Inside Look: How Arkansas Shocked the World On Early Signing Day

Trey Knox

Last year, Arkansas signed only around 10 recruits on the first day of Early Signing Period. Chad Morris had just arrived on the job, and didn’t have time to do much more than that. “We knew it was hard to build a year’s [worth] of relationship in essentially 14 days,” Morris recalled.

But he fired a message of hope at fans: “Give us a chance to come in and build a relationship… We put so much stock into building relationships with our players.”

Well, that building is paying off — in a big way.

Arkansas just signed 20 players to open this year’s Early Signing Period. The Razorbacks inked enough four-star talent to earn the No. 12 spot in Rivals’ recruiting rankings. How a 2-10 team surged ahead of the likes of Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and Florida State is the story of the recruiting season so far.

It’s so amazing that Yahoo national sportswriter Pete Thamel did a deep dive into Arkansas recruiting. How did Morris and his staff work their magic? Here are Thamel’s biggest takeaways:

Sean Tuohy is a pitbull of a recruiter

Arkansas got help from recruiting assistant, SJ Tuohy, the brother of NFL lineman Michael Oher. Touhy had been known for the portrayal of him as an annoying little brother in the movie “The Blind Side.” He soon may be known for his ability to blind side SEC rivals by stealing some of their best commits.

Morris said Tuohy, Arkansas’ assistant director of football operations, is still persistent. “A kid who grew up with Nick Saban visiting his living room to recruit is now attempting to help Arkansas build a program that can beat him,” Thamel wrote.

Morris added: “He’s constantly in charge of managing my recruiting, making sure I’m on top of it. He’ll interrupt me. ‘Coach, I don’t care what you’re doing, we have to get on the phone with this guy.’ ”

Morris is a mastermind at the art of the referral

If you’ve ever worked in sales and marketing, you know how crucial referrals are. People need to hear from others how good your product is before they buy in. It’s clear Morris understands this very well, and he’s doing some creative things with Arkansas recruiting to maximize his time while generating endorsements AND making sure relationships get built.

Morris said many of those bonds were built through Monday nights in the Arkansas facility, when the coaches did a lot of their recruiting calls. The staff uses FaceTime to chat with the prospects, and when one committed a coach would take him on a spin through the offices to celebrate with all the coaches. Sometimes, Morris said, they’d put two phones together so recruits would chat with each other on FaceTime.

“You can build something special here,” Morris said. “We’ve worked extremely hard to get this class and get it to the finish line. It’s gratifying that we’ve found recruits that share our vision.”

Joe Craddock saved Arkansas recruiting’s bacon when it came to KJ Jefferson

Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart received some bad news recently when he learned that his young star QB, Justin Fields, intends to transfer.

That news means he needs another quarterback to step in as an understudy to starting QB Jake Fromm. Preferably one with similar dual-threat skills to those Fields possesses.

So Smart, apparently, began eyeing Arkansas commit KJ Jefferson. Georgia made a late push to flip Jefferson from Arkansas, but Jefferson wasn’t having any of it. For one, he had already invested a lot into the program even before signing — as this civil smack talking of Jonathan Nance and his recruitment of stud linemen show.

Also, Morris and Arkansas’ offensive coordinator had enough time to build a strong bond with Jefferson. “That was a technique that helped the Razorbacks in a number of similar cases, as Georgia made a late run at four-star quarterback KJ Jefferson but Arkansas held on because of the strength of the relationship offensive coordinator Joe Craddock had with Jefferson,” Thamel writes.

Chad Morris discussed KJ Jefferson during the Early Signing Period press conference.

“We addressed a lot of deficiencies — speed, size at wide receiver, depth in both the offensive and defensive lines… guys who would come in January and affect our roster, create competition.

“We did that with eight guys who will be enrolling in January. We got a quarterback [KJ Jefferson], a player of the year in his state, who will come in and continue to build depth at that position.”

YouTube video

The highest ranking of the Arkansas recruiting early signees was Trey Knox, a superstar Tennessee wide receiver who should cause all kinds of headaches for defensive backs next season. He’s pumped to start playing with the Hogs, especially with the other stars in his class he’s gotten to know.

“The program hasn’t been great these past few years. We’re coming to turn it around and make a statement in the college football world that Arkansas is a powerhouse again.”

Trey Knox, via Yahoo Sports

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