As Arkansas’ 2016 recruiting truly kicks into gear, the line-up of Razorback coaches doing so will look different than the one did in 2015.
In addition to new hires in the last month in offensive coordinator Dan Enos and linebacker coach Vernon Hargreaves, Arkansas is reportedly now in the market for a running backs coach.
That news came on Saturday when Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans reported that Razorback assistant Joel Thomas took the running back coach job with the New Orleans Saints, who have not confirmed the hire.
“I think I have a solid recruiting staff, probably one that's even better after the transition that should give us a chance to take this recruiting class and hopefully make next year's even better,” Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema said at Wednesday's national signing day press conference.
It’s an exciting time for Razorback recruiting coordinator E.K. Franks, who was pleased with a 24-man 2015 haul that was ranked 22nd nationally by Scout.com.
“I felt all of our needs got filled,” Franks said. “I think we accomplished that all the way across the board. I think our class was great. Again, when you can recruit 24 athletes that fit what you do, it fills Coach Bielema's motto of bringing the Uncommon Man here.
“ We go out and get guys fit what the University of Arkansas is going to do,” Franks said. “I think we accomplished that with this class.”
That being said, Franks echoed Bielema’s sentiment that the measure of a recruiting class is more than just where so-called experts rank it.
“We don’t worry about the rankings, it’s about the Uncommon Guy,” Franks said. “I think it is about what fits your program. If you stick to your evaluation process and stick to what fits your program the class turns out like you want it in a positive manner.”
Just as it did with the 2015 class, Arkansas will go hard in-state as well as heavily target Florida and Texas.
Hargreaves, the father of current Florida prospect Vernon Hargreaves, has had stints at Miami, Fla., and Houston among others.
“You start with Vernon Hargreaves and he is connected in Florida and having that street cred down there,” Franks said, “but the coaches down there and around the country are talking about his recruiting.
“I tell people, (former Arkansas linebacker coach) Randy Shannon was great, but Vernon Hargreaves is a great fit to come in and replace Randy Shannon,” Franks added. “So I think we will be able to continue that down there and Vernon has been in Texas a little bit, too. So now you can have an extra guy in Texas.”
Enos was the head coach at Central Michigan before leaving to take the offensive coordinator job at Arkansas.
He played quarterback at Michigan State and also coached there.
“Coach Enos, he has been up North a little bit so you look at areas that fit him and areas that he goes through,” Franks said. “He is big in Chicago, he is big in Michigan, of course. He has a name in Michigan from being a head coach so you can spot recruit in some of those areas.
“I laugh because you sit there and go what flies into Northwest Arkansas Airport and that is an area that he can go hit up North,” Franks added. “And then you spot recruit certain areas that he is connected in.”
“My thing is maybe put him in Dallas a little bit where he can start seeing offensive players as he passes through headed somewhere else,” Franks continued.
Enos spent time on the road the last two weeks with Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney, who mainly recruits in-state prospects.
“It's been great,” Lunney said. “We've gotten to spend a little bit of time with him. In recruiting last week we were together for two and a half days. It's always good to be in that environment, because it's easy to get to know each other a little bit.
“ … The mesh overall for our staff offensively and our staff in general I think has been a seamless transition,” Lunney said. “I think he's going to bring a lot of great things to the table. He's very passionate about football, about developing guys, about recruiting guys. I think he's going to be a great asset for us.”
Arkansas was busy calling 2016 prospects on Wednesday even as 2015 letters-of-intent were being faxed in.
“We are going to stay focused on that and we are going to get them,” Franks said. “The good thing about Coach B is he enjoys recruiting so it’s like ‘hey, make sure everybody get them on the phone and get them to me.’
“You guys know how busy his media schedule is on a day like this,” Franks added, “so for him to take time out of how his media schedule is on a day like this… to make sure he is talking to that class of 2016 athletes and getting them on board and getting them to understand how important they are is huge.
“It is a process because there are a few other teams doing it and reaching them and they are in regular school so you are trying to get them in between classes to call you and tweet you,” Franks continued.
Franks said he was happy about reception that coached received on those phone calls.
“It’s awesome to get them guys fired up and the beautiful thing about that is how they get focused,” Franks said. “If you can help a kid just by a simple conversation by the University of Arkansas, then that kid goes ‘Ok, I want to go camp there’ because ultimately we want to get them on campus.”
Arkansas has offered three scholarships in-state so far – Smackover wide receiver and Razorback pledge Jordan Jones (6-1, 175, 4.39), Hope defensive end McTelvin Agim (6-3, 260) and Star City defensive lineman Austin Capps (6-5, 305).
All three would be big pick-ups in an recruiting cycle where the Razorbacks have a few areas targeted, but mostly will be balanced in their recruiting approach.
“The thing about here is you are in the SEC," Franks said. "You better have defensive linemen. The next thing you need a lot of offensive linemen. Those two are always going to be the foundation. After that, we've got to have some running backs. I think we did pretty good at tight end so we might get one or two there, but other than that just keep getting depth at every position."
Arkansas will have a few Junior Days coming up, but they won’t be events with a huge number of kids.
"We have some coming up," Franks said. "The good thiing is (Coach Bielema doesn't like the big one. He feels kids get lost in the shuffle when you just bring 200 kids in.
“I think you bring in quality kids you want to see.,” Franks added. “Junior Days are about getting kids to campus. They can see our place, but we can also see those kids and see their body types."
New Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos with Razorback head coach Bret Bielema and tight ends coach Barry Lunney, Jr.
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