FAYETTEVILLE — The search for a defensive coordinator continues, but Sam Pittman has already found a new tight ends coach for the Arkansas football program.
Just a couple days after news surfaced about Dowell Loggains leaving to become the offensive coordinator at South Carolina, the Razorbacks tabbed Morgan Turner as his replacement. The hire was officially announced Thursday afternoon.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Best of Arkansas Sports has found out that Turner has signed a two-year deal with an annual salary of $325,000. The contract has the normal incentives for SEC/postseason success that all other Arkansas football assistants have.
Turner has spent the last decade as Stanford’s tight ends coach, but longtime head coach David Shaw resigned following the regular season.
That had been the only FBS stop in his career, as he was also an offensive assistant (2011-12) and sports performance intern (2010) for the Cardinals before becoming the tight ends coach in 2013.
A native of Champaign, Ill., and 2009 graduate of the University of Illinois, Turner was a “student coach” for the Fighting Illini during the 2004 season and a quarterbacks coach and scout team coordinator at Illinois’ Central High School in 2008.
Indiana State was his first stop after college, coaching quarterbacks at the FCS program in 2009 before making his way to Palo Alto, Calif.
Here are a few other key things to know about Morgan Turner, the new tight ends coach for Arkansas football…
1. History of Producing NFL Tight Ends
As much as Arkansas may want to claim it is “Tight End U,” that title probably belongs to Stanford. The position has had a large role in the Cardinal’s offense with many going on to the next level and Morgan Turner is a big reason why.
“Turner has worked closely with the program’s West Coast offense and helped define a physical style of play that has separated Stanford from other programs,” Turner’s bio on Stanford’s website reads. “Stanford has become especially well-known for its recent production of NFL tight ends.”
While he was an offensive assistant, Turner worked with Zach Ertz, who earned unanimous All-America honors in 2012 before becoming a second-round pick and three-time Pro Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles. Another tight end during that time was Levine Toilolo, a fourth-round pick.
Since Turner became the actual tight ends coach, Austin Hooper, Dalton Schultz, Kaden Smith and Colby Parkinson have been drafted. Hooper was a finalist for the Mackey Award, while the other three earned All-Pac-12 accolades.
That list doesn’t include Benjamin Yurosek, who earned all-conference honors this season and has caught 92 passes for 1,103 yards over the last two seasons at Stanford.
Granted, Stanford executed a different style of offense than the one run by Kendal Briles at Arkansas, but hiring a tight ends coach with that kind of history should be enticing for the trio of four-star tight ends the Razorbacks are trying to hang on to with less than a week remaining until the early signing period.
Turner will get a chance to sell himself to Shamar Easter, Luke Hasz and Jaden Hamm, as multiple outlets have reported he’ll visit each of them Thursday.
2. Wide-Ranging Recruiting Efforts
Speaking of recruiting, Morgan Turner is no stranger to pursuing players of that caliber.
Even with Stanford’s struggles the last few years, he’s managed to land a four-star tight end in each of the last two classes.
In fact, the Cardinal’s top commitment in the 2023 class is currently Jaden Platt, the No. 229 overall prospect and No. 11 tight end in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Playing at Eaton High School in Haslet, Texas, Platt is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and was actually offered by the Razorbacks last August.
Last cycle, Turner signed a pair of tight ends, including four-star prospect Sam Roush from Nashville, Tenn. He was a top-300 overall recruit.
Over a five-cycle span from 2019-23, the seven tight ends Turner landed at Stanford had an average 247Sports Composite rating of 0.8896 — which is just under the four-star cutoff of 0.8900.
Making that statistic even more impressive is that only two of those players were from California. The other five were from Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana and New Jersey.
3. Familiar with Arkansas, the Midwest
In his bio on the Stanford website, one of the recruiting areas listed for Morgan Turner is Arkansas. That is likely because of a recruit he failed to bring to the Cardinal — Hudson Henry.
The younger brother of Hunter Henry, who won the Mackey Award with the Razorbacks in 2015, Hudson Henry was one of the most sought-after tight ends in the country coming out of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock in the 2019 class.
Turner and Stanford quickly identified him as their top target at the position and went after him hard. The Cardinal were his second offer, coming about a month and a half after Arkansas, and got him to visit Palo Alto multiple times.
According to a story on the Stanford Rivals site in April of 2018, Turner was Henry’s main contact and allowed him to sit in on a tight end position meeting before watching one of their spring practices.
“I was really impressed,” Henry said at the time. “And seeing them teach it and then do it solidified what I thought about Stanford and how they use the tight end.”
Pulaski Academy’s coach at the time, Kevin Kelley, was also impressed with Turner. “He’s exactly what you would want in a recruiting coach and an assistant coach,” Kelley told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport. “He’s a consummate professional, extremely intelligent, articulate and develops relationships with coaches and players in a very professional way. I enjoyed the relationship and I think the players do, too, with him.”
Stanford was actually Henry’s final visit before announcing his commitment to the Razorbacks. Even though he missed out on him, the recruitment of Henry gives Turner at least some knowledge of the Natural State.
It’s also worth noting that being from Illinois, graduating from the University of Illinois and spending one year at Indiana State gives Turner some familiarity with the midwest, too. His other listed recruiting territories include Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin — as well as south Florida.
All of those are areas the Razorbacks likely want to have a presence in when it comes to the recruiting trail.
4. Strong Football Family
Morgan Turner is far from the only football coach in his family. In fact, you could make a case for coaching being in his blood because there are numerous Turners spread across football.
He is the son of Ron Turner, who’s been a head coach at San Jose State (1992), Illinois (1997-2004) and Florida International (2013-16). He also had several stops in the NFL, including two stints (1993-96 and 2005-09) as the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator.
The most famous member of the Turner coaching tree, though, is his uncle: Norv Turner. He was an offensive coordinator for numerous NFL franchises, including Dallas on the staff of former Razorback Jimmy Johnson when the Cowboys won Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993. Turner was an NFL head coach three times, with Washington (1994-2000), Oakland (2004-05) and San Diego (2007-12).
Turner’s cousin is current Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Scott Turner and his brother, Cameron Turner, is the current co-pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
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