FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — While numerous coaches were excited for the first year of the early signing period, new Arkansas coach Chad Morris wishes the timing could have been better. Morris was hired December 6, and the early signing period began December 20.
It is normal for the first class after a coaching change to be somewhat lackluster, but Morris has done everything he can to salvage – and even improve – the class. Arkansas signed eight during the early period, including five defensive players.
National Signing Day is February 7, and Morris has made it clear he wants to finish strong on defense. If the hiring of coordinator John Chavis is going to work, Morris and his staff need to supply “The Chief” with as much high-caliber talent as they can find.
Arkansas signed three defensive linemen, one linebacker and one cornerback, and the Hogs need more linemen and defensive backs. Chavis’ successful defenses over the years have featured solid corners and playmaking ends.
During the early signing period, Morris grabbed the top three defensive players in Arkansas: Springdale High end Isaiah Nichols (6 feet 3, 265 pounds), Fordyce High tackle Billy Ferrell (6-3, 331) and Ashdown High corner Ladarrius Bishop (6-0, 190). Ferrell had late offers from Wisconsin and Alabama, and Bishop flipped from Mississippi State after Dan Mullen left for Florida.
Like Nichols, four-star inside linebacker Bumper Pool (6-2, 213), from Lovejoy (Texas) High, already is enrolled and will go through spring practice. The fifth defensive signee is end Nick Fulwider (6-7, 249), from Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek, in the Atlanta suburbs. He flipped from North Carolina and has the potential to be a dark-horse pickup because of his raw playmaking ability and intriguing measurables.
In the next three weeks, keep an eye on the defensive players brought in on official visits. Arkansas needs to fix the weakest part of the team from a year ago: a defense that lacked depth at key spots. The depth was especially lacking along the line.
Some specific players to look out for: ends Courtre Alexander and John Mincey, junior college tackles Emmit Gooden and Noah Jefferson, cornerback Eddie Smith and safety Myles Mason.
(You can follow Jacob Parker on Twitter @jaccubparker)
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