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February 5, 2014

Signing Day Superlatives





Here's a closer look at some of the highlights of Arkansas' signing class of 2014:

Biggest Get: Offense

  • Brian Wallace, OL, St. Louis (Mo.) Christian Brothers

    Arkansas went head-to-head with some of the nation's top programs and came out on top for this four-star offensive tackle. Some of the schools Arkansas topped for Wallace's signature included Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and several others.

    Wallace had a final three of Arkansas, Alabama and Iowa heading into his nationally-televised announcement during the U.S. Army All-American Game, and up until the last 5-6 days before his decision, most expected him to dawn a Crimson Tide cap. However, offensive line/assistant head coach Sam Pittman, as he's done several times since joining the Razorbacks, found a way to seal the deal late.

    The Hogs started two true freshmen on the offensive line last year, proving they're willing to trade experience for getting the most talented guys on the field. Arkansas' need for immediate help may not be as big this season, but Wallace is more than capable of pushing for playing time as a true freshman.

    Biggest Get: Defense

  • Bijhon Jackson, DT, El Dorado (Ark.)

    When Bret Bielema first took over at Arkansas in December 2012, he wasted no time in getting in touch with Jackson to let him know he's the new staff's No. 1 priority for 2014.

    And Jackson wasted very little time in jumping on board with the new head Hog. Just 16 days after arriving in Fayetteville, Bielema had his first pledge for the Class of 2014 when Jackson went public with his decision on the night of December 20, 2012.

    Jackson received an offer from college football's top dog, the Alabama Crimson Tide, on April 11, 2013, but he was quick to let them know he had no intentions of going anywhere but Arkansas. The four-star prospect has all the tools to become an above-average player in the SEC, and with Arkansas losing four seniors from last year's team to graduation, chances are Jackson will be counted on early and often as a true freshman this fall.

    Biggest Miss: Offense

  • Deandre Goolsby, TE, Derby (Kan.)

    Arkansas spent a ton of time and energy in trying to land Goolsby, who ended up signing with Florida and enrolling early last month.

    Goolsby was a longtime four-star prospect according to Rivals.com but fell to three-star status late in the year. As far as Arkansas was concerned, he was one of their most wanted recruits on the board regardless of position for several months in-a-row.

    Arkansas assistant coach Michael Smith changed Goolsby's diaper when he was a baby, but their close relationship still wasn't enough for the Hogs to land the tight end's signature. Goolsby would have been a perfect compliment to Freshman All-America tight end Hunter Henry.

    Biggest Miss: Defense

  • Solomon Thomas, DE, Coppell (Texas)

    This is one that really stung the Razorbacks. They knew it'd be hard to land Thomas, but with him making multiple trips to Fayetteville, his sister being a student at the UA, and his parents having other strong connections to the area, there always seemed to be a decent shot for an upset.

    That didn't happen, because Thomas chose Stanford on national television Wednesday morning.

    The silver lining for Arkansas is that, if there's one position they can claim as a strength on defense, it'd be defensive end. There's some nice young talent mixed with a solid returning starter in Trey Flowers, but Thomas would have been a huge addition to the group.

    Thomas is an immediate impact type of player who definitely could have found his way into the mix for Arkansas this fall. He also would have given the Hogs a great chance to finish in the Top 25 in the final team rankings.

    Immediate Impact

  • JoJo Robinson, WR, Miami (Fla.) Northwestern

    Arkansas has needed a guy like Robinson for the last two years. The Hogs have lacked explosive playmakers at the wide receiver position -- someone who can turn a short-yardage reception into a long gain after the catch.

    Robinson gives them that, and he will also be counted on immediately as a punt returner and kick returner on special teams. The 5-10, 180-pounder was committed to Florida State for several months and also held offers from Auburn, TCU, Miami, LSU, USC and many others.

    Returning junior Keon Hatcher leads the way for Arkansas' group of receivers, but there are a lot of question marks behind him. There will be room for at least a couple of new additions to make noise this fall, and Robinson is definitely a favorite to do just that.

    Sleeper Pick: Offense

  • Sebastian Tretola, OL, Iowa Western C.C.

    Tretola will be expected to contribute immediately and could possibly even crack the starting five prior to the season opener. The Hogs will likely move current left guard Dan Skipper to his more natural position of tackle, giving the 6-3, 320-pound Tretola an opportunity to step in and play right away.

    Tretola turned down offers from Oklahoma, Florida, Texas Tech, TCU and several others to join the Razorbacks. He was expected to enroll in January and go through spring drills but had a little more work to do in the classroom first. He re-signed with the Hogs on Wednesday and is now expected to arrive in Fayetteville in late May or early June.

    Last year the Hogs started two true freshmen up front who didn't go through spring drills, and they feel confident they can do the same with a JUCO transfer in Tretola.

    Sleeper Pick: Defense

  • Randy Ramsey, LB, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard

    Ramsey is an impressive-looking 6-3 1/2, 210-pounder, and Arkansas' strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert feels he can have him in the 230-235 range by the time fall camp rolls around in August.

    Linebacker is easily one of the Hogs' biggest weaknesses in terms of talent and overall depth. Ramsey, who recorded 23 sacks and 28 tackles for a loss as a senior in one of Florida's biggest classifications, appears to have what it takes to make an early impact.

    Whether it's in a limited role such as Nickel packages or pass-rushing situations, look for Ramsey to play as a true freshman in 2014.

    Most Undervalued

  • Cole Hedlund, K, Argyle (Texas)

    Kickers go unnoticed in every signing class, always have and probably always will. But Hedlund isn't the average kicker signee. No one in the history of high school football has made more field goals throughout their career, and it just so happens Arkansas needs a new starter now that Zach Hocker is moving on to the next level.

    Hedlund is only 5-9, 165, but has one of the strongest legs in the nation. He will be expected to compete against walk-ons John Henson and Adam McFain this fall, and it would come as no surprise if he enters the season as the go-to guy.

    Hedlund chose the Razorbacks last June and stuck with them despite receiving a scholarship offer from the in-state Aggies and strong interest from Oklahoma last fall.

    Recruiter of the Year

  • Sam Pittman, Offensive Line Coach

    Pittman further solidified himself as the staff's top recruiter by landing another impressive class of linemen and one of the top kickers in the nation.

    The second-year assistant helped Arkansas beat some of the top programs in the nation for Wallace, Tretola, Frank Ragnow, and Jovan Pruitt.

    Pittman had one of the top offensive line groups in the nation last February and is already off to a hot start in the Class of 2015 as well.


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