we are getting into specialists that are battling it out for jobs that are non-scholarship players as well as guys that are key backups for us. 

“We are kind of sorting through all that. I don't know if I will have it by the end of this week end but by the first game for sure.”

The Razorbacks currently have 13 commitments for the 2016 class meaning there are likely somewhere between five and nine pledges left to take.

 The next recruiting target likely to announce is Hope defensive end McTelvin Agim (6-3, 270), who is scheduled to make his commitment on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. He will make the announcement at his family reunion with Arkansas, Ole Miss, Baylor and Texas A&M as his final four options.

One interesting thing that has been added to the recruiting mix this season is an overall assessment of the current Razorbacks by a pair of analysts in former Texas defensive coordinator Carl “Bull” Reese and Eddie Williams.

 “It has been fun, I think I mentioned to you the other day that we had done an entire roster of management and evaluation,” Bielema said. “I thought it was really cool because they had not been in the recruiting meetings so they did not know the fleas or the warts that had been on those players in the past. They just saw the players for what they were over the last couple of weeks.

“It was really good beneficial information for me, especially, to see maybe offensive linemen - we have a number we are going to take, but now I am thinking we need to have two edge players (tackles) more than interior players.

“Same with linebackers, I probably need more of a mix inside and outside, not just outside. 

“They have been great there. They have unbelievable football knowledge and it is just a benefit that I think a lot of the schools in the conference have had the last few years and Arkansas just hasn’t had it.

“I think (athletic director) Jeff (Long) recognizes the results of what we had a year ago - we had (current Dallas Cowboys coach) Steve Loney helping our defense - and realized what impact that could have.

“I think we have two excited coaches that are going to be a huge asset to our program.”

Another thing factoring into recruiting this season is the new cost of attendance money being given to the Razorbacks on campus as allowed by a new NCAA rule.

“Earlier in the summer in recruiting I had not had the question of the cost of attendance and the issues surrounding the new rules, but that has now come up,” Bielema said.

“…Kids that are beginning to take visits and people are putting it in their hands about what they are going to be able to get at their respective schools and it will begin to take effect.”

Bielema asked if he feels good about what Arkansas is doing in that regard.

 “I do,” Bielema said. “Obviously we are not the top-top, but we are near the top here in the SEC.”

Arkansas has budgetary help available for the athletes that has been set up by Associate Athletic Director Eric Wood.

“We stressed it again yesterday,” Bielema said. “I thought Eric Wood and especially (with) the directive from Jeff have set up a plan in place where all of our kids have to go online and set up a class structure about budgeting and about the  possible scenarios our guys could do investment wise.

“Just to be quite honest we have kids that probably need it and some kids that probably don't need it. By that I mean they don't think they need it or whether they truly aren't getting enough support from home to make it work. 

“Maybe they can put it into a CD for a couple of thousand for maybe a year or put it away for a deferred four or five-year deal and they walk out of the door with a pretty significant start in life without anything football wise and that could be pretty impressive.”

McTelvin Agim


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