FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Despite continuing to bring in quality talent, Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman and his staff have slipped slightly in recruiting rankings after passing Georgia for the SEC's top recruiting class. Despite this, the Razorbacks still hold a Top 10 class for 2023.
As football season quickly approaches, we will spend the next several weeks breaking down current commits before the most recent signees take the field against Cincinnati in September.
Linebacker / Edge | 6-2 | 225 | Houston, Texas | Klein Forest HS
When it comes to Klein Forrest's Brad "Greedy" Spence, size is deceiving.
Spending half the year as an edge rusher, Spence looked tiny in comparison to the mountainous linemen he faced, even though his frame fits the prototypical size high school coaches pray will randomly wander into their office when they take the job.
Despite giving up so much mass to his super-heavyweight counterparts, Spence's violent hands and natural speed allowed him to dominate the line of scrimmage, driving linemen back onto their heels.
Complimenting a move set straight out of Mike Tyson's Punch-Out is an innate ability to keep eyes on the ball in the midst of battle. His abilities to fill the gap, maintain containment, and quickness while under control leave visions pretty early on in his highlight tape of a potential projection to linebacker at the college level – which apparently his coaches saw also.
As the tape progresses throughout the season, Spence gradually moves further away from the line until he finally settles in at linebacker.
It appears he took on the technique quite naturally.
Spence is disciplined as he scrapes across his gaps while making reads. His feet never hesitate unnecessarily long before moving into position for the next possible cut.
His size and remarkable strength make him borderline impossible to block in the open field. It also enables Spence to pick his way rather easily through heavy traffic to zero in on ball carriers.
For Spence to arrive in Fayetteville in optimum position to challenge for a spot his freshman year, he will need to add roughly 10 pounds without losing any speed or quickness.
He will also need to become a threat for a turnover in the passing games, which means 13 months of having footballs fired about two feet over his head and just to the sides of his stomach as hard as possible over and over gain.
CONCLUSION: It doesn't look like Spencer will have a hard time assimilating into the Arkansas family. The question is whether a 3-star with a 4-star mentality will bring a big enough chip on his shoulder to put in the work to exceed expectations.
If so, Spencer can develop into a headache for SEC offenses, especially in the running game.
Wide Receiver | 6-1 | 185 | Tulsa, Okla. | Booker T. Washington HS
When talking about Micah Tease, the one word that jumps to the forefront is speed.
This speed, along with the mental edginess Tease plays with and decidedly better than average hands, is why so many schools wanted him to play in their defensive backfield.
Apparently, this is one of the major reasons Arkansas was able to make inroads against the likes of USC, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Razorbacks' head coach Sam Pittman and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles agreed the skills that made Tease such a hot defensive prospect translated well to the offensive side of the ball, which fit the two-way athlete's preference.
It also didn't hurt that Fayetteville is a short drive for his family and provides the chance to prove himself to NFL scouts against SEC defenses.
The highlights fall on the side of the Arkansas staff being right. Tease is a legit SEC caliber receiver.
The first thing that should be noted is every offensive highlight except a couple near the end show Tease scoring touchdowns. Even the special teams highlights from both phases show touchdowns scored by Tease.
The most important aspect of the receiver's game is his ability to pull away from everyone both before the ball is thrown and once it's in Tease's hands. At one point, a highly athletic defensive back has the angle that should allow him to save a long touchdown, but Tease hits an extra gear, leaving the defensive back with an angle on nothing but air.
One highlight shows Tease, who is not the punt returner, scoop up a the ball five yards deep in the end zone after the returner has been plastered, and then return it 105 yards without ever being legitimately threatened.
On both offense and defense, it is obvious he has strong body control under contact and is quick to pick up the ball with his eyes.
If Tease can put on enough muscle while maintaining his speed, his best comparison is every Alabama receiver who has made Arkansas defensive backs hate their lives over the past decade. He is going to run past a lot of people, leaving them feeling helpless more often than not.
The only weakness in his game, and this is a big one in the SEC, is at times he spreads his legs too far apart when he lines up at wide receiver. This leads to a hitch in his take-off, which provides that fraction of a second needed for All-American defensive backs to make their first move, allowing them potentially to dictate his route or jam him.
If Tease wipes this one flaw from his game and build the muscle needed to overpower SEC defensive backs, he can become virtually unstoppable, which is great news for Razorback fans.
CONCLUSION: If Arkansas can get Tease to campus, it will have Mike Woods with a sprinkle of Joe Adams mixed in to help Malachi Singleton settle into the quarterback position. With the line Arkansas is expected to have at that point, Tease should have plenty of time to pull away on deep routes, which means a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns for both Tease and the Razorbacks.
With Isaiah Sategna opposite him providing world class speed, coupled with what might become the greatest group of tight ends ever on a single team and Quincy McAdoo providing additional cover at wide receiver, Tease is going to have the chance to run free against single coverage often. He will either create touchdown situations for others or light up the scoreboard himself.
Either way, if Tease sets foot in Fayetteville, the puzzle becomes complete and teams will be pressured to put up massive offensive totals to stay on the field with the Razorbacks.
Safety | 6-1 | 185 | Pinson, Ala. | Pinson Valley HS
The first thing most people want to say about safety T.J. Metcalf is he is the cousin of former Ole Miss star turned NFL Pro Bowler D.K. Metcalf.
However, that is unfair to a young man who has made his own name both on the field and social media. His highlight film and announcement videos speak for themselves.
This is a young man who is the perfect blend of old school and new school when it comes to safeties.
He has the old style seek and destroy safety mentality that made safeties well known instruments of the highlight reel in the 80s and 90s while possessing all the skills needed to function essentially as an extra cornerback in the passing game.
His tape shows a fearlessness often attributed to linebackers. Metcalf has an innate ability to weave his way through heavy traffic without losing site of the ball carrier and exploding upon impact.
At the same time, much of his film demonstrates his ability to flow quickly and smoothly through is backpedal. There is no tangled feet as he powers backward, shifting his position with his hips back and forth with ease while keeping the receiver out of one eye and the quarterback with the other.
As soon as the ball is released, he makes his break and often beats the ball there. He has what could be defined as solid receiver hands, which enables him to come away with interceptions amid contact.
Perhaps Metcalf's lone clear weakness is at times he gets too locked in on the ball. This causes him to lose awareness of his surroundings, sometimes going right through the back of the receiver just before the ball arrives resulting in a pass interference.
However, as said before, coaches will take a risk on a guy who generates penalties in the name of trying to make a play.
CONCLUSION: Metcalf has all the tools needed to be an SEC star and will be a much needed addition in Barry Odom's quest to replace Jalen Catalon after this season. His relationship with fellow Alabamian Dallas Young hints the Razorback secondary could have major chemistry in the near future, plus a race between the two to earn that fourth star over the course of their senior season. The list of teams that offered him alone will raise expectations as he takes the field this time next year.
Offensive Tackle | 6-6 | 355 | Mableton, Ga. | Whitefield Academy HS
To say that the Whitefield Academy offensive tackle from Georgia is a mountain of a man would be a vast understatement. Even as a high school freshman, Geffrard was larger than most SEC linemen at 6-4, 335 lbs, while sporting massive tree trunks for arms to boot.
Now, three years later, he's added two inches and another 20 pounds and a high level on-field mean streak that is going to wear on opponents mentally and get someone thrown out of the game.
On offense, Geffrard has a quick first step and works to the second and, often, third levels when blocking. The things he does to linebackers would get a normal human arrested.
However, his physical, violent nature once the ball is snapped is going to make it hard for offensive coordinator Kendal Briles to keep defensive coordinator Barry Odom from trying to sneak Geffrard onto the defensive line.
All that time driving defenders 10-15 yards down the field before discarding them on the turf translates to defense also, which Geffrard also plays. This is a man who loves punishing people, and seeing an athlete of his size moving as well as he does in pursuit of a quarterback or running back before planting them about three inches into the ground is something to behold.
As long as his love for destruction is an on-field mentality and not something that carries over into day-to-day life, there is unlimited potential.
However, there is a downside that will need to be rectified over the course of his senior year. Geffrard is so dominant and aggressive that he often finds himself more than five yards downfield on passing plays. At one point, it looks like he is deeper than some of the receivers when the ball is thrown.
Sometimes it's because the guy in front of him can't provide enough resistance, while other times it's because he can't wait to get onto the linebacker and make him regret his decision to play the sport.
He is also so aggressive that stepping backward into a pass blocking stance goes against his very nature. Finding clips highlights of him settling back and guiding a defender around the pocket is pretty much non-existent.
The other issue is that without discipline, Geffrard is going to be a magnet for holding calls at the college level. He is currently able to get away with this because what he is doing to other players looks like a finishing move from a Street Fighter game.
However, anyone paying attention can see that a habit of grabbing jerseys and slinging players around has developed. That's something that will be called every time in the SEC and twice that for good measure against Alabama.
Bad habits that can be broken or done so out of aggressiveness instead of sloppy play is something coaches are willing to risk. The upside is too great to not take a shot at carving a diamond out of this living mountain.
CONCLUSION: Geffrard has the size and mentality to be a force in the SEC. His last visits were to Clemson, Georgia, Auburn and Arkansas. That's a quality list that seems to verify the potential is real. If Pittman and his assistants can further focus Geffrard's physical nature, he will soon become a living nightmare on the field.
Athlete | 6-2 | 180 | McDonough, Ga. | Eagles Landing Christian Academy
To be successful at Arkansas, the head coach has to fill the roster with assistants who can identify small school talent and pick the gems that might often go overlooked.
It's that carefully crafted skill that might have allowed this staff to find one of the more undervalued prospects in the class with R.J. Johnson out of Class AA Eagles Landing Christian Academy in Georgia. Johnson is part of a scene familiar to the majority of Arkansans – a pure two-way athlete dominating every aspect of the game in a small, but packed, stadium.
The biggest thing Razorback fans need to know is that his tape and his stars don't quite line up. People may have to do their homework on this, but Johnson is a solid mix of former Gainesville (TX) star Darcel McBath, who went on to dominate at Texas Tech before becoming an NFL second round defensive pick, and Bret Smith, a former Warren Lumberjack who was an All-American who went on to start as a receiver at Tennessee.
McBath, who currently coaches at Mississippi State, had a physicality to him as a receiver and defensive back that allowed him to fight through contact of any sort. Smith had hands made of glue that could come away with a catch from any position under any circumstances, including essentially flipped upside down.
In addition to control under contact and an almost mutant-like ability to snag an uncatchable ball, Johnson demonstrates impressive leaping ability. In an offense predicated on quarterbacks often throwing on the run under pressure with awkward arm angles when things break down, Johnson is an answer to a prayer to those QB's passing percentage.
He will need to continue to add muscle while working on increasing break-away speed, but overall, there's not a lot to critique in Johnson's game. If he reports with a humble, ready-to-learn attitude when he finally arrives on campus, the sky is the limit.
CONCLUSION: Johnson is a steal. If he makes it to Fayetteville as a 3-star recruit, it will be a shame because the on-field production is definitely not 3-star work. This is a kid with the potential to set Razorback Stadium on fire at least once per game with something that will absolutely wow the crowd.
Linebacker | 6-3 | 240 | Oxford, Miss. | Oxford HS
Oxford linebacker Alex Sanford appears to have been born a linebacker in waiting. His size and thickness makes him the prototype for being able to withstand the continual punishment a linebacker's body takes.
Sanford is currently a middle linebacker who spends most of his time in read and react mode with an apparent keen eye for tracking a ball in flight, which makes him dangerous on special teams and against low passes thrown over the middle.
While his closing speed is solid, the time between when Sanford makes the decision to react and his acceleration to full speed is fatally long for an aspiring SEC linebacker.
It appears he doesn't trust his instincts. Indications this is just a case of taking a bit to unwind those powerful leg muscles are erased when his coaches let him shoot the gap with no reads required on seek and destroy assignments.
The good news for Razorback fans is this is something that can be overcome with experience and coaching. Improvement in this area, along with a summer working on initial explosiveness on his first step, could change his game enough to move Sanford up to a 4-star prospect.
Perhaps Sanford's biggest asset is his willingness to stay true to his gap and not losing containment. This will most likely change as he faces more speed at the college level, but it's a starting point that is often a weakness for linebackers coming out of high school.
The biggest concern for Sanford entering college should be self discipline when it comes to college cafeterias and the abundance of fast food that surrounds the campus.
If he follows the path of so many freshmen let loose into the wild, he could find himself an undersized defensive lineman needing tools that don't appear to come natural. However, if he leans out and solidifies his muscle, he can become the poster child for an SEC linebacker.
CONCLUSION: Sanford provides a solid starting point for defensive coordinator Barry Odom. If he proves himself coachable, he could become a serious threat by his junior year.
Nose Guard | 6-3 | 330 | Fayetteville, Ga. | Whitewater HS
There is no doubt that in Georgia product Stephen Johnson Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom will have the option to plug in a mountain of a young man.
Johnson will require high levels of investment from the coaches and the strength and conditioning staff, but the potential upside is quite high. His size has allowed him to be a dominant player at the high school level, but over the next year he will need to continue to work on speed, overall strength, and more aggression on the field to better position himself for a long run on the Razorback defensive line.
Right now his biggest asset is his ability to take up space along the defensive front, but with linemen who will be bigger than him in the SEC, increased flexibility and movement will be key.
The strongest positive for Arkansas fans is Johnson has shown large leaps in growth with each year.
Once a player commits, programs are notorious for advising athletes on how to develop their bodies and game. If this trend continues, Johnson should see his biggest growth yet as a player this coming season.
A focused offseason could help him develop into a high 3-star, but it would take an insanely dominant season to drift into 4-star range.
His commitment puts Georgia at the top of the list as far as recruits from a single state with five.
LUKE HASZ | Tight End | 6-3 | 220 | Bixby, Okla. | Bixby HS
SHAMAR EASTER | Tight End | 6-5 | 225 | Ashdown, Ark. | Ashdown HS
LUKE BROWN | Offensive Tackle | 6-5 | 300 | Paris, Tenn. | Henry County HS
MALACHI SINGLETON | Quarterback | 6-1 | 225 | Kennesaw, Ga. | North Cobb HS
JADEN HAMM | Tight End | 6-6 | 225 | Eudora, Kan. | Eudora HS
DALLAS YOUNG | Cornerback | 6-1 | 180 | Gardendale, Ala. | Gardendale HS
QUINCY RHODES, JR. | Edge | 6-5 | 247 | Jacksonville, Ark. | North Little Rock HS
KALEB JAMES | Defensive Lineman | 6-4 | 250 | Mansfield, Texas | Mansfield HS
CARSON DEAN | Edge | 6-4 | 225 | Carrollton, Texas | Hebron HS
CHRISTIAN FORD | Safety | 6-0 | 185 | McKinney, Texas | McKinney HS
ISAIAH AUGUSTAVE | Running Back | 6-2 | 195 | Naples, Fla. | Naples HS
JOEY SU'A | Offensive Tackle | 6-4 | 320 | Bentonville, Ark. | Bentonville HS
PARIS PATTERSON | Offensive Lineman | 6-6 | 345 | East St. Louis, Ill. | East St. Louis HS
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