Every year around this time all this talk comes out about recruiting classes and what states are the most fertile ground and where teams like Arkansas need to go to improve the program.
The topic is important, though not nearly as much as the significance as we media types try to give it. Mostly, such things are written because little else is going on. Such a topic did, too, get me thinking about related ones. And arguably, I came up with something somewhat more important for Arkansas going forward.
Never mind where the players are from. Where are the coaches from?
It’s not a moot question. Some résumés are more impressive than others. A lot of times, where a coach had lengthy stints before his current destination can help in recruiting that area, as well, regardless of whether the coach is “from” there. Arkansas’ staff is fairly well-rounded, but a few obvious holes exist as we look at what Razorbacks have.
Head coach Bret Bielema
Specialty: Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Bielema spent 16 of the last 22 years at either Iowa or Wisconsin. A two-year stint at Kansas State and the last four at Arkansas break up that stretch.
Offensive coordinator Dan Enos
Specialty: Michigan, Illinois
Enos is a former Michigan State quarterback and assistant. He also served as head coach at Central Michigan for a few years.
Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell
Specialty: Kansas City, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota
In a career that’s spanned almost 30 years now, Mitchell has been a staple in the upper Midwest and the American heartland. Of all the coaches, however, Mitchell is the one who focuses most on recruiting his position, as opposed to a geographical area.
Wide receivers coach Michael Smith
There is a reason LSU is thought to have badly wanted Smith as a wide receivers coach after the 2015 season. He is excellent down there.
Tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr.
When your dad is the most iconic big-school high school coach of the last generation, you have connections. Never mind the fact Lunney Jr. was a quarterback for the Razorbacks and an assistant at Bentonville High School, too.
Offensive line coach Kurt Anderson
Specialty: Illinois, Michigan
Anderson is from Illinois and coached in Michigan his entire collegiate career until coming to Arkansas. Chicagoland is basically a second home.
Defensive line coach Rory Segrest
Specialty: Georgia, Alabama
Segrest played at Alabama and cut his teeth in that state, working for both the Crimson Tide and Auburn. Later, he was in Birmingham with Samford. He’s from Georgia, too, and is a regular there.
Linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves
Specialty: Florida, the northeast
Hargreaves made the biggest name for himself as an assistant with Miami (Fla.). Before that, he spent more than a decade at UConn.
Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads
Specialty: Midwest, Deep South
Rhoads split most of his coaching career between the states of Alabama (Auburn) and Iowa (Iowa State) and has plenty of connections in both areas. More than anyone else, though, Rhoads, when recruiting, is a bit of a floater.
Notice one big state that’s missing here?
No one on the Arkansas staff is considered golden in Texas. Reggie Mitchell comes the closest. He helped land Devwah Whaley out of the Lone Star State. But with the 2017 recruiting class, which currently stands at 21 players (10 signed, 11 more committed), only one is from Texas.
Things begin and end with more and better players from the next state over if Arkansas wants this fixed for the long term. Rhoads’ defensive backs coach replacement may not have a Texas-based focus in recruiting, but any subsequent hires — and, yes, I believe there will be at least one more this offseason — probably will.
It’s going to have to if this thing wants to be steady in the long term.
- Ex-Arkansas left tackle Dan Skipper, who is 6-foot-10, apparently wants to be a punt returner. Nice find from Arkansas247.
- We’ve heard “Running Back U,” “O-Line U” and “Tight End U.” New Arkansas commit Kamren Curl wants the Razorbacks to be known as “DB-U.” Oh, and #OKpreps.
- Arkansas women’s track, the No. 2 team in the nation, heads to Vanderbilt this weekend for the Vanderbilt Invitational. New digs in Nashville and they’ll provide a preview for the SEC Meet coming up later this spring.
- Swimmers and divers have a quad meet this weekend, as well. The swim team is also headed to Nashville to go against Vanderbilt and Houston, while the divers are going to Clemson to face the Tigers and Houston.