Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Signees please Chaney
Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, right, talks with quarterback Brandon Allen prior to a game against Rutgers on Sept. 21, 2013 at Highpoint Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney shared his offensive checklist Wednesday during the opening day of the national signing day period.
“Because of the style of play we want, you always want to get big guys in the offensive line, so put a check there,” Chaney said, referring the Razorbacks’ big haul of four more offensive linemen.
“We wanted to improve our physicality on the perimeter, because as we look at the tape and break down things, the physicality on the perimeter games is where we were getting beat a little bit. So we wanted to get that done, and we did that by getting bigger kids.
“We got a couple of bigger wide receivers, which I think will benefit us in the long run, and you always want to bring in a young, optimistic quarterback in your program. We feel like we addressed that too.
“You put a few check marks in some good spots, so we feel good about it.”
Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema was happy to land five in-state signees this year, and he appears to have a grasp on the year-to year major college talent in Arkansas.
“The good news is the classes coming up have a lot of talent,” Bielema said.
“That’s the way Arkansas has been. I look at their signings from a year ago and the last several years, and it kind of fluctuates. Some years it would be really high, a low year might be four or five and a high year might be 10.
“Whatever that number is, if they can play SEC winning football, we’ve got to get them.”
Bielema said tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr., has done an “outstanding job” in working in-state recruiting.
Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson played a lead role in bringing in two Georgia based signees, linebacker Khalia Hackett and cornerback Chris Murphy.
Georgia produced more signees for the 14 SEC schools on national signing day than any other state with 53. Florida was next with 45, followed by Mississippi (37), Texas (35), Alabama (25), Louisiana (21), Tennessee (18), Missouri(13), South Carolina (13), Arkansas (6) and Kentucky (3).
“Having a chance to have that area for the last four, five years allowed me to create some relationships in that state,” Johnson said.
“That’s what it’s about. … We have players who have graduated and played here that are from the state of Georgia.”
Former Razorback defensive tackle Alfred Davis, from College Park, Ga., has joined the staff as a graduate assistant.
New defensive line coach Rory Segrest likes what he has seen of Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado, although when asked if Jackson could be a great defensive tackle, Segrest said he didn’t have a crystal ball.
“From what we’ve seen off of film, his talent level, he’s a strong, explosive guy and we really feel like he brings a lot to the table,” Segrest said. “So it’s just going to be a matter of how quickly he can come in, catch on to the system, continue to develop.”
Bret Bielema described how last year’s class was assembled by the assistant coaches relying on areas they had already established contacts and new prospects.
This year, Bielema said, the Hogs combined that approach with specifically targeted recruiting.
“We knew we had to get good in certain areas,” he said. “One of them was on the back end [on defense], defensive corners and corners that maybe can be safeties. Linebacker was an important point of emphasis, and offensive linemen in particular. We felt we needed to get more big bodies that can play the type of football that we want to do. That part was huge.”
Rafe the recruiter
Quarterback Rafe Peavey of Bolivar, Mo., worked the signing class along with the coaches in an effort to maximize the group’s potential.
“Rafe did become another recruiter, but that’s what you want out of a quarterback,” Coach Bret Bielema said. “Quarterbacks want great receivers.
Quarterbacks want great linemen. He’s a very dynamic kid and engaging.”
Peavey said he tried to share a player’s perspective on Arkansas with other prospects.
“I was really excited how this class shaped up,” he said. “We got some great players and some great young men. They’re going to take this program to where we need it to get to.”
Sports, Pages 25 on 02/09/2014