SEC Country reporter Trent Shadid will answer your Arkansas Razorbacks football recruiting questions each weekday in our recruiting question of the day mailbag. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs, @Shadid13 or by email to Trent at Shadid13@gmail.com.
Recruiting question of the Day: Wednesday, March 21, 2018
I’m an Arkansas fan that’s been living in Southern California for almost 20 years. When it comes to football and basketball, the Razorbacks are to the SEC what Washington State is to the Pac-12. Sometimes we’re good. Sometimes we’re really bad. Most of the time we’re just average. Would you say nationally that’s a fair comparison? — Jason via email
Since I like this comparison so much, I responded to Jason and got his permission to use this with a recruiting spin for a question of the day. It’s an interesting perspective that he has being an Arkansas fan in the middle of another Power 5 conference.
I think his comparison is nearly perfect from a recruiting angle, and it’s all about location. Arkansas and Washington State are both off the beaten path and not particularly close to any major recruiting hotbeds compared to in-conference competitors who can use location as a clear recruiting advantage.
In the 2018 class, the State of Washington had five 4-star recruits per 247Sports.com. Four of them were from within 35 miles of Seattle, which is home to the Cougars’ in-state rival Washington Huskies.
That’s comparable to what Arkansas deals with on a yearly basis having programs such as LSU and Texas A&M as the nearest divisional rivals. College Station is surrounded by recruiting hotbeds in Texas. Baton Rouge is a recruiting hotbed itself with New Orleans — one of the best recruiting areas in the country — little more than 80 miles away.
This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to recruit well enough to win at schools the likes of Arkansas and Washington State. It just takes a good coach who is the right fit. Washington State’s program under Mike Leach, who is going on his seventh season in Pullman, is a perfect example.
Leach has always been known far more for his prowess as an offensive guru than his recruiting ability. But he’s recruited exceptionally well by Washington State standards since taking over the program.
In the four seasons (2008-11) prior to Leach, the Cougars’ average recruiting class ranking was No. 65.5 nationally and No. 11.75 in the Pac-12. In the last four seasons, Washington State’s classes have averaged No. 46.75 nationally and No. 9 in the conference.
The marked improvement combined with Leach’s coaching ability has produced positive results. Washington State had gone eight straight seasons without a winning record when Leach arrived. The Cougars have gone 9-4, 8-5 and 9-4 in the last three seasons. If they hit 9 wins again in 2018, they’ll match their most victories over a four-year span in program history.
So, what does that have to do with Arkansas? It shows an immediate improvement in recruiting is very possible for a new coach taking over a downtrodden program in a less-than-ideal location. Even if that new coach is more known for offensive genius than recruiting ability, which is also the case with Chad Morris at this point.
If Morris can improve the quality of talent Arkansas is bringing in, and the early evidence suggests he can, then the Hogs are going to be in great shape. Look no further than Leach and Washington State for proof.