UA Recruiting Class Is Good

FAYETTEVILLE — The fax machine is quiet. The national letters of intent have been signed and sent.

And after logging hundreds of hours and thousands of miles on the road over the past month, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and his assistants will get a much-needed break over the next few days.

They can either rest knowing that they put together the Razorbacks' highest-rated recruiting class in recent memory or worry that several Southeastern Conference schools finished ahead of them on National Signing Day.

"I think they've done a wonderful job," Tom Luginbill, ESPN's national recruiting director, said of Arkansas' 2009 signing class.

"Remember, anytime you've got a new coaching staff that comes in a short period of time as (the Razorbacks) had last year, you really got to gauge where things are going when they have that full calendar year as a staff to go out and bring in their own class that they've evaluated from the word ‘Go.'

"We think they've done an excellent job."

Traveling from coast to coast to address to their needs in the secondary and along the offensive line, Arkansas' coaches assembled a recruiting class that's ranked No. 15 by Rivals.com. It's the school's highest rating by the national recruiting Web site since it started in 2001.

In comparison, Rivals.com ranked Arkansas' 2006 recruiting class No. 34 nationally despite the addition of four prospects from the Springdale Five, including highly touted quarterback Mitch Mustain and wide receiver Damian Williams.

Meanwhile, Scout.com has Arkansas' current recruiting class ranked No. 21, its best finish in recent years.

Because of some last-minute additions, the team rankings by Scout.com and Rivals.com changed slightly from Wednesday to Thursday. Arkansas was bumped down at least one spot by both recruiting Web sites.

But several recruiting experts agreed Thursday that the rankings aren't necessarily as important as some fans like to think. The rankings are subjective and can't predict what happens once a recruit steps on campus as a college freshman.

"There are difference-maker type of players like a Darren McFadden, and I think Ryan Mallett's going to be one of those guys. But for the most part, there's not a ton of difference between one player to the next," said Scott Kennedy, director of scouting for Scout.com.

"As long as you're getting your share of guys — if you're finishing in the top 15 — you're getting more than your share of guys to compete."

Both Kennedy and Luginbill compared Arkansas running back signee Ronnie Wingo Jr. to Michael Bush, a powerful tailback who starred for Petrino at Louisville before getting drafted by the Oakland Raiders.

And Helena-West Helena Central cornerback Darius Winston, the first five-star defensive recruit to sign with the Razorbacks, has the potential to start as a freshman.

Still, Arkansas' recruiting class was ranked in the middle of the pack in the SEC by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Alabama and LSU each put together recruiting classes that are considered the cream of the crop nationally. Georgia and South Carolina also assembled top 15 classes, with Florida, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Auburn not too far behind.

But Luginbill said a school's recruiting class can't be judged accurately until the following August when all the freshmen are enrolled in classes.

Like many schools around the country, Arkansas signed an especially large class — 28 recruits and three midterm signees — knowing that not all of them will qualify academically.

"When you over-sign your class or when you go above your scholarship limit, you've got to remember that the only ones that count on a class are the ones that actually enroll in school," Luginbill said.

"So while things look great on paper now and everybody is excited, at 31 signees right now, there is a good chance that come August (schools like Arkansas) could be in the 25-27 (recruit) range."

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