Expectations abound for Morris in Arkansas' loaded senior class

By: Harry King
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018
Warren receiver Treylon Burks runs past Arkadelphia defender Demarco Britton during the Class 4A state championship game on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Little Rock.
Photo by Benjamin Krain
Warren receiver Treylon Burks runs past Arkadelphia defender Demarco Britton during the Class 4A state championship game on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in Little Rock.

— Briefly distracted by the commitment of versatile quarterback KJ Jefferson from Mississippi, wondering about Arkansas’ 2019 recruiting class circled back to what might be the largest cache of in-state football talent in years.

For Chad Morris, the group is a double-edged sword and a reminder that long gone are the days when being a Razorback was the exclusive goal of every high school player in Arkansas.

The free pass given Morris for the late start on his first recruiting class only ratchets up scrutiny of how his sales pitch is received by Pulaski Academy tight end Hudson Henry, Warren wide receiver Treylon Burks and the other homegrown athletes.

Once signatures are on the dotted line, fans’ reaction will range from applause to apathy, from compliments to condemnation, and most everything in between.

The list of targets begins with Henry and Burks because they are among ESPN’s top 100 recruits — the first time Arkansas has had two representatives on the checklist in the same year — and Jonesboro offensive tackle Darius Thomas, who is No. 227.

Beginning Sept. 1, Henry and Burks will have a dozen Razorback games to check out Morris’ go-fast offense, how he uses players at their position, maybe get a read on their quarterback-to-be and find out whether the 2018 starters have additional eligibility.

An admitted recruiting snob, identity of the suitors is more impressive than the number of stars, and Henry, Burks and Thomas are bona-fide legit. In their snapshot on ESPN, find the red check mark under “offer,” and peruse the school names.

With the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Henry, virtually every “football school” can be found — Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Stanford and others.

Listed alphabetically, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Ole Miss and South Carolina want Burks, while Arizona State, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri and Ole Miss are after Thomas.

On the suitor scale, Pulaski Robinson defensive end Zach Williams also belongs in the top 300. Personally, Alabama’s offer to Williams suffices, but Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have also offered.

In particular, Henry, Burks and Williams have ties that fans believe are supposed to bind them to Fayetteville and a miss on any of the three only reminds there is no “fence around the state” despite the promises of various coaches to construct such a proverbial barrier.

Henry’s brother, Hunter, was an All-SEC tight end at Arkansas; brother Hayden is a sophomore linebacker; and dad Mark played four years. Burks’ high school has been a pipeline to Arkansas, particularly for receivers, and Williams is the son of former UA linebacker Ricky.

Add to that group, Camden Fairview offensive lineman Stacey Wilkins, the cousin of former Arkansas All-American Shawn Andrews, and Bentonville wide receiver Jadon Jackson — both highly ranked according to at least one of the major recruiting services — for a total of a half-dozen in-state players with four stars.

Unsure how the 2019 athletes stack up with other much-ballyhooed in-state groups, emailing Dudley Dawson was easier than doing the research. Clued in to recruiting for years, he reminded that Arkansas had eight four stars in 2015, including C.J. O’Grady, Will Gragg, Jamario Bell and LaMichael Pettway, all of whom signed with Arkansas, plus K.J. Hill, who caught 55 passes last year at Ohio State.

To the aforementioned 2019 group, Dawson adds Arkansas commit Malik Chavis, a cornerback from Rison, and Warren defensive tackle Marcus Miller, who also has an offer from the UA. That done, he contends that one through eight, this group is better than the 2015 batch of players.

A clean sweep of the eight is unlikely, raising a question about the acceptable minimum, and who signs is part of the equation.

To impress, Morris needs to land Henry or Burks or both, at least one of the other two in the personal top 300, and more than half of the eight best players in Arkansas.

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