New coach knows Florida, needs no GPS device
Arkansas has hired George McDonald to coach receivers. He spent the last two seasons with the Miami Hurricanes after a stint with the NFL's Cleveland Browns.
FAYETTEVILLE George McDonald is a native Californian who has worked in three of the nation’s power conferences and with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, but the new receivers coach for Arkansas has a surprisingly large number of previous connections to the Razorbacks and Coach Bret Bielema’s new staff.
McDonald, 36, has been to Arkansas twice: During his recruitment of former Razorbacks receiver and kickreturn specialist Joe Adams, and when he visited with Gus Malzahn and his staff at Arkansas State this spring.
Bielema extended the younger coach a courtesy when they recruited against each other in south Florida.
“When I was a young coach and he was an assistant coach, he kind of showed me around south Florida and where the schools were at,” McDonald said on a teleconference with Arkansas reporters Thursday.
“So I’ve known Coach for a long time. He actually gave me some maps when I was getting lost down here in south Florida when I was trying to find some of these high schools. So we’ve known each other for a while.”
New Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman also might have been influential in helping bring McDonald aboard Bielema’s staff. Pittman and McDonald worked on the offensive staff at Northern Illinois together in 2003.
“I’ve developed a great relationship with him,” said McDonald, who has spent the past two seasons at the University of Miami. “He’s really been a mentor to me as I’ve progressed throughout my career.”
McDonald was a receiver at Illinois during the period when new Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was working at Purdue, so McDonald said he also had a familiarity with him.
McDonald also has been in the home of a current Razorback receiver — Javontee Herndon — when he was recruiting and eventually signing Javontee’s older brother Trey Herndon to play at Minnesota.
“When I was visiting with Coach Bielema and we were looking at the depth chart a little bit, and Coach Chaney, I saw the name and I was like, ‘I think that’s him,’ ” McDonald said. “His brother’s name is Trey and I recruited him out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles to come up to the University of Minnesota.
“So I’m excited to get to see the kid after I recruited his brother. ... He’s one of the guys coming back that has had some nice catches last year.”
McDonald said he has specific goals.
“I want to be known as one of the best receiver coaches in the SEC,” he said. “I told Coach Bielema that one thing I want to bring to Arkansas is a Biletnikoff Award winner, and that’s something I take very seriously.
“Every kid we have recruited as a wide receiver, our goal is to win the Biletnikoff and bring that to the University of Arkansas.”
Bielema said McDonald would be a positive influence on the Razorbacks’ receivers.
“His track record of developing NFL-ready receivers and his first-hand experience as a position coach in the league will be attractive to our student-athletes and future Razorback receivers,” Bielema said in a university release.
“He knows what it takes to be an NFL receiver and has the ability to teach our players how to be a pro in every aspect, so they can maximize their potential in college and set themselves up for a career on the next level.”
McDonald was ranked as a top 10 recruiter by ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com last year, and his specialty has been south Florida.
“Every recruiting stop I have had has been down here in south Florida, Broward County, Dade County, and I’ve been in Orlando this year,” McDonald said.
McDonald said he planned to be ready to get to work in Fayetteville early in January.
At a glance
POSITION Receivers AGE 36 (born: May 10, 1976) HOMETOWN Buena Park, Calif. COLLEGE Illinois (Health planning and administration, 1999) COACHING HISTORY Ball State, grad assistant (2000), Bucknell, receivers (spring 2001), Northern Illinois, receivers (2001-2003), Stanford, tight ends (2004), Western Michigan, offensive coordinator/ receivers (2005-2006), Minnesota, receivers (2007-2008), Cleveland Browns, receivers (2009-2010), University of Miami, receivers (2011-2012) and passing game coordinator (2012).
Sports, Pages 20 on 12/21/2012