Photo: Walt Beazley, UA Athletics
Bret Bielema didn’t have a whole lot of time to put together his first football recruiting class at Arkansas.
The former Wisconsin head coach was hired on Dec. 4, and finished filling his coaching staff positions just weeks ago. Bielema and his staff, however, rallied to assemble a class that most recruiting services rank just outside the top 30 nationally.
“With a staff in transition, we kind of just built this recruiting class off of past relationships, not only with recruits, but with high school coaches around the country,” said Bielema. “It was really a culmination today of a lot of different scenarios, a lot of different stories working together to get to where we are.”
The 2013 class is highlighted by five-star running back Alex Collins, ranked as the No. 1 running back in the country by 247Sports.com. Collins’ story became national news on Wednesday after his mother allegedly refused to sign his letter of intent to play at Arkansas. Collins, however, officially signed with the Hogs on Thursday.
Other highly touted signees in the 2013 class include four-star-rated players like tight end Hunter Henry, offensive tackle Denver Kirkland, offensive lineman Reeve Koehler, and Fayetteville high school quarterback Austin Allen.
Bielema said one of the focuses of the class was to pick up some “foundational” players on the offensive line. “We got a core group there that I think can build around,” he said. “I think in the years to come this could be the start of something special.”
The Hogs signed 23 of the 25 players allowed by NCAA rules, meaning up to two more players could be signed in the coming weeks. Bielema said those players could come from other SEC schools who sign too many players, leaving some good prospects looking for new homes at the last minute.
“One thing I’ve learned in the SEC is there are a certain number of schools that will over-sign,” he said. “They will have more kids committed than they have scholarships for, so we’ll be attuned to that.”
Notes on all 23 new Razorback recruits are below. Welcome, new Hogs.
Player descriptions provided by UA Athletics:
Austin Allen | QB | 6-2 | 210 | Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Allen led Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships and was named MVP of both championship games. After his senior season, he was selected as Arkansas’ 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year. He was the 17th-ranked pro-style quarterback in the country and No. 3 player in Arkansas by 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com also tabbed him as the No. 3 player in the state. He was an all-state player in his senior season, when he was 233-of-366 passing for 3,593 yards and 29 touchdowns and added 200 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing to lead Fayetteville to a 10-3 mark and the state title. Following his senior year, he was selected for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl and started for the East Team. As a junior, he completed 270-of-420 passes, a 64.3 percent completion rate, for 4,150 yards and 46 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions. Allen also rushed for 300 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Bulldogs to a 12-2 record and the state crown. He was an active member of FCA and in his local youth group and also worked with local Boys & Girls Clubs. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton. Austin’s brother, Brandon, is a quarterback at UA and his father, Bobby, is the Razorbacks’ director of high school relations. Allen had multiple scholarship offers before choosing Arkansas.
Tevin Beanum | DE | 6-3 | 235 | Forrest City, Ark. (Forrest City HS)
Beanum was ranked as the No. 8 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and the No. 9 player in the state by 247Sports.com. He finished his senior season with 76 tackles, 7.5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble while helping Forrest City advance to the 5A state playoffs and finish with a winning record for the first time since 2009. His first season of high school football was his junior year, and he recorded 50 tackles, including 5.0 sacks, and recovered three fumbles for the Mustangs. He volunteered at his local animal shelter while in high school. He was coached at Forrest City by Rich Trail.
Alex Brignoni S | 6-1 | 200 | Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Brignoni helped lead Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships in his last two seasons. He was ranked as the No. 5 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com. As a senior, he was named to the all-state team after recording 89 tackles, six pass breakups and five interceptions on the way to the state title. Fayetteville’s defense allowed an average of 16.0 points per game over the final 11 games of 2012 after Brignoni returned from missing the first two games due to an injury. His junior year, he recorded 126 tackles and 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, as the Bulldogs finished 12-2 and won the state title. He helped Fayetteville advance to the state championship game as a sophomore. He was a member of FCA while in high school. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton and selected Arkansas over multiple offers, including Illinois.
De’Andre Coley | S | 6-1 | 178 | Miami, Fla. (Northwestern HS)
Coley was ranked as the No. 52 safety in the country by ESPN. As a senior, he helped Northwestern advance to the second round of the 6A state playoffs where the Bulls fell to the eventual state champions and ended their season with a 9-3 record. He recorded 68 tackles, including six sacks, one interception and 12 pass breakups as the defense held opponents to an average of 12.3 points per game and allowed seven points or less in seven games, including two shutouts. In his junior season, Northwestern’s defense allowed 20 points per game in an 8-2 campaign. He also ran track, where he was a member of the state runner-up team in 2012 boasting a 10.6 100-meter dash time and took the baton for the second leg of the 4×100 relay. He was coached at Northwestern by Stephen Field. Coley selected the Razorbacks over TCU.
D.J. Dean | CB | 5-10 | 180 | Newton, Texas (Newton HS)
Dean was an impact player on both sides of the ball at Newton, playing cornerback and quarterback. As a senior, he was named district MVP after leading the Eagles to the semifinal round of the state playoffs and a 13-1 final record. He recorded 34 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble and also passed for 1,062 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 1,014 yards and 20 touchdowns. In his junior season, he made 46 tackles and five interceptions while passing for 1,280 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing for 672 yards and eight touchdowns. He was coached at Newton by W.T. Johnston. Dean received several offers and chose Arkansas over Baylor and Utah.
Brooks Ellis | LB | 6-2 | 215 | Fayetteville, Ark. (Fayetteville HS)
Ellis helped lead Fayetteville to back-to-back 7A state championships in his last two years and was named the state’s Defensive Player of the Year in each. He was ranked as the No. 4 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, and was rated 24th in the country at his position by 247Sports and 42nd by Rivals. As a senior, he was named to the all-state team despite missing the first two games after he registered 114 tackles, 16.0 for loss with 4.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery on the way to the state title. Following his junior season, he was also named the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s 7A Player of the Year. He recorded 86 tackles, 22.5 for loss with 13.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two pass breakups at linebacker as the Bulldogs finished 12-2 and won the state title. As a sophomore, he started at safety and recorded 87 tackles, five for loss, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He was named the 2010 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sophomore Defensive Player of the Year and helped Fayetteville advance to the state championship game after recording 130 tackles, five pass breakups and three forced fumbles. He served as student body treasurer at Fayetteville and also was a member of FCA and the National Honor Society. He was coached at Fayetteville by Daryl Patton and chose Arkansas over multiple other offers.
Denzell Evans | RB | 6-0 | 205 | Houston, Texas (Bellaire HS)
Evans was a three-year starter at Bellaire, rushing for 2,350 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career. He was named first-team all-district after his senior season when he rushed for 1,147 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead Bellaire into the 5A Division I state playoffs. As a junior, he averaged 7.4 yards per carry, totaling 997 yards on 135 rushes and scored 11 touchdowns while the Cardinals won seven games and qualified for the state playoffs. He gained 711 yards and scored eight touchdowns as a sophomore, when Bellaire played in the first round of the state playoffs. He was coached at Bellaire by Trey Hermann and Trey Sissom. Evans selected Arkansas over offers from Arizona State, Kansas State, Michigan State and Houston, among others.
Melvinson Hartfield | WR | 5-11 | 183 | Dallas, Texas (South Oak Cliff HS)
Hartfield played both sides of the ball for South Oak Cliff. In his senior year, he led a defense that allowed an average of 10.4 points per game while helping the Bears to nine wins and a spot in the 4A Division 2 state playoffs. On offense, he added 12 receptions for 324 yards and four touchdowns. As a junior, he recorded 46 tackles and one interception as the defense held opponents to 13.9 points per game and South Oak Cliff put together an undefeated regular season and advanced to the state playoffs. He was active in his local church and was coached at South Oak Cliff by Emmett Jones. Hartfield selected Arkansas over Kansas State and Texas Tech.
Hunter Henry | TE | 6-5 | 238 | Little Rock, Ark. (Pulaski Academy)
Henry was rated as the No. 1 tight end prospect in the nation by Tom Lemming. He was named to the PARADE All-America Team, named a first-team All-American by 247Sports.com and a second-team All-American by Max Preps. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 2 tight end in the country, and 247Sports and Scout.com tabbed him as the nation’s No. 4 tight end. ESPN ranked him as the No. 1 player in Arkansas, and Rivals and 247Sports had him as the No. 2 player in the state. As a senior, he caught 107 passes for 1,449 yards and 15 touchdowns while helping lead Pulaski Academy to the semifinal round of the 5A state playoffs. Following his senior year, he was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game, where he was voted a team captain and started for the White Team. He caught 64 passes for 1,093 yards and 16 touchdowns in his junior season as the Bruins claimed the 4A state championship and finished 14-0. He played on both sides of the ball as a sophomore, hauling in 45 passes for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns and registering 30 tackles, three for loss, and one fumble recovery while P.A. advanced to the state title game and finished 13-2. He was involved in his church’s youth group and an FCA leader at P.A., where he helped lead a food drive for the homeless. He was coached at Pulaski Academy by Kevin Kelley. Henry chose Arkansas over Alabama after receiving numerous offers.
Sam Irwin-Hill | P | 6-3 | 215 | Bendingo, Australia (City College of San Francisco)
Irwin-Hill is an ambidextrous punter, possessing the ability to punt with either leg, and ranked as the No. 1 junior college punter in America by 247Sports.com. He was named a first-team All-American as a sophomore after punting 44 times for an average of 41.7 yards per punt, including a long of 77 yards, and also dropped 15 punts inside the 20-yard line while helping City College advance to the California Community College Athletic Association championship game and finish the season 10-2. In his freshman year, he averaged 40.6 yards per punt with a long of 62 as the Rams won the CCCAA state title and ended the season with a perfect 12-0 mark. He was coached at City College by George Rush. Irwin-Hill selected Arkansas over Miami.
Denver Kirkland | OG | 6-5 | 320, Miami, Fla. (Booker T. Washington HS)
Kirkland is a versatile lineman who was ranked as the No. 5 offensive guard in the country by Scout.com and 13th at the position by 247Sports.com, while ESPN tabbed him as the No. 12 offensive tackle in the country and the No. 20 overall prospect in Florida and Rivals.com pegged him 13th in the country at tackle and 19th overall in the state. His senior season, he was named first-team all-state after anchoring an offensive line that allowed Booker T. Washington to average 53.5 points and 431.2 yards of total offense per game and win the 4A state championship with a 13-1 final record. He was selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Game following the state championship. As a junior, he was named first-team all-state after the Tornadoes won 13 games and advanced to the state championship game behind an offense that averaged 41.7 points and 404.9 total yards per game. He was coached at Booker T. Washington by Tim Harris. Kirkland chose Arkansas over Ole Miss, Miami, Florida State and South Florida.
Reeve Koehler | OG | 6-3 | 325 | Honolulu, Hawai’i (Saint Louis School)
Koehler was ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in Hawai’i by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com, with Rivals tabbing him as the No. 8 offensive guard in the country and 247Sports ranking him 14th at his position. Following a senior season in which he blocked for an offense that averaged 32.5 points per game, he was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. In his junior year, the Crusaders topped 30 points in five of 10 games and averaged 31.8 points per game. Saint Louis won the Division I state title his sophomore season, when the offense averaged 40.8 points per game, including 39.0 points per game in the playoffs. He was actively involved in community service, including coaching youth league basketball and contributing to Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels, MDA and beach cleanup. He was coached at Saint Louis by John Hao and Matt Wright. Koehler received numerous offers and selected Arkansas over Tennessee, Oregon, Cal and Kansas.
Ke’Tyrus Marks | DT | 6-1 | 288 | West Palm Beach, Fla. (Suncoast HS)
Marks was a three-year contributor at Suncoast who was selected to play in the Florida-Georgia All-Star Game and the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast All-Star Game following his senior season. He was an all-district honoree after breaking Suncoast’s single-season sacks record with 19 as a senior as part of a 60-tackle season. In his junior year, he made 38 tackles, recovered two fumbles and forced one fumble for the Chargers. His sophomore season, he made 47 tackles, including seven sacks, and forced three fumbles. He has been involved in several community service outreach projects for the less fortunate, including cooking for the elderly and helping his church provide the homeless a place to shower. He was coached at Suncoast by Jim Clark. Marks chose Arkansas over multiple offers, including Wake Forest.
Korliss Marshall S | 6-0 | 200 | Osceola, Ark. (Osceola HS)
Marshall started at running back for Osceola for three seasons and rushed for more than 4,100 yards and nearly 60 touchdowns. He was rated as the No. 6 overall prospect in Arkansas by Rivals.com and as the state’s 10th-best prospect by 247Sports.com. His senior season, he rushed for 1,711 yards and scored 24 touchdowns to earn all-state recognition and help lead Osceola to the second round of the 3A state playoffs. As a junior, he accumulated 1,421 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground as the Seminoles advanced to the second round of the 4A state playoff bracket. His sophomore season, he gained 973 yards and scored 12 touchdowns rushing. He was an active member of FCA and was coached at Osceola by Russell Leggett. Marshall selected Arkansas after receiving multiple offers.
Damon Mitchell | QB | 6-2 | 200 | Egg Harbor City, N.J. (Cedar Creek HS)
Mitchell was ranked as the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the No. 12 overall prospect in New Jersey by 247Sports.com, and Rivals.com pegged him 15th in the nation at his position and 20th in New Jersey. In his senior season, he passed for 2,025 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 1,027 yards and 21 touchdowns to lead Cedar Creek to 11 wins and an appearance in the NJSIAA South Group 2 championship game. As a junior, he played quarterback and safety, passing for 859 yards and nine touchdowns and rushing for 937 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 43 tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass breakups on defense. He was coached at Cedar Creek by Tim Watson. Mitchell selected Arkansas over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.
Drew Morgan | WR | 6-0 | 190 | Greenwood, Ark. (Greenwood HS)
Morgan helped lead Greenwood to two undefeated seasons, two state championships in different classifications, and was named MVP of both championship games. He was ranked as the No. 7 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com and as the No. 13 prospect in the state by 247Sports.com. He won the Landers Award as the state’s best high school player following his senior season in which he contributed on offense and defense to Greenwood’s 6A state championship and 15-0 record. He also was named the state’s Offensive Player of the Year after making 83 receptions for 1,122 yards and 14 touchdowns and 82 rushes for 764 yards and 19 touchdowns. He recorded 73 tackles, 20.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups on defense in 2012. As a junior, he caught 85 passes for 1,400 yards and 25 touchdowns while adding 89 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns for the 14-0 5A state champions. He was involved in FCA, assisted with Special Olympics and was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. He was coached at Greenwood by Rick Jones. Morgan selected Arkansas over multiple offers, including Auburn.
Dan Skipper | OT | 6-10 | 295 | Arvada, Colo. (Ralston Valley HS)
Skipper was rated as the No. 32 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com, the No. 4 prospect in Colorado and the No. 46 offensive tackle in the country by Rivals.com, and the state’s No. 5 prospect and the country’s 47th offensive tackle by 247Sports.com. He earned 5A all-state recognition as a senior, helping Ralston Valley average 35.8 points per game while advancing to the semifinal round of the state playoffs, and after the season was selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. His junior season, the Mustangs put together a 10-2 record and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. He was a member of student government all four years in high school, where he contributed more than 100 hours of community service and served his senior year as student body president. He also was a member of the National Honor Society and volunteered for a program to mentor incoming freshmen. His coach at Ralston Valley was Matt Loyd. Skipper received numerous scholarship offers and chose Arkansas over Ole Miss, Tennessee, Ohio State and Michigan.
Tiquention Coleman | S | 5-10 | 195 | Mauldin, S.C. (Georgia Military College /Mauldin HS)
Coleman comes to Arkansas ranked as the No. 10 junior college safety in the country by 247Sports.com after starting every game in his two seasons at Georgia Military College. In 2012, he recorded 44 tackles, four interceptions, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble to help the Bulldogs advance to the Heart of Texas Bowl. As a freshman, he made 30 tackles and forced two fumbles as Georgia Military earned six wins with four shutouts. In his senior season at Mauldin, he helped lead the Mavericks to a berth the 4A state playoffs and as a junior he led a defense that held six opponents to 14 points or less on the way to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. He was coached at Georgia Military by Bert Williams and at Mauldin by Doug Shaw. Coleman selected Arkansas over Wisconsin and Arizona.
Johnathan McClure | OL | 6-4 | 310 | Wichita, Kan. (Butler CC/Wichita Heights HS)
McClure was an All-American in both of his seasons at Butler, earning first-team honors in 2012 and second-team recognition as a freshman. He was ranked as the No. 5 junior college offense guard in the country by 247Sports.com. He started all 12 games in his sophomore season, helping lead the Grizzlies to a No. 2 national ranking and the NJCCA Football Championship Game with an offense that averaged 45.2 points and 487.8 yards of total offense per game. In 2011, he anchored a line that allowed the offense to average 48.6 points and 499.3 yards of total offense per game as Butler finished the year 11-1 with a victory in the Citizen’s Bank Bowl. As a senior at Wichita Heights, he was named a first-team all-state performer by the Kansas Football Coaches Association after helping lead the Falcons to the 6A state championship game. He was coached at Butler by Troy Morrell and at Wichita Heights by Rick Wheeler.
Martrell Spaight | LB | 6-0 | 220 | North Little Rock, Ark. (Coffeyville [Kan.] CC/North Little Rock HS)
Spaight was a two-time junior college All-American at Coffeyville Community College. He was ranked as the No. 8 junior college outside linebacker in the nation by 247Sports.com and was 82nd in ESPN’s Junior College 100 ranking. He was a first-team NJCAA All-American and the Jayhawk Community College Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 after collecting more than 100 tackles for the second consecutive season. As a sophomore, he recorded 130 tackles, 13.5 for loss with 1.5 sacks, three pass breakups, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. His tackles total was fourth on Coffeyville’s single-season list. In his freshman year, he earned NJCAA All-America honors after making 101 tackles, 9.0 for loss with 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. As a senior at North Little Rock, he was a 7A Central all-state selection. He was coached at Coffeyville by Aaron Flores and at North Little Rock by Brad Bolding. Spaight selected Arkansas over Kansas State.
Myke Tavarres | LB | 6-2 | 215 | Lake Oswego, Ore. (College of the Siskiyous/Lakeridge HS)
Tavarres comes to Arkansas as a two-time all-conference selection at College of the Siskiyous in California. He was ranked as the No. 7 junior college outside linebacker in the country by 247Sports.com and 63rd in ESPN’s Junior College 100 ranking. He recorded 85 tackles, 12.5 for loss with 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 2012, helping lead the Eagles to a 10-1 record, the most wins in school history, and the CCCAA Central Division championship. As a freshman, he made 51 tackles, 12.5 for loss with 4.5 sacks, one interception and four pass breakups. As a senior at Lakeridge, he collected 135 tackles, including 20 in one game and 17 the next week, and 5.0 sacks with one interception, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He was coached at Siskiyous by Charlie Roche and at Lakeridge by Tom Smythe. Tavarres chose the Razorbacks over offers from Boise State and Arizona, among others.
Carroll Washington | CB | 6-0 | 175 | Baltimore, Md. (Hartnell [Calif.] CC/Edmondson-Westside HS)
Washington was ranked as the No. 1 junior college cornerback and the No. 10 overall junior college player in the nation by 247Sports.com. He was an all-conference performer and collected 25 tackles as a sophomore in 2012 while adding three interceptions, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In his freshman season for Hartnell, he recorded 27 tackles, four interceptions, six pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery while earning all-conference recognition and helping the Panthers to Coast Conference and Southern Division titles. He played on both sides of the ball in high school and made 38 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and one forced fumble on defense while catching 35 passes for 653 yards and one touchdown and rushing 21 times for 204 yards and two scores as a senior. In his junior season, he quarterbacked the Red Storm into the second round of the state playoffs, finishing the year 60-of-110 passing for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing 53 times for 437 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, he collected 11 tackles, two pass breakups and one forced fumble. He has volunteered at the Baltimore Boys & Girls Club, assisting with after-school programs. He was coached at Hartnell by Matt Collins and at Edmondson-Westside by Dante Jones. Washington chose Arkansas over Mississippi State, among others.
Alex Collins | RB | 5-11 | 207 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (South Plantation HS)
Collins was ranked as the No. 1 running back in the country, No. 5 prospect in Florida and No. 17 overall in the nation by 247Sports.com. He was tabbed as the No. 3 running back in the nation by Scout.com and as the No. 20 overall prospect in Florida and No. 13 running back in the country by Rivals.com. He rushed for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior despite missing three games due to injury, helping South Plantation to nine wins, the district title and a berth in the 8A state playoffs. Following his senior season, he was selected to play in the Simper Fidelis All-American Bowl, where he was teammates with fellow UA signee Austin Allen. He was named Broward County Player of the Year as a junior after rushing for 1,786 yards and 28 touchdowns as the Paladins earned seven victories and qualified for the state playoffs. He was coached at Plantation by Doug Gatewood. Collins picked Arkansas over Miami, Florida State, Florida and Wisconsin.