With just 18 days before national signing date, Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema is feeling energized when it comes to recruiting.
Arkansas hosted several preferred walk on candidates on unofficial visits Saturday, will have a large contingent of prospects on hand next weekend and will bring in a few more the final weekend before the Feb. 3 national signing date.
Bielema and new Arkansas offensive line coach Kurt Anderson will be on the recruiting trail together for the first time on Monday.
“It should be a fun two weeks here,” Bielema said. “We're fixing to hop into the last two weeks of recruiting that is probably one of the more enjoyable times for me as a head coach, just to get some finality to certain situations.”
Arkansas goes into this final stretch with 16 commitments and a goal of signing 25, including a pair of early enrollees in Hope defensive end McTelvin Agim and Northwest Mississippi Community College offensive lineman Terrance Deion Malone.
“I think we are going to get to 24 for sure,” Bielema said. “I think I will probably go to 25 to new quite honest. A by-product of having three juniors come out (to the NFL draft) is you have three more scholarships become available.
“We had a couple of scholarship players graduate early like Reeve Koehler. So when he leaves out that presents an opportunity. All those things I couldn’t forecast a year ago at this time.
Bielema, whose program's recruiting class is ranked No. 31 nationally by Scout.com, noted that he would like an equal amount of offensive and defensive players in the 2016 recruiting class – which currently has nine offensive pledges and seven defensive ones.
“My vision is to do 12 offense, 12 defense and one coach’s discretion,” Bielema said. “The last three coaches’ discretions have been three kids from Arkansas.
“Korliss (Marshall) obviously I would have loved to have him, but he indulged in some things we couldn’t, but he was a good player. The next one was Josh Liddell. Those guys have proved their worth and what they are capable of doing.”
Bielema noted that he was not happy with his numbers in the offensive line and wants to add four or five offensive lineman.
“No, I want to sign a minimum of four offensive linemen,” Bielema said. “Might grow to five. There is growth within our program that I think will help us out as well. I think we have a chance to improve in probably two of the three positions that we lost.
“What you can’t replace - or is hard to replicate - is the leadership that Sebastian Tretola had in our program. If Denver (Kirkland) came back we were going to move him back into guard if at all possible. A lot of that depends in the next couple of weeks how some things turn out recruiting.”
He also wants to have four linebackers in the class with Arkansas currently having the duo of Alexy Jean-Baptiste and De’Jon Harris.
“I think linebacker depth is a concern of mine in the fall and the spring. I think an ideal shooting number for us is four. I'd love to get three high school and a juco. The magic number on defense is kind of three to four at every position.
“Then on offense, we lost one tight end, and he's a great one, but we signed a number of tight ends a year ago. At wide receiver, we've got a fixed number.
“Running back is intriguing because to have two backs in the NFL Draft, I mean, it's fun to talk about, but it's really not great to live through.”
Arkansas has Kody Walker, Rawleigh Williams, Juan Day and Denzel Evans set to return at tailback.
The Razorbacks have a commitment from one Texas prep tailback in Devwah Whaley and are set to host another in Kyle Porter on Jan. 29-31.
There’s also Pulaski Robinson star T.J. Hammonds, a pledge that Arkansas plans to use as a slot receiver and also at tailback.
“I think we've done a nice job in recruiting,” Bielema said. “We're in on some of the most elite backs I've ever been involved with, and they're saying a lot of really good things.
Anderson will recruit the Chicago area as well as East Texas per Bielema.
He previously has recruited Texas high schools and junior colleges as well as Oklahoma and Kansas junior colleges.
“I think I am going to let him have Chicago a little bit,” Bielema said. “He has a great reputation there and I think that’s something that could really be open forum and I would like to put him in East Texas. I thin he has a personality that is big and bold and could roll in there pretty good with a pair of cowboy boots.”
Bielema can also see Arkansas doing satellite camps in the Midwest in the future.
“…The NCAA, unless something happens dramatically, they are going to allow us to go off campus for these one day camps, satellite camps,” Bielema said. “I could see us going into Detroit, going into Chicago, maybe Wisconsin or Minnesota just because of my experiences up there and going into Ohio. Maybe just take a week with my staff and kind of take a Midwest swing.”
“…I think everybody has to do what they feel they can do. But I do now this there are a lot of good players in the Midwest that have been very successful. Not only in the Midwestern colleges but also in the SEC.
“We play Alabama there is a kid I remember who came out of Iowa that we all wanted and he is a very good player for Alabama right now.
“So there are players up there. Frank Ragnow comes from Minnesota. I think about our offensive line. Someone thought they were all southern kids and we had a tackle from Miami, a guy from California, a center from here, a guard from Minnesota and a tackle from Denver.
“We’ve got them all over the country and that’s what we have got to continue to do. I think for Arkansas that’s what we ought to do.
“…The kids love the SEC. We (the SEC) went 9-2 or whatever in the bowl games and kids realize that stuff. There more kids playing in the Senior Bowl from the SEC than any other conference. Those things matter and they make a difference.”