FAYETTEVILLE -- On the 11th day after he was hired to become the 34th head football coach at the University of Arkansas, Sam Pittman unveiled the program's seven-man early signing class Wednesday at the Smith Football Center.
While many of the current top dogs in the SEC landed 20 or more players in the first few hours of the three-day period, the Razorbacks scored a chosen few, which will give Pittman and his staff flexibility to explore the transfer portal and bring in a hefty selection of signees in February to complete the class.
"A very good day for the University of Arkansas," Pittman said. "We felt like we got better. We had seven sign with us today. Every one of those we're very excited about.
"The greatest thing about it is at least 10 guys committed to a visit when the first weekend in January is available, and we have obviously a lot of scholarships left to work with for the second signing date. Obviously we knew it was going to be hard, difficult, to sign a number of players, but we wanted to sign ones that fit into our program, and we certainly did that."
The group included three from in state, including linebackers Jashaud Stewart of Jonesboro and Catrell Wallace of Bryant, and Hazen defensive lineman Blayne Toll; two who flipped from Missouri in the past couple of days in running back Dominique Johnson and offensive lineman Ray Curry; and linebacker Kelin Burrle of New Orleans.
Then there was the surprise. Safety Myles Slusher of Broken Arrow, Okla., flipped his commitment from Oregon late Tuesday night in a phone call with Pittman. Slusher, a four-star prospect and the top-rated player landed by the Razorbacks, made his final decision between the Razorbacks and Nebraska.
"Recruiting is awesome," Pittman said when asked about the late drama with Slusher. "It's competition, you know. It's selling you. It's selling the university. It's selling the state of Arkansas.
"He called me ... and usually if they call you at 11:45, it's not to tell you they're going to go some place else.
"Last night when he told me, it was a great get for the university because he's such a good kid, too. We wanted him at Georgia. Obviously there was some really good teams on his list. Those days are awesome when you win a battle for a guy like that. They're incredible."
The early signing period lasts through Friday, and the Razorbacks are not done. Two-way athlete Darin Turner of Memphis, a 6-3, 195-pounder, is expected to sign early this afternoon at Memphis Central.
Toll and Burrle are graduating early and plan to enroll at Arkansas in January to go through spring drills during their first semester.
Pittman said targeting positions wasn't exactly the plan with the seven players who signed Wednesday.
"This particular early signing period, we were just going after the best players at any position that we could get," Pittman said. "We wanted them to be good kids and love Arkansas, but we were just going after who we liked off of film, to be honest with you."
The Razorbacks' class ranked last in the 247Sports composite rankings among the 14 teams in the SEC, as it was based on total numbers. The class was 87th nationally as of Wednesday evening, again due to the low quantity.
The Razorbacks have many positions of need after back-to-back 2-10 seasons and ongoing attrition, and Pittman said the ongoing evaluations of the roster will dictate the recruiting game plan in the coming days.
"Well, I want to get the best players in America because as y'all know, I truly believe that Arkansas is the best place in America," Pittman said. "I believe that, and so this next go around, there may be some guys that we're going, 'Hey, this guy's a little light but has got great feet,' or we may go that way a little bit more. But we're basically trying to recruit guys that we think can come in here and challenge for a position early in their career."
Pittman said the Razorbacks will have to leave scholarships available for transfers or graduate transfers. He said he would rather not lean heavily on junior-college talent, though he said a few outstanding junior-college players at immediate areas of need could be in the formula.
"We obviously are in the transfer market at different positions," Pittman said. "Junior college wise, I never want to go heavy junior college because I think we can build our team young. I believe you have to base your whole program out of freshmen and start in the state of Arkansas."
Pittman said one thing the Razorbacks won't do is fill out a 25-man class in February just to hit that number.
"We're going to sign as many good players as we can," he said. "But I tell you what we're not going to do. We're not going to sign 25, and five of them we're not doing somersaults for. We're going to sign good football players and good people, and if the number ends up at 18, then we'll be fine with it. If it ends up at 22, then we'll be fine with it.Gallery: Bryant Players Sign to Play College Football
"But we're going after people that we like, and we're going after them obviously in positions of need. But we're not going to stretch here. We obviously could have had a few more in this class, but we wanted the guys that were signed today."
Arkansas’ early signing class
POS. PLAYER HT. WT. 40 SCHOOL
LB Kelin Burrle 6-0 220 4.7 Harvey (La.) Helen Cox
OL Ray Curry 6-5 310 5.37 Memphis White Station
RB Dominique Johnson 6-1 220 4.7 Crowley, Texas
DB Myles Slusher 5-11 175 4.5 Broken Arrow, Okla.
DE Jashaud Stewart 6-2 224 4.61 Jonesboro
DE Blayne Toll 6-6 244 4.88 Hazen
LB Catrell Wallace 6-6 212 4.76 Bryant
Sports on 12/19/2019
Print Headline: Seven to build on