Regardless of what you think of the Arkansas football situation Chad Morris inherited he is improving it … fast.
Friday evening Dorian Gerald chose the Razorbacks. He picked the Hogs over big-time recruiting schools and that simply hasn’t happened often in the past.
Gerald has the potential to be, well, a beast on the field.
After playing high school in South Carolina, he went to junior college in California and put up some eye-popping numbers over two years:
• 96 tackles, including 43.0 for loss and 22.0 sacks, over the last two seasons
• Broke up five passes, forced six fumbles and recovered two fumbles
His signing Friday, choosing the Hogs over Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and others shot the Hogs up to No. 49 in the 247Sports.com composite.
While that’s below where Arkansas has been the last several years, it’s up nearly 40 spots from where they were when Morris took over Dec. 7 last year.
Not being an expert at figuring out how the rankings are done, people I know more familiar with it told me early Saturday if Morris had signed a full class they would be “comfortable in the Top 20, maybe Top 15.”
No, they didn’t sign a class of 5-star recruits. Nobody else other than Georgia did either.
Morris has often talked about Clemson, comparing what Dabo Swinney has built there in the last six or seven years to what he has in mind here.
As noted self-help authority W. Clement Stone said over a half-century ago, “Whatever realistic goals man can conceive, he can achieve.” He could have added you had to put in a lot of work to get there, but it’s possible IF the goal is realistic.
Arkansas becoming a Clemson is realistic. Too many people over the years have told me that. I heard it first from Red Parker when he was COACHING Clemson in the spring of 1975.
The Tigers never have — even under Swinney — been a contender for the National Signing Day Championship. Not one single time have they been there.
In the last five years, they have averaged an 11th place finish in the 247Sports.com composite. The five years before that they were 21st.
They have finished ranked in the Top 25 eight of the last 10 years, including five Top 10 finishes. That’s the kind of run Arkansas had from 1958 to 1989.
It starts with recruiting and having a plan.
Morris has a plan. New defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has been rambling around the SEC for the better part of 40 years or so, has said repeatedly he believes in the plan.
He’s even been on the road recruiting as hard as anybody and one of the knocks on him from other coaches for the last decade is that he didn’t go on the road recruiting very much.
Getting a player like Gerald, who has the numbers and measurables to be a big-time player, is a good start. We’ll see if that translates to play in the SEC, but it looks positive.
He could be the player Arkansas needs on the defense to give opposing offenses fits in terms of keeping pressure on the quarterback and just making plays. It’s been a big-time problem.
Morris is recruiting speed over size, something I said in 2013 was going to be the previous coach’s downfall.
The defining moment came in South Carolina’s blowout win in 2013 over the Hogs on homecoming and Jadeveon Clowney came across the backside of the formation to catch Alex Collins for a 2-yard gain on a simple handoff that was open.
A lot of the fans have been critical of this signing class’ ranking. It was never going to be very high because of the lack of numbers.
Put that on the previous folks in charge.
As noted talk show caller Eddie in Clarksville says, “get on the Hog train.” You may be able to get a seat now. Some are dragging their feet.
And Gerald won’t be the last big-time recruit Morris lands.