football Edit

Looking back at first commits of Arkansas' classes since 2004

Connor Noland was Arkansas' first commitment in the Class of 2018
Connor Noland was Arkansas' first commitment in the Class of 2018 (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

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Arkansas landed the first commitment in its 2022 recruiting class Friday afternoon when Greenland defensive end JJ Hollingsworth picked his home state school over Kansas and Akron.

It’s the earliest a recruit has committed to the Razorbacks in a few cycles, with the first commits in 2020 and 2021 not coming until February of the prospect’s junior year. Hollingsworth made his decision during the summer between his sophomore and junior year.

Head coach Sam Pittman hopes this will be the launching point of what could be a historic in-state crop of players in 2022. The Razorbacks have offered nine prospects from the Natural State in that class.

In the mean time, let’s take a look back at Arkansas’ first commitments in its previous 18 classes, which hasn't necessarily been an indicator of future success in Fayetteville…

2021 - Terry Wells

The 2021 recruiting cycle has been unlike any in the history of college football thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but Wells got out in front of the craziness by committing on Feb. 1. The only effect it’s had on the Wynne native is limiting his offers to Miami (Fla.), Kansas and a handful of Group of Five schools. That list would likely be more impressive had he been able to attend camps and take visits.

2020 - Ze'Vian Capers / Jamie Vance / Jashaud Stewart

Considering Arkansas’ success at the position in the 2019 class, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when its first commitment in the 2020 class was a heralded wide receiver, as Capers turned down offers from Florida, Clemson and South Carolina and others in February. However, he blew up even more in the following months, re-opened his recruitment and landed at Auburn over the summer.

Vance, a cornerback from New Orleans, committed not long after Capers and actually made it to the season as a commitment. He jumped ship less than 24 hours after the San Jose State loss, though, and eventually signed with Louisville.

In March, the Razorbacks landed their first of four in-state signees when Stewart announced his commitment. While the other two eventually bailed, the Jonesboro native stuck with Arkansas through the second straight 2-10 season and ensuing coaching change.

2019 - Ty Evans / Trevis Hopper / Beaux Limmer

Technically, Evans was Arkansas’ first commitment in 2019, committing way back in the summer of 2017. However, he chose to decommit following the firing of Bret Bielema and eventually signed with North Carolina State, with a brief pledge to Colorado in between.

The first commitment for Chad Morris’ staff was Hopper, who committed in February 2018. With several other talented defensive linemen on Arkansas’ radar, he was processed out of the class a couple of months later. That made Limmer - who pulled the trigger in March - the first commitment to stick.

2018 - Connor Noland

Noland became the first member of Arkansas’ 2018 class when he pledged to play football and baseball for the Razorbacks on July 20, 2016. Despite a coaching change, he never wavered and inked his name while on vacation in Rome during the early signing period.

Against Tulsa in 2018, Noland became just the eighth true freshman in UA history to start a game at quarterback. He ended the year completing 21 of 42 passes for 255 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His biggest impact came as a weekend starter on the baseball team, leading to him quitting football and focusing on his career as a pitcher.

2017 - Derrick Munson

The Archbishop Rummel pipeline continued with Munson, as he followed former high school teammates Henre’ Toliver, Dwayne Eugene and Briston Guidry to Fayetteville. Although recruited as a linebacker, he converted to nickel back and started against Auburn as a redshirt freshman.

Before the 2018 finale at Missouri, Munson announced his decision to transfer and landed at Nicholls, an FCS program in his home state of Louisiana. Despite being a projected starter for the Colonels, he left the team before the 2019 season.

2016 - Jordan Jones

After showing off his blazing speed at a summer camp, Jones picked up an early offer from Arkansas and committed soon after. The Razorbacks held off a late push by Alabama to secure his services. He redshirted and then caught 38 passes for 592 yards and four touchdowns over the next two seasons. An ankle injury sidelined Jones for all of 2019 and he opted to transfer to Cincinnati following the season.

2015 - Ty Storey

Everyone knows the story of Storey’s triumphant return.

One of the most productive high school quarterbacks in Arkansas history, Storey turned down Alabama, Auburn and others to play for the Razorbacks. He appeared in only five games during his first three years at Arkansas - including a redshirt season - before earning the starting job as a redshirt junior.

Missing one game with a concussion, Storey started nine of the 11 games in which he appeared and completed 57.2 percent of his passes for 1,584 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while adding another 146 yards and a score on the ground in 2018.

However, with the coaching staff looking to go another direction, he decided to become a graduate transfer and landed at Western Kentucky, where he went on to earn C-USA Newcomer of the Year honors. The highlight of his season was returning to Fayetteville and leading the Hilltoppers to a dominant 45-19 win over the Razorbacks that ultimately led to the firing of Morris the next day.

2014 - Rafe Peavey

Many schools were after Peavey when he was coming out of Missouri in 2014, but he chose the Razorbacks. He spent two seasons at Arkansas before transferring to SMU in August 2016. After sitting out his first year because of NCAA transfer rules, Peavey was the Mustangs’ backup in Chad Morris’ final season at SMU.

With the departure of Morris, Peavey became a graduate transfer and ended up at Florida Atlantic. He made a start - the first of his career - against Louisiana Tech, but it didn’t go particularly well and he was replaced after a couple of turnovers. In eight games in a career that spanned three schools, Peavey completed 24 of 38 passes for 263 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

2013 - Jamel James / Kaleb Blanchard / Fayetteville Trio

The first commitment in Arkansas’ 2013 class came during the summer of 2011 when Jamel James, a running back from Texas, pulled the trigger. He was one of only two members of the class when Bobby Petrino crashed, along with Manvel, Texas, wide receiver Austin Bennett, and both ended up decommitting.

James was committed to Notre Dame for a bit, but ended up signing with Texas State. He transferred to Navarro C.C. after one season and eventually announced intentions to walk-on at Louisville for Petrino. There is no record of him playing for the Cardinals, though, and it appears he finished his career at Texas A&M-Commerce, but there is also no record of him actually playing for the DII school either. (Meanwhile, Bennett signed with Oklahoma and ended up transferring to Henderson State, a DII program in Arkadelphia.)

The first 2013 commitment post-Petrino was running back Kaleb Blanchard, but he decommitted shortly after Bielema was hired in December 2012. Instead, he ended up at South Alabama, where he spent one year before being dismissed for a violation of team rules.

The Razorbacks’ next commitment was tight end Deondre Skinner, who also decommitted after Bielema’s hire. He signed with Houston, but had his scholarship revoked after being charged with a felony and ended up at McNeese State, an FCS program.

The third, fourth and fifth members of the class were a trio of players from Fayetteville High who announced their decision on the same day: Austin Allen, Brooks Ellis and Alex Brignoni. All three actually signed with Arkansas, with Allen and Ellis having successful careers and Brignoni being forced to retire because of an injury.

2012 - Jalen Cobb / Jeremy Ward

Expected to be the next great receiver from Warren, Cobb ended up at Coffeyville (Kan.) C.C. because he didn’t qualify academically. He never played for the Razorbacks.

Ward committed a day later and actually made it to campus. He made the switch from offensive to defensive line during his career, but never lettered.

2011 - Demetrius Dean

A teammate of eventual fellow 2011 signee Brandon Allen at Fayetteville High, Dean picked up an offer from Petrino during his sophomore season after the coach noticed him watching his son and 2009 prospect Colby Berna. He waited until February of 2009 to commit.

Originally a wide receiver, he converted to tight end during high school. Unfortunately, Dean failed to qualify academically in the 2011 class and had to wait unruly January of 2012 to enroll. He never caught a pass with the Razorbacks and left the team in the spring of 2014.

2010 - Cam Feldt

Feldt signed with Arkansas and spent the 2010 season as a redshirt before transferring to North Texas. The Mean Green hoped he and his brother, Boone, would anchor their offensive line, but they never panned out.

2009 - Colby Berna

Berna never appeared in a game during two seasons with the Razorbacks before injuries ended his career. His younger sister, Calli, came to Arkansas and was a talented point guard for the women’s basketball team.

2008 - Matt Hall

A massive 6-foot-10, 320-pound offensive lineman, Hall committed the day the Razorbacks hosted USC, when he was just a junior at Dardanelle. Houston Nutt tried to persuade him to flip to Ole Miss after Petrino was hired, but he still signed with Arkansas.

However, Hall eventually played - and started - for Nutt and the Rebels, transferring there after two seasons. He ended his career at Belhaven, an NAIA school, and then got a shot in the NFL, spending time with the Vikings, Colts and Broncos.

2007 - Grant Freeman

As soon as he was offered a scholarship, Freeman committed on the spot. He made it known about a year before National Signing Day. A tight end coming to Arkansas, he eventually packed on about 50 pounds and became an offensive lineman, starting every game of the 2011 season at tackle.

2006 - Freddie Barnett / Jim Hart

Barnett signed with Arkansas in 2004 but had to go the JUCO route. He reaffirmed his pledge in the summer of 2005, going into his sophomore season at Trinity Valley (Texas) C.C. However, he still couldn’t qualify and eventually ended up at Memphis, where he became a two-year starter.

The second commitment of 2006 - and first to actually make it to campus - was Hart, an in-state four-star offensive lineman. He never lettered for the Razorbacks.

2005 - Brannon Kidd / Darren McFadden

Originally a 2003 signee, Kidd re-committed to Arkansas more than a year before the 2005 National Signing Day while at Butler County (Kan.) C.C. The Crossett, Ark., native ended up playing at Iowa Central C.C., but never followed in the footsteps of his father, Keith, and uncle, Carl, by playing for the Razorbacks because of grades.

You may have heard of Arkansas’ second commitment - and first to actually make the team - in the Class of 2005. McFadden is still one of only four five-star prospects to come out of Arkansas and he eventually became arguably the Razorbacks’ best player ever, finishing runner-up for the Heisman Trophy twice and earning countless other offers before a 10-year NFL career.

2004 - Freddie Barnett / Rick Culbert

Two years before he became Arkansas’ first commitment of 2006, Barnett was the first commitment of the 2004 class. He signed with the Razorbacks, but came up short academically and had to go the JUCO route.

The first commitment who actually made it to campus was Culbert, a speedy two-star defensive back from Texas. He impressed the coaches at a summer camp, but redshirted in 2004 and never appeared in a game, according to Arkansas’ participation charts.

Breakdown

Analysis of Arkansas' 1st commits, 2004-20
Result # of players Which players

Made it to Arkansas, but transferred

6

Hall (2008), Feldt (2010), Peavey (2014), Storey (2015), Jones (2016), Munson (2017)

Failed to qualify (grades)

4

Barnett (2004 & 2006), Kidd (2005), Cobb (2012)

Decommitted, signed elsewhere

3

James (2013), Evans (2019), Capers (2020)

Didn't finish career at Arkansas, various reasons

3

Berna (2009/injuries), Dean (2011/quit), Noland (2018/baseball)

Played entire career at Arkansas

1

Freeman (2007)

This is a breakdown of Arkansas' true first commitments, not the first commit who actually made it to Arkansas.