Documents: Arkansas signs 4 to recruit

By: Matt Jones
Published: Thursday, December 14, 2017
Newly hired University of Arkansas football coach Chad Morris speaks Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, during a press conference at the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Newly hired University of Arkansas football coach Chad Morris speaks Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, during a press conference at the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center in Fayetteville.

— Four former SMU football staff members have reached agreements to recruit for Arkansas within the past week, according to documents released Thursday through an open record request by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Joe Craddock, Justin Stepp, Dustin Fry and Mark Smith signed employment documents with the Razorbacks between Dec. 8-11, which allow them to recruit on Arkansas' behalf. The Razorbacks have yet to announce any official hires to head coach Chad Morris' first staff.

Craddock, Stepp and Fry were on-field assistant coaches under Morris at SMU, while Smith served as the Mustangs' recruiting director.

Each of the men signed offer letters, which had been written and signed by senior associate Athletic Director Julie Cromer Peoples, with Arkansas through Dec. 31. All are expected to be hired to Morris' staff in some capacity - as an on-field coach or support staff member - following the inaugural college football early signing period from Dec. 20-22, but their future positions have yet to be announced.

"This letter sets forth the material terms of the University's offer to you to be effective on your start date...and until the execution of your formal employee agreement with the University, which shall more fully set forth the terms and conditions of your employment beyond this period," the documents read, in part.

Each new hire has a listed annual salary of $100,000, but that figure will change when each signs their longer term contracts, said a source inside the football program.

Morris was officially introduced as Arkansas' head coach last Thursday, 13 days before the beginning of the early signing period. Prior to this year, high school seniors had a single signing period that began the first Wednesday each February.

Morris, Craddock, Fry, Stepp and Smith have been visiting and calling Arkansas recruits the past week, along with Barry Lunney Jr. and Bobby Allen. Lunney, a former Arkansas quarterback, has spent the past five seasons as the Razorbacks' tight ends coach and was the only member of former head coach Bret Bielema's on-field coaching staff who was not fired last week. Allen spent 15 seasons as an on-field assistant coach under three Arkansas head coaches before being placed in a support staff role by Bielema in 2013.

Those recruiting for Arkansas this month are not guaranteed on-field assistant coaching positions on Morris' staff, a source said. Morris has not given any indication of when he hopes to have his full staff in place.

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek shed some light on Morris’ thought process with the staff on Thursday.

Speaking on the radio show Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly, Yurachek said he thought Morris is comfortable with his offensive staff.

“I think he’s got a really good idea of who is going to be on the offensive side of the ball,” Yurachek said. “That’s the group he’s had out really recruiting right now and trying to shore up this class that will sign on Dec. 20.

“I think he wants to take his time on the defensive side of the ball and hire a great defensive coordinator and then work with that defensive coordinator to hire great position coaches.”

Morris is believed to have contacted Texas A&M defensive coordinator John Chavis and Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch in his search.

Tom Murphy contributed

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