Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook . In this edition, we discuss all things related to recruiting in East Texas — a talent-rich area the new staff is making a high priority.
Arkansas selling proximity to East Texas recruits
Arkansas’ new coaching staff under Chad Morris has circled several areas to hit hard on the recruiting trail. The best in-state recruits will remain the top priority. But after that, no area is likely to be more important than the East Texas region.
Morris and Co. know the talent-rich area well. The Hogs head coach is from Edgewood, 60 miles east of Dallas. He had two high school coaching stops in the area at Eustace and Elysian Fields. Director of recruiting operations Brooke Stepp is from Elysian Fields and also has deep roots in the region. Defensive coordinator John Chavis has been a prominent recruiter in the area for the last decade while at LSU and Texas A&M.
No one on staff likely knows East Texas better than running backs coach Jeff Traylor. The stadium at Gilmer High School, in one of East Texas’ most prominent football towns, is named after him. He won three state titles as head coach at the school and still has a home there.
Traylor will spearhead the recruiting efforts in the area known as #bEASTtexas on Twitter. His message to East Texas recruits for now is centered around providing an understanding for how close Arkansas is to their home.
“I’ve had to teach a lot of those kids how close we are,” Traylor said. “You draw a dot from where I live in Gilmer to the University of Texas and it’s 5 hours. You draw a dot from Gilmer to here and it’s 4½. It’s about the same, it’s just not as familiar. We’ve got to make it more familiar. The brand sells. It’s an unbelievable place. We’ve just got to get kids on campus.”
Familiarity helps evaluation process
The relationships with coaches in East Texas have been and should continue to be an advantage for the Arkansas staff. Many of them have coached against or attended camps alongside Morris and Traylor.
“We think we’ve got some great relationships there with a lot of high school coaches that are dear friends of ours,” Traylor said. “Those guys want us to do well. The better we do, the better things could be for them, because that’s where we came from. So, they’re trying to help us at all times.”
Those relationships also help in the evaluation process. If a coach has a player who he believes is under the radar, Arkansas is likely to get a call. The Hogs also aren’t likely to be sold any false information as high school coaches aim to preserve those relationships.
“We know the competition, the skill level they’re going against, the best teams, the worst teams, all of that,” Traylor said. “So, you can get a better evaluation. And you know all the high school coaches, so we can get all the track times and the real squats, benches, the real height and weight. That stuff helps a lot.”
Arkansas’ top 5 East Texas targets for 2019
If you need evidence that East Texas is one of the top recruiting regions in the country, look no further than the East Texas Sports Network’s 2017 Super Team. Among the 27 players on the team, 15 either signed with or have an offer from FBS program(s).
Arkansas didn’t sign any of them in the 2018 class. Though it made a late push for Tyree Wilson from West Rusk (New London) and nearly swayed his commitment from Texas A&M.
But there are plenty of other top recruits from the area in future classes with whom the Hogs are already building relationships. Below are five top Arkansas targets from East Texas in the 2019 class. The group includes three prospects from Newton High School, located in the southeast part of the state, with Texarkana as its halfway point to Fayetteville.
- RB Darwin Barlow, 3 stars, Newton: Arkansas offered Barlow in late January. He personally thanked Traylor for the opportunity. He’ll be a true test of the Hogs’ recruiting abilities in the area considering he also has offers from Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech, with many more likely to come.
- ATH Tamauzia Brown, 4 stars, Newton: Brown is arguably the top 2019 recruit in the region. He has offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Missouri, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech and others. He’s 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with the ability to play either wide receiver or cornerback at the next level.
- ATH Josh Foster, 3 stars, Newton: Foster played quarterback on Newton’s very talented state title team last season. He could play a number of different positions in college, with current projections listing him at wide receiver or cornerback. Arkansas and Baylor were the first major programs to offer him, as he reported both offers in early February.
- WR T.Q. Jackson, 3 stars, Jefferson: Morris immediately identified Jackson as a top target in the 2019 class, offering him in mid-December just nine days after officially being hired. The Hogs are currently in great shape to get him, with Fayetteville just under 300 miles from Jefferson and closer than most Power 5 programs.
- DT Carl Williams, 3 stars, Lufkin: Williams already has an impressive offer list that includes Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, with Texas expected to join the group soon. The Hogs are a serious contender, though. He’s expected to visit Fayetteville on Feb. 24 for Arkansas’ junior day.
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