Chad Morris is very aware how college football has changed over the last decade or so.
Top tier programs have been recruiting the type players that nobody wants to stay around four or five years. For good reasons.
“You’re in a time now where a lot of these guys where if you’re recruiting the right way they’re with you three years,” Morris said on Wednesday’s signing day. “That’s what we’re after, that’s what we want.”
Forget the way it used to be.
Freshmen are expected to play immediately. Teams in the playoff nearly every year have a lot of those freshmen on special teams and they rotate in their position group on a regular basis.
“We want guys to be able to come in here, put them on a path to graduate in three years and all of a sudden they’re some of the top guys the NFL is wanting,” Morris said. “If we’re doing that, we’re recruiting the right way.”
It was Urban Meyer at Florida back in 2007 who said, “we only recruit people that can play immediately.”
That was radically different thinking then. Nick Saban started doing the same thing at Alabama, Les Miles was doing it at LSU along with others that were finishing high in the rankings nearly every year. Before them, Phil Fulmer at Tennessee and Steve Spurrier at Florida weren’t signing players to hang around long.
It has taken awhile for some to catch on to that. You better be signing players coming out of high school that can step on the field in the SEC and contribute somewhere. That may be the biggest change as college football has evolved.
As Arkansas’ previous staff learned, doing what you did for a decade doesn’t work the same way anymore. Especially in the SEC where you can win 11 games and still be the third-ranked team in your own division (which the Razorbacks did in 2011).
How tough is it in the SEC? The Hogs have their best class ever in the modern recruiting era and that’s just sixth in the SEC West and ninth in the entire league.
You better be getting help EVERY signing day.
It appears none of the 20 players Morris signed on Wednesday are expected to sit around, much less redshirt. With up to nine more expected to join the fold, there aren’t “projects” anymore on scholarship (those are now called walk-ons).
Especially on the offensive and defensive lines.
“We had to create depth on both sides of the ball,” he said. “It’s a line of scrimmage league and that’s an area where we can make immediate improvement as far as creating depth and competition.”
You also get the idea some of the linemen last year were redshirted more for 2019 than helping a bad 2018 season. Morris hinted a couple of times they saw early they were going to be in trouble last year due to a variety of things and because of the four-game redshirt rule, he got a little of the best of both worlds.
No, that doesn’t mean he tanked the season at any point in time. To be honest, though, he probably thought last year’s team would win three or four more than they did. Considering Colorado State, North Texas and Ole Miss that wasn’t unreasonable.
Unless you were blind, the offensive line was one of the glaring issues. The Hogs signed six Wednesday on the offensive side, seven on defense.
“I’m anticipating some of these guys playing as well as the guys who were redshirted last year,” Morris said. “Part of this is recruiting, the other part is developing guys that we have on our roster and we were able to play and redshirt some guys from last year. What this is going to allow us to do is create competition.”
That’s some not-so-subtle coach-speak for nobody has a guaranteed job … anywhere.
“We need competition at every position … we didn’t have enough of that this year,” Morris said. “We’ve addressed that and we’re not done addressing that.”
Yeah, the guess here is you will need a program next year to know who’s who.