HOG FUTURES: In the genes for Pool; UA’s allure stronger after changes

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2018
Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool (16) goes through practice Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool (16) goes through practice Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Coach Chad Morris and freshman linebacker Bumper Pool are both new to the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they know each other well.

Morris, who came to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in December from SMU, recruited Pool the previous three seasons when he played at Lovejoy High School in Lucas, Texas.

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Bumper Pool at a glance

CLASS Freshman

POSITION Linebacker

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-2, 220 pounds

HOMETOWN Lucas, Texas

HIGH SCHOOL Lovejoy

NOTEWORTHY Made 424 tackles from his sophomore through senior seasons, including 166 last season … As a senior also had 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 14 tackles for lost yards, 4 pass breakups and blocked an extra-point attempt … Other scholarship offers included Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Michigan … Early enrollee in January who went through winter workouts and spring practice … Missed several practices because of mononucleosis but returned for the final week of the spring and played in the Red-White game … Worked primarily at middle linebacker in the spring, but also got some snaps at weakside linebacker.

HOG FUTURES

The eighth in a series highlighting newcomers to the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.

"I've known Coach Morris since I was a high school sophomore," Pool said. "I started going to SMU's camps and they always had coaches at my school, so we developed a good relationship with him.

"When I committed to Arkansas my junior year, Coach Morris texted and actually congratulated me on my decision. He said, 'If you need anything, I'm always here for you. It's tough we couldn't get you to SMU, but good luck at Arkansas.'

"It was pretty amazing to hear that from him. One of the reasons I considered SMU at the time was because of Coach Morris and his staff. To get a text like that from him congratulating me on going to another school meant a lot. It shows you what kind of person he is."

Pool said Morris was the only coach from another school who offered congratulations when he chose Arkansas.

"That's one of those things where a person's character is really shown when he didn't get exactly what he wanted, but he sticks to being a good person," Pool said. "That's how Coach Morris is."

It wasn't a foregone conclusion Pool would sign with Arkansas, but the Razorbacks had a huge advantage because seven of his family members are UA graduates: his father, sister, grandfather, two aunts and two cousins.

"I was 50 percent Arkansas and then 50 percent anywhere else," Pool said.

Among the scholarship offers Pool turned down were from Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Michigan, Oklahoma State, TCU and Arizona. He gave SMU strong consideration as well.

"But I've been wanting to go to Arkansas since I was a little kid," he said. "So to choose SMU just because of the coaching staff would have been tough, especially with all the facilities and resources you have at an SEC school."

Lovejoy Coach Todd Ford said the recruiting attention never went to Pool's head.

"I think there are entirely too many players today where it's all about them," Ford said. "Bumper's a throwback, so to speak, in the fact that he just wants to win and wants everybody to be successful. He really doesn't care about getting all the credit.

"It's a breath of fresh air, particularly in today's society with all of the 'look at me' type of personalities that are coming through the ranks now in recruiting."

Pool said he was looking forward to playing for Bret Bielema, who was fired as Arkansas' coach after last season's final game against Missouri.

"I love Coach B," Pool said. "He and his staff are great people. I'm so thankful I got to know them.

"But when Arkansas made a change and I heard Coach Morris' name in the mix, I thought, 'That would be the best of both worlds.' Me and my family were really excited when Coach Morris got hired, because waiting to see what would happen was a stressful deal.

"I was three weeks away from signing and I wasn't sure who my head coach was going to be. So having someone we already know get the job was a really big relief."

Things got better, Pool said, when Morris hired John Chavis to be Arkansas' defensive coordinator. Chavis came to Arkansas from Texas A&M -- which Pool said was probably his second choice behind the Razorbacks -- and will coach the linebackers.

"When I visited A&M, we were talking in his office, and Coach Chavis said, 'Do you want to be the leader of this A&M defense eventually?' " Pool said. "I wanted to say, 'Yes' to him, because I really liked him. But at the time I told myself I couldn't make a decision right then, that I needed to wait and get off that emotional high from visiting a school.

"So when Coach Morris told me Coach Chavis was going to be here, it made my whole year. Everything worked out so well in a short period of time. It was crazy."

Pool, 6-2 and 220 pounds, had 166 tackles last season, including 14 for lost yards. He also had 3 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 4 pass breakups.

In Lovejoy's 63-15 victory over Forney, Pool returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown, but Ford said that wasn't his most impressive play of the game.

"We came out of a timeout and our opponent slipped a receiver onto the field and hid him out by their sideline," Ford said. "One of those plays where a guy lines up 1 yard from the sideline and no one knows he's there.

"But Bumper sensed it and sure enough they snapped the ball and tried to throw it down the field, and Bumper ran at a 45-degree angle and got there just in time to knock the pass away. He saved a touchdown.

"I've never seen a play like that before, quite honestly, and I've been around a lot of good players."

Ford, who was the offensive coordinator at the University of North Texas from 2007-09, said the pass breakup is an example of Pool's instincts.

"There are a lot of guys these days who run fast and lift a lot of weights -- they check all the boxes physically," Ford said. "They test great, but it doesn't translate into them being a very good football player.

"Bumper has all those intangibles that go into being a successful football player. And not to mention he does run well and he does lift weights very impressively."

Van Buren Coach Casey Dick, who played quarterback at Arkansas from 2005-08, is close to Pool. Their families grew up as friends.

"Bumper was kind of quiet and reserved as a kid, but everything he did was full-tilt maximum effort," Dick said. "He has 'it' and he plays the game like it should be played."

Dick said Pool reminds him of former Arkansas linebacker Brooks Ellis, who started 41 games and made 290 tackles from 2013-16 and now plays for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Bumper's a good leader and really smart, like Brooks," Dick said. "They have a lot of the same traits."

In addition to football, Pool competed in wresting, golf and track and field at Lovejoy.

"I don't know if his wrestling technique was necessarily on par with everybody else, but he would sure get in there and mix it up with people," Ford said. "He had no problem doing that."

Pool said he began playing organized football when he was in kindergarten.

"I remember sitting there before practice started, dressed in full pads at my house," he said. "It was like, 'I want to go play right now.' "

Pool enrolled at Arkansas in January and went through winter conditioning and spring practice. He missed several practices after being diagnosed with mononucleosis.

"I practiced the first two weeks, and when I got home, I'd be sitting in my bed going, 'This is really difficult,' " he said. "They talk about the adjustment period from high school to college, and I just thought it was that, but I was physically exhausted.

"When I got tested and I was positive for mono, it was kind of a relief knowing I was sick and it wasn't just me being dog tired every day."

Pool returned for the final week of spring practice and played in the Red-White game. He worked at middle and weakside linebacker and got second- and third-team reps.

"Even though I missed some practices, I still feel like I got a lot out of coming in early," Pool said. "The practices I was able to go through really helped."

Sports on 07/15/2018

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