State of the Hogs: Stars

Looking at stars in recruiting rankings can lead to problems. Evaluations by coaches are more important.

Don't let the stars blind you. They aren't always accurate, especially when it comes to linemen from the state of Arkansas.

They fall through the cracks. Take Shawn Andrews as the perfect example.

It was deep in the recruiting process when Andrews was finishing his senior season at Camden. He was rated by one of the national services affiliated with Hawgs Illustrated at the time. He had one star by his name.

I called the head of the service for an explanation. I got a simple question: Who is on this Andrews kid?

Why did that matter? Just look at film and make an evaluation. Let his video resume speak for itself.

No, who is recruiting this Camden lineman? OK, it's Michigan, Penn State, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and many more.

Oh, we'll change his ranking then. How about four stars? Maybe five?

And there you have it, a national expert at work. It was my opinion at the time that Andrews would eventually be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. That came true after just three years with the Hogs.

Flash forward to Byran Jones, the jewel of Bobby Petrino's 2010 class. He hails from tiny Junction City, a Class 2A school in south Arkansas. Guess how many stars in the ratings?

Yep, just three. Put Jones in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston or maybe even Tulsa, he'd probably be a five star.

It doesn't matter if he's rated just one, he was a must get for the Hogs. When there is a top lineman in Arkansas, don't let them get away.

Why? Our state just doesn't produce many quality big men. There are only a handful like Shawn Andrews in football. There are only a few like Keith Lee or Corliss Williamson in basketball.

That's why I underlined a few names on the UA signing list Wednesday. I loved that defensive line group of Calvin Barnett (6-3, 330), Tulsa, Okla.; LaCraig Brown (6-4, 288), Monroe, La.; Jeremiah Jackson (6-3, 260), Hoover, Ala.; Byran Jones (6-2, 310), Junction City; Chris Smith (6-2, 230), Mount Ulla, N.C.

There might be one more defensive lineman in this 25-man class. Jatashun "Big Tex" Beachum is listed as a running back, but he is listed at 6-1, 270. He'll begin his UA career in the offensive backfield, but don't be surprised if he moves to defense at some point.

Defensive tackle is the position that defines most good teams. If there was one spot on the field that I always trained my eyes to watch every year against Texas, it was defensive tackle. Same goes for Florida and Alabama of late.

Just 30 minutes after the LIberty Bowl, Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson was asked where the Hogs needed to improve to have a better defense in 2010. He didn't hesitate. He said the Hogs needed to get bigger, stronger and better in the defensive front. So how did Robinson feel late Wednesday when the Arkansas class was introduced at Petrino's press conference?

"Like a kid Christmas morning," he said. "This is what we needed. It's a good group and it's going to help our linebackers and secondary. There is size and athletic ability in this line group.

"What I like is that most of them can play inside or outside in the front. They have the athletic ability to play end and they are big enough to play inside, too. And there is room for them to grow. They are big and are going to get bigger."

But what about the stars?

"There may be a lot of three-star guys in this group, but I am pretty sure that some of them can't be far from being four stars," Robinson said. "I bet they are one/tenth of a point away. I don't know what they are missing to be four stars, but it can't be much.

"We don't recruit off the stars. We evaluate film and find what we need. Sometimes I get through with the tape and wonder why they weren't a four or five. The only thing I can figure as to why they are threes are that old so-and-so isn't recruiting them. That's fine with me."

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