Arkansas recruiting mailbag: Is Hogs’ new staff improving recruiting already?

Welcome to SEC Country’s Arkansas recruiting mailbag with reporter Trent Shadid. In this edition, we discuss the recruiting efforts of the new staff, a 2019 quarterback target, the 2018 class as a whole and more.

I don’t think it’s that the new staff is going after higher-caliber players. I think it’s that the new staff is getting such recruits to take a serious look at Arkansas more so than in the past. At least that seems to be the case early on in the Chad Morris era.

They are getting more of the high-end 3-stars and 4-stars to visit campus. We’ll see that later this month with several big-time 2019 targets expected on campus Feb. 24.

We also saw it with the close to the 2018 class. The staff did a pretty good job closing out that group, considering the circumstances. Signing players such as Joseph Foucha, Dorian Gerald, Myles Mason and Andrew Parker was really impressive. Arkansas landed all of those players over other prominent Power 5 schools after recruiting none of them for more than two months. It’s impossible to know for sure, but I have a really hard time believing the previous group could’ve had the same close.

Several of you asked about Grant Gunnell, so I just pulled one of the questions about him to answer here. My apologies for only grabbing one tweet. It’s nothing against the others, I promise.

For those who don’t know, Gunnell is a consensus 4-star quarterback in the 2019 class from St. Pius X High School in Houston. His de-commitment from Texas A&M on Tuesday evening is great news for Arkansas. Although, I’ll say it doesn’t come as a surprise. Things had started to sour with Gunnell and the Aggies since Jimbo Fisher took over.

Arkansas is a serious contender for Gunnell, I have no doubt about that. His family connections are hard to ignore with both is parents having earned degrees from the school and his grandfather, Jim Price, having played on the 1964 national title team. That connection is really the foundation of what has Arkansas in consideration.

Gunnell also speaks very highly of Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock. He really liked their group a lot at SMU, but the Mustangs didn’t really stand a chance in his recruitment for obvious reasons. The key is to get him on campus to spend more time with the staff, which should happen at some point this spring and possibly as early as next weekend.

I still say fans should proceed with caution getting too excited about Gunnell just yet, though. His offer list is filled with big-time programs and will only continue to grow. It’s certainly possible Arkansas gets him, but don’t lose sight of how tall of a task it’ll likely be to pull that off.

Morris told us last week he’s currently expecting to sign 20-to-22 players in the 2019 class. I’m guessing that number will grow to 25 between now and then. I just think we’ll see more transfers when players begin to figure out how they fit — or don’t fit — into the new system. There’s at least a handful who are waiting to see what the new staff has in mind for them.

Plus, the 2019 class could be very strong for the Hogs. The in-state group is elite by Arkansas’ standards and there’s a strong number of impressive targets from the surrounding states giving the Hogs a long look. That’ll give the coaching staff reason to sign as many as possible and find a way to make the scholarship numbers work.

The numbers for the 2018 class were small because they had just 12 scholarship seniors leaving and not many players signed in the past couple years have left. Obviously, I don’t think it turned out to be a good thing, but the Hogs retained a high percentage of players each year under Bielema. If you break down the numbers, you only have enough scholarship room to sign 21 players in each class if no one leaves. Then you add in walk-ons who have been put on scholarship, which was quite a few under Bielema, and things get crowded quick.

I think what the coaching staff did with the 2018 class was impressive. As you alluded to, the circumstances were difficult. Morris took over just two weeks before the early signing period. They still managed to sign five players in December who weren’t coming to Arkansas before Morris took over.

Once January rolled around, the staff really got to work adding the second half of the class ahead of the traditional February signing period. When that period came and went, 13 of the 17 signees were players the new staff swayed to Arkansas. That’s a lot of work in just two months. And the Hogs beat out rival SEC programs and a few Big 12 schools for most of those 13 signees Morris’ staff had to work to get.

While I think the group is impressive, it’s largely predicated on the circumstances. I’d view this class as just average a year from now. The expectations, particularly in recruiting, are going to rise fast for this group. That’s really just the nature of life in the SEC.

The only possible additions I could envision ahead of next season would be a graduate transfer. I think Arkansas is definitely looking around that market to see if there are any possible options that would be a good fit. We should know one way or another on that within the next couple months.

As for Gunnell, scroll up to see my thoughts on him.

Add defensive end Zach Williams to that group and all of these players are must-get recruits for Arkansas’ 2019 class. As I mentioned before, it’s an elite in-state group.

I can say I’d be surprised if Stacey Wilkins (OL) doesn’t end up at Arkansas. He’s grown up with a love for the Hogs. While he already has some major offers and will continue to get more, I think he joins the Razorbacks when it comes down to it.

As for Treylon Burks, who could play a variety of positions from linebacker to wide receiver at the next level, I think he’ll have a hard time saying no to Arkansas. Since Morris’ staff took over, no program has recruited Burks harder. Members of the staff went to watch him play basketball on multiple occasions during the contact period in January. That stuff goes a long way.

Hudson Henry (TE) would’ve likely been a certainty to Arkansas under the new staff. He saw his older brother, Hunter, win the Mackey Award while playing for Bielema. It’s not likely he would’ve said no to that situation. But there’s still a lot pulling him to Fayetteville with another brother, Hayden, on the roster and his father, Mark, having been a team captain in 1991. How this staff uses tight ends next season will be important in the race to get Henry.

Jadon Jackson (WR) and Darius Thomas (OL) will also take some work from the new staff to secure. Both are going to consider their options, which are aplenty, and shouldn’t be committing anytime soon. The visits they take in the spring will be huge for Arkansas.

But yes, I do think there’s a possibility the Hogs get them all. I also think even getting four or five of the six mentioned above would be great for the program. Get all six and 2019 could be a truly excellent class.

Official visits are paid for by the school while recruits are on the hook for unofficial visits. That’s really the biggest difference. Official visitors get free lodging, meals and tickets for them and their parents. Free tickets are the only gift unofficial visitors can receive.

It matters because recruits only get five official visits. If they are going to take them all, they have to choose them wisely. Unofficial visits can at times give an indication of how much a recruit truly likes a school. For instance, Myles Mason took an unofficial visit with his family to Arkansas in January after taking an official visit in December. He remained committed to Mississippi State the whole time. But when he and his family were paying their way from Alabama to Arkansas, it was a clear indication he was close to flipping his pledge. That’s exactly what happened a day after he left.

Montaric Brown was highly regarded in the 2017 recruiting class. Do you think he will see the field this year even after the 2018 class brought in two safeties? — @RazorbackFBnow via direct message

Great question. I think Brown has been forgotten about a bit with all the excitement around signing Myles Mason and Joseph Foucha. But I believe he has a great chance at being a starter alongside Santos Ramirez at safety next season. Remember, this was a player who had offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Oklahoma when he signed a year ago.

Brown was close to playing last season, but since he didn’t arrive until August the staff opted to not remove his redshirt. I think that was a good decision for Brown and his future. At the very least, I’d expect him to be in the safety rotation and playing a significant role on special teams.

To submit a question for recruiting mailbags, email Shadid13@gmail.com or send a message to  @Shadid13   on Twitter.

The post Arkansas recruiting mailbag: Is Hogs’ new staff improving recruiting already? appeared first on SEC Country.

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