Bret Bielema is finalizing his first recruiting class at Arkansas, a group that ranks among the top 35 nationally but is still near the bottom of the SEC. The Razorbacks are bringing in a trio of four-star players in the trenches, with plenty of other developmental talent on both sides of the ball.
Update, Feb 5: Arkansas picked up a big-time playmaker in four-star wide receiver Jojo Robinson, beating out TCU, South Florida and Auburn.
Four recruits have already enrolled in Fayetteville in advance of Signing Day. The most important among these is Rafe Peavey, a three-star pro-style signalcaller out of Bolivar, Mo. Peavey, who was ranked as the No. 4 player in the state of Missouri, chose the Razorbacks over Iowa, Auburn, Nebraska, USC, UCLA, Louisville, and 15 other offers. Given Arkansas' problems at quarterback in 2013, Peavey could quickly be in the mix for playing time.
Chris Murphy, a three-star defensive back from Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga., chose Akransas from a list of nearly 20 offers that included Louisville, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and West Virginia. He is the No. 42-rated cornerback in the Class of 2014 and No. 53 player in the state of Georgia.
The Razorbacks also have a pair of wideouts already on campus: Jared Cornelius, a three-star recruit from Shreveport, La.'s Evangel Christian Academy and Cody Hollister, a two-star JUCO prospect out of Arizona Western College. Cornelius held offers from Missouri, Louisiana Tech, and San Diego State, while Hollister was pursued by Wyoming and Troy.
Bielema's focus on the offensive and defensive lines is not a surprise, given his typical style of play. His top two recruits, defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson and offensive tackle Brian Wallace, could factor immediately. Jackson, a 334-pound product of El Dorado, Ark., was the top in-state player in 2013. The four-star defender has been committed to the Razorbacks for over a year, but was also pursued by Alabama, Ole Miss, and Arkansas State. Bud Elliott writes that Jackson has a future as a run-stuffing defensive tackle:
Jackson is a very simple player to scout. He is very wide, not all that tall, extremely powerful and quite difficult to block because he plays with great leverage. There is more to his game, of course, but that's essentially it: blockers cannot move him off his mark. Jackson is very large in the lower half, with a wide base, and very strong legs and hips.
Wallace, who committed in early January, was more of a surprise. The four-star offensive tackle out of St. Louis' Christian Brothers College High, was thought to be headed to Alabama or Iowa before announcing his decision. Wallace was the consensus top player in the state of Missouri this season, and was ranked as the nation's second-best offensive tackle by 247 Sports. At 6'6 and 305 pounds, he is big enough to play early.
Wallace will be joined on the offensive line by three-star tackle Jovan Pruitt. The 6'6, 290-lb. prospect from Dallas' Bishop Dunne Catholic chose Arkansas over Alabama, Baylor, Florida, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and a handful of other offers.
Three-star cornerback Henre' Toliver comes to Arkansas from Archbishop Rummel High in Metairie, La. Toliver is a consensus Top 25 player in the state of Louisiana, and ranked as the No. 34 cornerback in the class. He also held offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Louisville, Kentucky, and Arizona State, among others.
Arkansas' is still in the hunt for some prospects who are expected to announce their intentions on National Signing Day. Three-star outside linebacker Sharieff Rhaheed is one possible addition; he is considering Michigan State, Louisville and Missouri, along with the Razorbacks. Five-star defensive end Solomon Thomas, who is announcing his college choice at 8:50 a.m. ET on ESPNU Wednesday, would immediately become the top player in Arkansas' class. He is also considering Stanford, Texas and Ohio State.