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Don't fret too much about Morris' first class

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, February 8, 2018
Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis is interviewed by reporters Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis is interviewed by reporters Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, in Fayetteville.

Recruiting, at least the reporting on recruiting, is a sport of its own.

Wednesday was recruiting's Super Bowl, and while it brought many highs and lows for fans, it is far from an exact science.

That said, the SEC seemed to dominate, although there was a change at the very top.

The 14 SEC schools ranked from No. 1 to No. 52, but the sad thing for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville fans is their Razorbacks were No. 52.

Georgia, not Alabama, was No. 1, but the Crimson Tide still were No. 6. These are composite rankings, not just one organization's or person's.

The SEC had eight of the top 25 spots, and it was split evenly between the SEC East and West with four apiece.

And the Hogs were No. 52, which all things considered is about where they should have been expected to be, and it isn't totally over yet.

Bret Bielema's first recruiting class ranked No. 23, and obviously that's a lot better number than where this year's Hog futures are ranked. Bielema brought in his best staff, which was able to pull two four-star recruits out of Dade County in Florida, which paid dividends in the rankings and on the field. That class also included Hunter Henry from Pulaski Academy in Little Rock.

Bobby Petrino's first recruiting class ranked No. 25, but that was one of those rare years when the state of Arkansas produced five four-star players who stayed committed to the Hogs in large part because assistant coach Tim Horton held the group together.

Now comes Chad Morris, who for this class is like entering a puppy in the Westminster Kennel Show: You can't know what you have.

First, Morris got a late start because the UA waited for so long to be rejected by Gus Malzahn.

Secondly, the first ever early signing period put him behind the eight-ball the day he accepted the Arkansas job.

Thirdly, as a head coach his recruiting had been limited to SMU. It is difficult to get students in there because of academic standards, but his classes improved each year.

Fourthly, Morris has zero experience in the SEC and his staff has limited exposure to the conference.

Finally, because of other commitments he couldn't even put a full staff together quickly enough to keep the attention of some prospects who might have been interested.

The fact that the Razorbacks were getting only 16 new players as of this writing hurts them in the rankings because it is a numbers game.

Missouri was No. 40, but it has zero four-star recruits -- Arkansas has two -- but the Tigers signed 26 players.

Sidebar here: Vanderbilt is No. 39 but has signed only 19 kids, but three of those were four-star recruits, two from Tennessee and one from Texas.

If Morris just added players for the sake of filling all scholarships, the Razorbacks' ranking would be better.

There are some gems in this class, and not all of them are four-star signees. That's not to blow smoke or give false hope, but Morris and his staff don't put players in a box. They don't say, "To play this position you have to be this tall and weigh this amount." They are looking for untapped talent, and they found some.

It was a little surprising that only three of the 16 are from Texas, Morris' home state where he and most of his staff have great contacts, but that number should grow starting next year.

Basically, this year doesn't count against Morris. It can't.

He was swimming up stream from day one, but he made it to the finish and is still eager to get on the field.


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Sports on 02/08/2018


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