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Arkansas Recruiting 2021: 5 targets and how June could be a telling month

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — After a big boost in momentum in late April and early May, Arkansas’ recruiting has come to a bit of a standstill heading into early June. That’s not to say the Razorbacks’ recruiting efforts waned at all the past few weeks — just that they didn’t have the same level of success in securing commitments.

From April 16 to May 9, Arkansas landed five of its seven commits, shooting up to the top 30 in recruiting, per 247Sports Composite. Since that stretch, the Razorbacks haven’t landed another commit, dropping them to 53rd in the class rankings. Of course, between now and February there will be a lot of fluctuation in the rankings, and the Razorbacks are bound to have good and bad months on the recruiting trail.

June, in particular, could be a telling month for Arkansas because the Razorbacks just announced their plans to deal with COVID-19, which does not include testing every player as they return to campus for voluntary workouts. With no knowledge of when the pandemic might end (which could keep some recruits closer to home), the way programs take care of their athletes and deal with safety concerns during this time could be an added factor for recruits.

In the fourth edition of The Athletic’s list tracking some of the Razorbacks’ 2021 offers we’re looking at players who could help in Arkansas’ areas of need. As mentioned in past iterations, this list will continue to change as players commit to other teams and new players are offered.

Defensive end Landyn Watson

Defensive end Landyn Watson is a three-star out of Hutto, Texas, who’s been receiving offers since the summer of 2017. He’s committed and decommitted to LSU, taken unofficial visits to a number of big schools in the SEC and Big 12, such as Alabama, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor. He’s racked up 29 offers.

Watson was one of the first players Arkansas offered after finalizing its 2020 recruiting class in February. He’s being recruited by tight ends coach Jon Cooper and defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Watson will probably be expected to add some weight once he arrives on a college campus, but he’s all around a solid player.

Watson is good against the run, and his speed off the line makes him incredibly disruptive in the backfield. He forced two fumbles and recorded seven sacks last season thanks to just that. He also accrued 50 tackles, 14 of those for loss, and four fumble recoveries.

Watson could help bolster Arkansas’ depth on the defensive line, as well as give the Razorbacks an athletic lineman who could offer them some versatility thanks to his speed. He would also strengthen their ties to Texas, which is always a positive in recruiting.

Wide receiver Ketron Jackson

Arkansas hasn’t landed a wide receiver yet for this class, and Ketron Jackson would be the perfect fit. Jackson is a four-star from Royse City, Texas, who made the March edition of this list. He’s set to announce his top seven schools on Wednesday.

Jackson is 6-foot-2 and 186 pounds, making him a bit shorter than the receivers position coach Justin Stepp has been going after since getting to Arkansas in 2017, but the Texas native is still very impressive. He’s evasive and great after the catch with breakaway speed. He’s solid in tight coverage, going over defenders’ heads to make catches. Last season he recorded 889 yards and six touchdowns on 61 receptions. He also rushed for 85 yards on six attempts.

The Razorbacks only brought in one wide receiver in three-star Darin Turner in 2020, and they’ll be looking to create more depth in the receiving room next year. If Jackson announces Arkansas as one of his top seven in June, he could be the beginning of the Razorbacks’ push to land a few talented top receivers for the recruiting class.

Landing Jackson would also help bolster Arkansas’ recruiting ties to Texas, which aren’t as solid as they were when the Razorbacks were led by a former Texas high school football coach in Chad Morris. Since Sam Pittman has taken over, the coaching staff has made an effort to build up relationships in the Lone Star state, and Stepp, as the only member of the previous staff retained, has been key in that. Pittman said Stepp has great relationships with high school coaches, especially in east Texas, so if the Razorbacks land Jackson it’ll likely be due to Stepp.

Offensive guard Charlie Sims

Offensive guard Charlie Sims made the list for the second month in a row because the Razorbacks still need to stock up on offensive guards in this class. They’ve landed two tackles already in three-stars Terry Wells and Cole Carson, and picking up Sims would be a good way to round out the group.

Sims is a three-star out of Detroit who was one of offensive line coach Brad Davis’ first offers after taking the job at Arkansas. The Razorbacks are one of the biggest programs after Sims, who also has offers from Ole Miss, Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa State, as well as a few others.

If Arkansas lands Sims, he’ll be a strong addition to the group of large linemen they’re bringing in. He’s 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, making him big enough to compete in the SEC, and with Davis’ coaching he should be ready to take the field by his second season with the team.

Corner Dreyden Norwood

Arkansas native Dreyden Norwood has made this list multiple times since it began in March, and understandably so. Along with tight end Erin Outley, who we’ll get to next, Norwood is one of the most important in-state recruits for the Razorbacks. The significance of landing top talent in Arkansas can’t be overstated, especially with Pittman taking a much more regional approach to recruiting for this class.

Norwood would be a massive get for Arkansas, especially because it would mean he chose to stay home over going to some of the top schools that have offered him in Oklahoma (where his cousin, Tre Norwood, plays), Auburn, Notre Dame and Georgia.

The corner is a four-star out of Northside High School in Fort Smith, and his film is full of good things. He’s fast and shows great instincts, with a knack for anticipating plays and finding the ball. Norwood plays both corner and receiver, but it’s his aggressiveness and ability to stick with receivers that makes him stand out on defense.

Arkansas was the first program to offer Norwood over a year ago, and it has continued to pursue through the coaching change. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom and cornerbacks coach Sam Carter are in charge of his recruitment now, and they’ve already managed to bring him to campus on an unofficial visit in February. Norwood has maintained interest in Arkansas throughout all the changes, and he might have an added incentive to stay close to home because of the unpredictability of COVID-19.

Tight end Erin Outley

Much like Norwood, Outley would be seen as a huge win for Arkansas if it can land him. A Little Rock native out of Parkview Magnet, Outley could be the next big thing for the Razorbacks, quite literally. The tight end is 6-foot-4, 246 pounds, and would be entering a depleted tight end room in search of its next breakout star.

Outley’s highlights show flashes of someone who could be great at the next level. For being such a big guy, he’s fast and uses his size to bully defenders. He can take a hit and fight through tackles, and he’s just a really big target quarterbacks would enjoy having at their disposal.

Landing Outley would put the Razorbacks on track to have a big year with in-state recruiting, with the Razorbacks already up to three Arkansans for the Class of 2021, including Outley’s high school quarterback Landon Rogers. With Rogers on board already, and Outley showing some interest in the program, Arkansas is a good position right now. It will have to fight off LSU, Texas A&M, Florida State and Tennessee, among others, but Outley is worth the fight.

Olivia Martinez



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