Arkansas landed the commitment of two Texas recruits — wide receiver Mike Woods and offensive lineman Silas Robinson — Sunday morning. It was a promising sign for the Hogs, symbolizing what’s likely to become very common under new coach Chad Morris.
The Razorbacks must significantly enhance their ability to recruit the Lone Star State. Morris is just the man to get that done. It’s one of the primary reasons Arkansas offered him the job.
Some Arkansas fans were quick to write off the first two new pledges as insignificant because both were previously committed to Morris at SMU. It’s true, the Razorbacks won’t build a strong program simply by flipping commitments from SMU. Woods and Robinson, however, are both 3-star recruits per the 247Sports composite rankings and would fit right in with any previous Razorbacks class.
But harping on where they were previously heading is missing the significance of these commitments. These pledges illustrate how firmly established Morris is as a trusted coach among Texas high schools. Recruits are willing to go wherever to play for him and his staff. Though they’ll soon do so, neither Woods nor Robinson had visited Fayetteville prior to committing.
Such a presence in Texas was missing during the Bret Bielema era. While Morris got two Texas pledges on a Sunday morning alone, Bielema struggled to get two in a class. The Hogs signed just 15 such players in Bielema’s five classes with the Hogs.
There’s strong evidence it was Bielema himself who prevented the Hogs from having success recruiting in Texas. The former coach made some inflammatory comments about the spread offense at a Texas high school coaches clinic in 2015, according to Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury’s firsthand account. Those were comments Bielema did not deny.
“I’m the son of a Texas high school coach,” Kingsbury said. “Texas high school coaches, probably 90 percent of them run the spread offense. So, to walk in there and say that, it definitely rubbed me the wrong way.”
If it rubbed Kingsbury the wrong way, it surely did the same to some high school coaches in the room.
That’s in the past, though. And hiring Morris is the first step toward Arkansas rebuilding that bridge.
The early efforts of Morris and his staff are helping, as well. The new group was known to be wearing Razorbacks apparel on the sidelines at Texas high school playoff games in the areas of Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Waco during the weekend.
“We’ve got a bunch of coaches out on the road right now putting those logos on all those games,” Morris said Saturday night.
That’s a big part of the early plan, to be visible and become a recognized and respected brand once again in Texas. Those efforts may pay some dividends in the 2018 class. But, more than likely, the impact won’t become fully apparent until the 2019 class and beyond.
This past weekend was just the beginning of what should be much better recruiting days ahead in arguably the Razorbacks’ most important recruiting state.