FAYETTEVILLE – To the nine they signed during the December early signing period, December hired Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman and his Razorbacks staff announced the signings of 12 eager incoming Razorbacks with Wednesday’s start of the February signing period.
Eager describes the dozen as Pittman said there were no back and forth signing day games played. All 12 signed before any 8 a.m. class that might have been on their schedule.
“I think the thing I like most about this group is they want to be a part of Arkansas,” Pittman said at his Tuesday recruiting press conference. “Now you are going to say, ‘Well, we know that. They signed with Arkansas. But by 7:47 this morning we had all 23 scholarships signed.”
The Razorbacks at semester added already UA enrolled graduate transfers Feliepe Franks, formerly the University of Florida Gators starting quarterback, and cornerback Jerry Jacobs from Arkansas State to the nine signed in December.
Wednesday’s February signees expected to report to the Razorbacks this summer include one graduate transfer, linebacker Levi Draper of Collinsville, Okla. transferring from the University of Oklahoma after lettering as a third-year sophomore special teamer, and 13 incoming freshmen. Linebacker JT Towers of Little Rock Joe T. Robinson was the lone Arkansan signed Wednesday among the class of defensive lineman Andy Boykin, La Grange, Ga.; offensive lineman Marcus Henderson, Memphis; quarterback Malik Hornsby, Missouri City, Texas; defensive back Khari Johnson, Suffield, Ct.; defensive lineman Jaqualin McGhee, Fort Valley, Ga.; offensive lineman Jalen St. John, St. Louis; tight end Collin Sutherland, Flower Mound, Texas; linebacker Eric Thomas, Pensacola, Fla.; linebacker Jacorrei Turner, Atlanta; and defensive back Nick Turner, New Orleans.
The additions to December signees linebacker Kelin Burrle, Harvey, La.; junior college transfer defensive lineman Julius Coates, Rockford, Ill.; offensive lineman Ray Curry, Memphis; running back Dominique Johnson, Crowley, Texas; defensive back Myles Slusher, Broken Arrow, Okla.; defensive lineman Jashaud Stewart, Jonesboro; offensive lineman Blayne Toll, Hazen; receiver Darin Turner, Memphis; and defensive lineman Catrell Wallace, Bryant, prompted the 247 recruiting website to jump Arkansas’ recruiting rating from 119th nationally after Arkansas coach Chad Morris was fired and Pittman hired to 29th.
“We ended up having a good class,” Pittman said. “The credit goes solely to our assistant coaches. They went out and built relationships in a short period of time. And I think that tells you a lot about who we have on our staff.”
Pittman wasn’t nearly as concerned with the recruiting rating numbers various services applied as with the numbers at positions that needed increasing among 15 signed for defense and eight for offense.
“We went out with position of needs,” Pittman said. “Those five positions were quarterback, tight end, and basically the defense: D-line, linebackers and cornerbacks. When I say needs I’m not talking about talent. I’m talking about numbers. Our numbers were low on the defensive side of the board and at tight end and quarterback. And so we went up there and tried to address those needs.”
At quarterback, graduate transfer Frank obviously comes with bonafide SEC credentials from his Florida days until his 2019 injury caused him to be replaced by current Gators quarterback Kyle Trask.
Hornsby was among Arkansas’ most heralded Wednesday signees rated 4-stars by 247 Sports and ESPN and reportedly was sought by Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia among others before opting for Pittman and new Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendal Briles.
“Malik, he was the guy that we wanted you know,” Pittman said. “He’s the guy we went after. He had a great relationship with Coach Briles. Kendal did a great job of recruiting him and has for a long time. There’s a guy who can throw it and run it and certainly would be ideal for the type of offense that Kendal is planning on running.”
On Franks, Pittman said, “Feleipe Franks has proven he can do it in this league and do it at a high level. I’m not saying he’s going to win the starting spot, but it’s a big deal to get him.”
Franks’ mere presence allows for developing time for young quarterbacks Hornsby and returning redshirt freshman and for one game starter KJ Jefferson.
As the successful offensive line coach at Georgia, and before that at Arkansas under Bret Bielema with the Arkansas O-line performance dropping significantly the past four years with Pittman gone to Georgia, Pittman was asked about the O-linemen now signed with the Hogs.
“Well they’re all three big,” Pittman said of Henderson, 6-5, 300; McGehee, 6-4, 255, and St. John, 6-5, 310. “They’re massive guys. So that was, you know, defenses in our league, they have big people over there. So we wanted to go size to begin with. And of course we got Ray Curry Jr. (6-6, 315) in the early signing period. A guy that is a very good athlete that we think we can develop him. He’s probably a little more physically a little stronger than your typical average high school lineman. And then Marcus Henderson, very talented guy. He took his body from he might have been 335-340 and now he’s down around 290. He needed to do that. He played a lot better this year, his senior year, doing that. We’re awful glad we ended up getting him. And then we had Jalen St. John, who is probably the biggest of that group. I think he’ll be a really good player for us. I don’t know how fast they’ll play or anything of that nature. We need to learn more about our own team first on that.”
The impact of hiring former Missouri head coach Barry Odom as defensive coordinator was immediate in recruiting, Pittman said.
“Our defensive board, I think we had 13 guys, 14 guys committed early,” Pittman said. “So I think that guys want to come in and play for Coach Odom and those guys.”
While asserting his intentions mostly are to recruit regionally Arkansas and surrounding states, Pittman with his ties in Georgia, matched four Georgia signees with four from Arkansas along with three from Tennessee, three from Texas, two Oklahomans, two from Louisiana, two from Florida; and one each from Illinois, Missouri and the eyebrow raiser from Northeast far afield with defensive back Khari Johnson from Connecticut.
“Sam Carter (the new cornerbacks coach) knew him,” Pittman said. “A lot of other schools got involved with him after he committed to Arkansas. We were really excited to get him. He’s fast.”
The Razorbacks on campus are headlong into the offseason conditioning program headed by new strength coach Jamil Walker, hired by Pittman from Georgia.
The Razorbacks will start spring practice March 25 and, taking a break for the UA’s spring break, finish their 15 spring practices with the April 25 Red-White intrasquad spring game.
The Red-White game is tentatively scheduled for War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock but Pittman said the UA awaits NCAA clearance to move it off campus.
ARKANSAS 2020 SIGNEES
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown School
1. Andy Boykin, DL 6-4, 262 LaGrange, Ga. Troup County
2. Kelin Burrle LB 6-0 205 Harvey, La. Helen Cox
3. Julius Coates DL 6-6 270 Rockford, Ill. East Mississippi CC
4. Ray Curry OL 6-6 315 Memphis White Station
5. Levi Draper LB 6-1 234 Collinsville, Ill. U of Oklahoma
6. Feliepe Frank QB 6-6 238 Crawfordville, Fla. U of Florida
7. Marcus Henderson OL 6-5, 300 Memphis Memphis University School
8. Malik Hornsby QB 6-2 175 Missouri City, Texas Fort Bend Marshall
9. Jerry Jacobs CB 5-11 204 South Cobb, Ga. Arkansas State
10. Dominque Johnson RB 6-1 220 Crowley, Texas Crowley’
11. Khari Johnson DB 6-0 184 Suffield Ct. Suffield Academy
12.Jaqualin McGehee DL 6-4 255 Fort Valley, Ga. Peach County
13. Myles Slusher DB 6-0 181 Broken Arrow, Okla. Broken Arrow
14. Jalen St. John OL 6-5 310 St. Louis Trinity Catholic
15. Jashaud Stewart DL 6-2 223 Jonesboro Jonesboro
16. Collin Sutherland TE 6-5 225 Flower Mound, Texas
17. Eric Thomas LB 6-3 230 Pensacola, Fla. Booker T. Washington
18. JT Towers LB 6-4 210 Little Rock Joe T. Robinson
19. Blayne Toll DL 6-5 244 Hazen
20. Darin Turner WR 6-3 206 Memphis Central
21. Jacorrei Turner LB 6-2, 205 Atlanta Woodward Academy
22. Nick Turner DB 5-11 180 New Orleans Brother Martin
23. Catrell Wallace DL 6-5 200 Bryant Bryant