FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ recruiting Class of 2023 has 30 members with the addition of Ashdown four-star tight end Shamar Easter on Wednesday.
Easter, 6-5, 225, didn’t sign early instead opting to make his decision in the traditional signing period. Easter had been committed to Arkansas since Aug. 13, 2021. However, when Dowell Loggains, his lead recruiter at Arkansas, left to take the offensive coordinator job at South Carolina then Easter took a visit to Columbia in mid-December. However, he solidified his pledge to Arkansas on an unofficial visit Jan. 14 when he got to spend time with Morgan Turner, the new tight ends coach. Sam Pittman talked about Easter’s signing on Wednesday.
“Well, Coach Turner did a great job — I mean, he really did — of building a relationship,” Pittman said. “I think Shamar wanted to come to Arkansas. You’d have to ask him, (but) I think he wanted to come to Arkansas for a long, long time. Any time there’s change, sometimes there becomes panic in it. Obviously recruiters will tell you, ‘You need to go visit here, you need to visit there.’ If you trust those people, then you do.
“But certainly Arkansas and Coach Turner… Coach Turner’s got a way about him. Obviously he’s got a lot of guys that went to the NFL, so he had that, but as a person, knowledge, coach, he’s really, really good and I think Shamar thought once he went and visited another school and came back, I think he thought he could benefit staying at home a little bit more.”
Arkansas only signed four players from inside the state if one counts North Carolina transfer and former Morrilton quarterback Jacolby Criswell, 6-1, 205. The three high school recruits were Easter, North Little Rock edge Quincy Rhodes Jr., 6-7, 263, and Bentonville offensive lineman Joey Su’a. Despite the small number Pittman got each of the in-state recruits he offered.
“Well, our number one goal each year is to keep everyone that we’ve offered in the state,” Pittman said. “We’ve done that pretty well. I think we lost one maybe a year ago or two years ago, but our high school coaches in the state are tremendous to us. We want to be good to them, as well, but guys, I just feel like when the fourth quarter comes, I think it means a lot to everybody, maybe a little bit more to a guy that’s maybe been born and raised a Hog fan. We certainly have a lot in next year’s class that we’re looking at. It seems to be a pretty good class in the state. It means everything to us. There’s a lot of people that help us. That’s parents, that’s public, that’s coaches.”
Pittman also introduced his three assistants hired since the last press conference. Deron Wilson came over from Florida and talked about his selling point recruiting at Arkansas.
“For myself, the first thing when you think of the University of Arkansas, you go to the state of Texas, if you go to Georgia, the Atlanta Braves, right?,” Wilson said. “If you start talking about Texas, you have the Cowboys, the Houston Texans, you have all these pro teams. In the state of Arkansas, you have the University of Arkansas. It’s the flagship school, where kids want to come here growing up. Like, ‘I want to go to the University of Arkansas.’ Your No. 1 pitch is we are the pro team. The players, the coaches, they want to see us. That’s the No. 1 pitch. And some of the winning tradition you have. Going back to my playing days, when you’re talking Ryan Mallett and Darren McFadden, a lot of those guys, you start talking about the winning tradition, there’s a lot of things you can sell when you’re talking about this university.”
Marcus Woodson is the co-defensive coordinator and came to Arkansas from Florida State. Woodson talked about his approach to recruiting to Arkansas.
“For me, I don’t sell anything,” Woodson said. “For us, it’s about the people. I feel like it’s the best staff in the country. With us, you get what you see. When it comes to being developed as a person, when it comes to being developed as a student-athlete, I feel like we’ve got the best staff in the country. And then as Coach Wilson just mentioned, it’s Arkansas. You look at the resources, the connections and the network that you can develop at Arkansas, it can open up doors beyond football that can benefit you in life. For us, that’s what it’s all about, just being who we are. This place, once you come and visit, it speaks for itself. That’s going to be the key for us, getting guys on campus and letting them be around who we are. When that’s the case, you don’t have to sell anything.”
Woodson talked about what he can bring to the table recruiting particular states where he has previous ties.
“Well, when it comes to defensive backs, we’re going to recruit the best ones available in the country, regardless of location,” Woodson said. “Now when it comes to my background, the southeast is primarily the footprint of where I’ve experienced recruiting. Florida, obviously coming from Florida State, I had an area there. Mississippi is my home state. So I feel like any kid that’s an SEC-caliber player that can help us get better, we’ll have a chance to go into that state and compete.
“Anywhere in the southeast, the main thing is us just covering the footprint, whatever we decide that’s going to be the footprint for Arkansas. I’ve recruited Dallas and some of the Texas area, as well. And obviously having Coach Wilson from Louisiana, that’ll be able to help us out in that area as well. So collectively as a staff I feel like we can go anywhere in the country and recruit, because this is Arkansas.”
Arkansas has 22 of its 30 signees enrolled and on campus now. It’s a class that has Pittman feeling good about.
“I really do,” Pittman said. “I really like this class. Now eight of them are not here. And I’m talking about the high school guys. And I like the college guys too. But the high school kids, this is as good of a … I’m talking about work ethic, non-needy, class. It’s only 12 now. You’ll have to ask me again when the other eight get here. But just a group that wants to work. I really really like this. They’re a mature group of guys.”