BENTONVILLE — The ceremony will have to wait, but business went on as scheduled for three Bentonville football players who signed their national letters of intent Wednesday morning.
Jack Kraus was first as he signed with Arkansas. Jimmie Jackson then signed with Arkansas Tech, while Chase Morse made Oklahoma Baptist his choice.
Kraus did all of his work without leaving home. The Tigers tight end said his letter was signed and sent before 8 a.m.
“This is pretty crazy,” he said. “I never thought this day would happen, but now I’m really blessed.”
Kraus (6-foot-6, 236 pounds) stayed true to the oral commitment he made back on April 1 and signed with the Razorbacks. He said other schools’ interested dropped off after that, especially with Kraus’ connection to Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr., the former Bentonville offensive coordinator.
He was primarily used as a blocker and finished the season with 12 receptions for 137 and two touchdowns, including one in Bentonville’s 39-28 victory over Cabot in the Class 7A State Championship.
“I was pretty set on going to Arkansas,” Kraus said. “It offered too much for me to turn everything down, and coach Lunney and I stayed in good contact.
“Now I just need to continue getting better. I will enroll in summer classes, and I’ll be working on my overall strength and better conditioning. I also need to improve on playing through contact, especially since I will be in the SEC.”
Jackson (6-2, 206) and Morse (6-3, 240) did their signings later at the Tiger Athletic Complex. However, instead of their teammates being there to celebrate the moment, the two players were only joined by parents and Bentonville coaches Barry Lunney, Aaron Danenhauer and Jody Grant since classes were not in session after another round of wintry weather this week.
Jackson, who caught 35 passes for 756 yards and 11 touchdowns, made Arkansas Tech his choice after a visit to the Russellville campus. He chose the Wonder Boys over a number of schools, including defending NCAA Division II national champion Northwest Missouri State.
“I’m happy to have this process over,” Jackson said. “It’s been a long process. A lot of weight fell off my shoulders as soon as I signed those papers.
“When I went on my visit, it just felt like family. I felt like I fit right in there with them. I definitely have to work on my speed and my quickness, and my core is weak right now.”
Morse started the season at tight end and caught nine passes for 69 yards before an injury to a teammate forced him to move to offensive tackle. He expects to move back to tight end at Oklahoma Baptist, as well as blocking fullback in short-yardage situations.
Oklahoma Baptist, an NAIA school that has applied for NCAA Division II status, was the only team to make Morse a serious offer. He turned down a couple of schools that showed some interest but wanted him to become a preferred walk-on.
“I’m just glad to get it done and be a Bison,” Morse said. “I really like what the school is based on, and I really like coach (Chris) Jensen and his staff. I like what they are trying to do, and I want to part of that.
“They want to keep me at tight end and that’s where they think I will do my best. I prefer tight end because it’s versatile. It’s strong enough to block with the big guys in the trenches, and you have enough finesse to go out and catch balls, juke people out and score touchdowns.”