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.
Jennings’ addition bulks up Texas ties
Clay Jennings was hired as Arkansas' defensive backs coach after spending six seasons at TCU.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema strengthened his program’s recruiting ties to Texas and refilled his football coaching staff Thursday by hiring Clay Jennings to coach defensive backs.
Jennings, 40, is a native of Waco, Texas, who played on the defensive line at North Texas in the mid-1990s and coached collegiately in Texas for 11 of the past 13 years. He spent the past six years coaching cornerbacks at TCU, where he worked on staff with Arkansas senior associate head coach Randy Shannon in 2012.
“I’ve actually been recruiting the state of Texas since 2000 when I was coaching at Southern Arkansas,” Jennings said Thursday evening during a conference call. “I’ve got a pretty good rapport here with the coaches in the metroplex, as well as the coaches down in the southeast area along with the Houston area as well.
“I’m pretty well-versed with the coaches here, and I’ve have a pretty good relationship with those guys. I can’t wait to have an opportunity to get in and continue to nurture those relationships and recruit their kids.”
Jennings, who has coached six defensive backs who have played in the NFL, is considered one of the best recruiters in Texas.
“I’m thrilled to add Clay Jennings to our staff as his experience blends well with our defensive coaches’ philosophy and terminology,” Bielema said in a UA release. “Hewas an instrumental part of a defensive unit at TCU known for giving an opposing offense a variety of looks while keeping schemes simple for their own players.
“In addition, his knowledge of the recruiting landscape in Texas will be a great benefit to our program.”
Jennings said Bielema and defensive coordinator Robb Smith have indicated he’ll be working with the entire corps of defensive backs at Arkansas.
“Coach Smith and Coach Bielema, they’re showing a great deal of trust in me as far as letting me be able to work with all four,” Jennings said. “But I know I will be working closely with Coach Smith as far as the development and the scheme of what we’re doing defensively.”
The Horned Frogs led the nation in total defense for three consecutive seasons (2008-2010), becoming the third team to pull off that feat.
Jennings said he first met Shannon when he was an assistant coach at Houston, riding an elevator to the press box for a game against Miami.
“When he worked with us here at TCU, it was a great opportunity,” Jennings said. “He brought a tremendous wealth of knowledge and energy to our staff in the very short period of time he was here, so I’m excited about having the opportunity to work with him again.”
Jennings is well aware Arkansas and TCU will meet in Fort Worth in 2016 and again in Fayetteville the following year.
“At that point, there’ll be some guys in the past couple of recruiting classes that I had a hand in helping to bring to TCU, and that’ll be exciting,” Jennings said. “I know one thing, my blood will be pumping red that day.”
Sports, Pages 27 on 02/21/2014