Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Morris to demand recruiting success from new staff
Arkansas coach Chad Morris speaks Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, during a press conference to introduce new assistant coaches at the Fred W. Smith Football Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Now at Arkansas and with more resources to land better talent, former SMU and new Razorback head football coach Chad Morris wants his entire staff to bring something to the table in recruiting.
He made that clear during Wednesday’s news conference to introduce new Arkansas defensive coordinator John Chavis, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll.
The Razorbacks signed eight players in the Dec. 20-22 early signing period and have some “six to eight spots” to use for the Feb. 7 national signing date, Morris said.
“Everything starts with recruiting and I have said this before in my last press conference that if you can’t be involved in recruiting and add some value and worth to this football program to the University of Arkansas, you will not last,” Morris said. “That’s just the bottom line.
“Our ability to turn SMU around in two-and-a-half to three years that we did was strictly - and you can say Xs and Os all you want - but it is strictly about getting the right fit of player in there.”
Morris said he intends for the Razorback recruiting department to be one of continued growth.
“So the model of what I am wanting - that is going to get this program to where it is a national contender that we are going to be - has got to start with recruiting and it has got to end with recruiting,” Morris said.
“So building that recruiting base, that recruiting department, as you can see now staff sizes in college football are growing and ours is, too. It is going to grow and continue to grow and so we have got to continue to have the hub in there that can really be the spokes of that wheel moving forward in our recruiting department.”
Morris, whose staff can begin on-the road recruiting again when the NCAA recruiting dead period ends Thursday, has an idea of what he wants to round out his first recruiting class at Arkansas, which currently numbers five defensive players and three offensive ones.
“We’ve got to address the need...on the offensive line," Morris said.
“We've got to address the need in some of our secondary and (defensive) ends… But again, you're always looking for great football players. If there's a great football player out there, regardless of the position, we want those guys.”
The Razorback staff will host official visitors on the weekends of Jan. 19-21, Jan. 26-28 and Feb. 2-4.
After looking over his roster, Morris is sure about one thing it needs to add.
“Speed, speed and more speed,” Morris said. “You either have it or you're chasing it. You don't want to chase speed too long. You won't last long. I'm really excited.
“We actually had a couple staff meetings over the last few days after (offensive coordinator Joe) Craddock and (defensive coordinator John) Chavis had been able to evaluate both sides of the ball. We just kind of came back in, circled in, for an overview. I didn't ask for anything detailed like we will when we get back off the road here in a few weeks.
“I asked more of what they saw in general and we're excited. We're very excited. They (the former staff) played a lot of young guys. We've had a lot of our players already back, and a lot of our players have swung through the office and met with the new staff.
“I guess the major voice that we're hearing is hungry. They don't want to be home again during Christmas. It hadn't been quite the fun they thought it might be. It's not fun watching bowl games when you're not playing in them.”
Morris was asked about how he felt about the color anthracite, which Arkansas has worn at least once a year for the past several years. He turned it into an opportunity to explain how something as simple as a different jersey color can affect a potential recruit.
“Well, when you start looking at uniforms and you start looking at all kinds of things it goes back to our filter in everything we do and it's about recruiting,” Morris said. “I'm 49 years old and unfortunately 49-year-old people don't play at the University of Arkansas. It's about 18-year-olds.
“So maybe if I had an 18-year-old and ask what he thinks about anthracite, and this guy can run a hole in the wind and he likes anthracite and he can catch everything thrown at him and tackle everything that comes around, I like anthracite, too. If he doesn't like anthracite, I don't like anthracite.”
Wednesday's news conference was scheduled to introduce the Razorbacks' new defensive coordinators, but Arkansas also announced its full defensive coaching staff prior to the meeting. Among the new coaches is Steve Caldwell, considered a top recruiter who previously worked at Arkansas from 2010-12 and was a longtime assistant alongside new defensive coordinator John Chavis.
“He not only has been at Arkansas, but we spent 15 years together at Tennessee,” Chavis said. “He was a big part of what we did at Tennessee also from a recruiting standpoint. You're not gonna find a better recruiter, not gonna find a better football coach anywhere in the country and not just with Steve, but with Ron Cooper, John Scott Jr. and with the entire staff that Coach Morris has put together.”
Chavis knows he needs to add some talent.
"When you start looking at the personnel there's some really good talent here at Arkansas,” Chavis said. “There's no question about that. Is there talent here to win 14 games? There wasn't this past year, but eventually there will be.
“I think that is what Coach (Morris) has been talking about. It's a process. That process starts in recruiting and recruiting to a certain style you want to play both offensively and defensively. But there's some talent here there's no question about that. We're looking forward to seeing it in the offseason.
“There’s some things, and I'm not gonna talk about those needs, but there's some needs we have to try to meet in the last half of this recruiting cycle we're in now.”
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