Jason Ivester

State of the Hogs: It's Never Over Until It's Over

Recruiting still may have a few twists and turns. Here's a front-page commentary with some wrap-up thoughts from Wednesday's events surrounding signing day at Arkansas.

It's never over until it's over. Yes, signing day came and went on Wednesday, but Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema could have invoked Yogi Berra wisdom at the signing day media briefing.

Asked if there was potential to add more players since the Razorbacks announced only 20 players, Bielema quickly answered with the affirmative.

There was thought at one time last spring that this would be a small Arkansas class, with only room for 12 to 13 because of the 85 limit. Then, there were a few defections and/or purges. And there were a few injuries. Then there were a few early decisions for the NFL draft.

Yes, they probably saw the possibility of losing Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, but Denver Kirkland was a bit of a surprise. That was mentioned again Wednesday night at the signing party at Bud Walton Arena.

Bielema noted the Hogs had room for a full 25 on Wednesday. If the right ones had fallen at the end, that might have happened, although it's not his ideal way of doing things.

When you invite eight to 10 preferred walkons every year as Bielema does, it's good to keep some carrots to dangle for that group. There are two or three who deserve a scholarship every year. It's good for team morale and healthy to have a strong walkon program. It's one of the things he said he would do when I had my first one-one-one interview in his office three years ago.

It's clear they covet linebackers Grant Morgan and Ben Brausell, running back Justice Hobbs, offensive linemen Tyler Hall, kicker Connor Limpert and wide receiver Tobias Enlow in the next wave of walkons.

It's not clear if offensive lineman Dylan Hays will fall into that group, or end up with a scholarship in this class. It appears Hays is coming after turning down Missouri and others on the last weekend. Hays could be on the final list that's sent to the SEC in a week, or he may wait until the fall for his scholarship as options are left open for transfers.

Bielema said there were still players available from the pool of unsigned prospects from the high school class. There might be a junior college player or two still out there, too. Some of that may shake out in the next 48 hours, Bielema said. And, he may just not want to tip his hand on senior transfers just yet.

“You didn't want to do that ahead of signing day for obvious reasons,” Bielema said.

For example, if you had Barry Sanders in the fold as a transfer from Stanford – and that's been rumored – it might effect a high school running back like a Kyle Porter. And, if you got Porter, there would be no reason for needing Sanders anyway. Things just have to play out.

I was interested to listen to Bielema's staff at the signing day fan event at Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night. The obvious didn't hit me in the face until well after the event as I was going over my notes to write one of my favorite pieces, the evaluations of the coaches. There was none from running backs coach Jemal Singleton. He was not at the event and his absence was not explained. If he was ill, that probably would have been mentioned.

So perhaps there still will be a staff position to be filled over the coming weeks. But it's not for sure exactly what was going on last night with Singleton. There was no explanation. Recruiting coordinator E.K. Franks seemed to fill his spot in the speaking lineup. Singleton has been on Bielema's staff for one year. His title is running backs coach, in charge of special teams.

One of the notations that I also forgot to include as far as player evaluations came on outside linebacker Dee Walker, the Moultrie, Ga., flyer.

“He just looks like a track guy,” assistant coach Rory Segrest said. “He's an incredible athlete. He can fly. He was one of the captains on their national championship team, very high character.”

Assistant coach Clay Jennings raved about Devway Whaley's track exploits. Listed at 210 but a few pounds heavier now, Whaley will turn heads when he fills up a day at a track meet.

“He'll be in the long jump, the triple jump, the 4x100 relay and the shot put,” Jennings said.

Bielema added, “Just an incredible athlete.”

Jennings said there was great food when they arrived at Whaley's house. His mother is challenged to keep food on the table for her son.

“She calls him the human eating box,” Jennings said. “The meal we had was pretty good. It was fried ribs for starters. There were fried wings and shrimp. There was pecan pie and pound cake to finish it off.”

Bielema said, “I wasn't sure about the fried ribs. But I promise you they were really good.”

Jennings added, “The fried ribs, they will put you to sleep, trust me.”

There's no sleeping just yet. The Hogs are going to work hard to put the right finishing touches on this recruiting class. There may be some pecan pie or pound cake still out there.


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