It turned out to be a huge Saturday for the Arkansas program.
Not only did the Razorbacks roll to a 45-23 win over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl, but they started the day by landing one of the nation’s best tailbacks and taking a big step forward in the national rankings.
Beaumont, Texas, Central star Devwah Whaley (6-0, 205), regarded as the nation’s third-best tailback and a top 50 player nationally by ESPN, chose Arkansas over Texas, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma and a host of other programs.
He did so at the beginning of Saturday’s Under Armour All-American game on ESPN in a move that vaulted Arkansas up to 26 from the mid-30s in the team rankings.
“For many reasons, I felt like it was the best place for me all-around with academics and football,” Whaley said. “They have a great coaching staff, they run the ball. Just the environment up there, it feels like home away from home. It is just a great feeling.”
Whaley, who rushed for 1,701 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, would seem ready to step in and play right away for Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Razorback offensive coordinator Dan Enos.
“I feel like I will fit in very well,” Whaley said. “…Why wouldn’t a running back want to play in that type of offense, especially under Coach B. He likes to run the ball, he and Coach Enos. That’s why I feel like it is a good fit for me.”
Whaley becomes the 17th commit for Arkansas with some eight spots left open in the 2016 class and gives the Razorbacks a chance to close strong.
“We are going to try and get some other guys in and make this an even better class,” Whaley said.
The Razorbacks now have one five-star pledge in Hope defensive end McTelvin Agim, two top 50 players and nine players that are 4-stars or above in one or more of the four main recruiting services.
That list includes Star City defensive tackle Austin Capps, Smackover wide receiver Jordan Jones, Pulaski Robinson wide receiver/tailback T.J. Hammonds, Metairie, La., Archbishop Rummel defensive tackle Briston Guidry, Urbandale, Iowa offensive tackle Jake Heinrich.
There’s also Lafayette, La. Teurlings Catholic quarterback Cole Kelley and Moultrie, Ga., Colquitt County wide receiver Kiel Pollard.
Springhill, La., North Webster tailback Devin White (6-1, 260) is scheduled to announce his decision Friday at 2 p.m.
His final five schools are LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Florida State.
The Razorbacks also have three big weekends left in this recruiting cycle with recruits due in Jan. 15-17, Jan. 22-24 and Jan. 29-31.
Some of the top uncommitted prospects left slated to visit Arkansas are cornerbacks Kristian Fulton (6-0, 185) of Metairie, la., Archbishop Rummel and Eric Cuffee (6-0, 190) of Waco, Texas among numerous others.
Arkansas is also expected to host Houston wide receiver commit Tyrie Cleveland (6-3, 190) of Houston Westfield.