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Other SEC newbies top Morris in recruiting

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, February 11, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris speaks to reporters during a news conference Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in North Little Rock.
Arkansas coach Chad Morris speaks to reporters during a news conference Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in North Little Rock.

It was one of the first concerns heard Thursday, the day after national signing day for college football recruiting.

Later in the day while sitting with longtime friends Jerry Webster and Donald McDonald, it came up again briefly. So a closer look was needed to answer why University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Coach Chad Morris end up last in the recruiting rankings among six new SEC coaches.

Arkansas moved up to No. 49 in the nation after Friday's late catch of the No. 1 junior-college defensive end, Dorian Gerald, who picked the Razorbacks over Alabama, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and LSU, which indicates he was a big "get."

Here's the other five new coaches and how they rank: Dan Mullen of Florida, No. 14; Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M, No. 17; Jeremy Pruitt of Tennessee, No. 20; Joe Moorhead of Mississippi State, No. 27; and Matt Luke of Ole Miss, No. 31.

Is it fair to compare Arkansas to Florida and Texas A&M? The Hogs never have better recruiting classes than those schools, plus Mullen has been in the SEC as the head coach at Mississippi State the previous nine years and was offensive coordinator at Florida before that. His reputation is solid.

Mullen got 12 four-star players, and six are from Florida.

Fisher had been the head coach at Florida State the previous eight years and won a national championship in 2013. Of his 13 four-star players, nine were from the state of Texas.

No one has ever confused recruiting in Arkansas with recruiting in Florida or Texas.

As for the other three, the most impressive recruiting class was Pruitt at Tennessee. The Vols went through weeks of turmoil while passing on and being turned down by a number of coaches after firing Butch Jones.

Pruitt, who signed a total of 22 players, benefited from seven early recruits who stayed committed and enrolled in January, including half of his eight four-star recruits.

Moorhead -- who was hired Nov. 28 -- signed 23 players, including six four-star players, and two were from Mississippi.

Luke spent last season as the interim head coach and signed 21 players, including three four stars. Considering all the Rebels have been through, he got a really good recruiting class.

Morris, who wasn't hired until Dec. 6, signed only 17 players -- including two four-star players, one from Texas and one from Arkansas -- but Morris faced a huge challenge.

Arkansas is coming out of the worst six years of football since Frank Broyles took over in 1958. For the past six seasons the Razorbacks overall record is 33-42. The last time there was a period close to that futility, Jack Crowe got fired one game into the season and the Hogs made the huge jump to the SEC.

Take the 33-42 record and the fact that the past three coaches, including interim John L. Smith, were fired and the UA didn't have much eye appeal. No nationally known coaches applied after Bret Bielema was fired, and it didn't help that the whole world knew the UA was after Gus Malzahn, who was going to say no.

At best, the Razorbacks football program is at ground zero and needing a foundation for the future. Is this recruiting class a start in the right direction? Only time will tell, but all things considered there are some players in the group who will help.

In the most conventional football conference in America the Arkansas Razorbacks must be unconventional to win, and they made that move in hiring Morris, who knows every year's recruiting class has to be better than the last one.

Sports on 02/11/2018

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