FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will unveil its 2014 football signing class this afternoon, capping months – and even years – of work on the recruiting trail.
Chris Hauser, who is Arkansas’ director of recruiting, spent a few minutes discussing the work that went into the 2014 class with the Arkansas News Bureau on Tuesday afternoon. Here are some of the highlights from the 10-minute conversation:
Q: What is it like around the office the day before signing day?
A: “Things are good. They’re exciting. All of the emotions because you have a sense of unknown as well. There’s still some guys out there that you just don’t know which way they’re going to end up going. I think you’re excited because you know who you have and you’re excited about it, but you could be a lot more excited depending on who makes the call towards us in the next 12 hours, 24 hours.”
Q: Your class isn’t loaded with big stars and this group won’t wow people with its ranking. But how well do you think the program has addressed its needs?
A: “Our philosophy is, you always have to recruit to what you believe in and the type of culture you want to create in your program. Obviously, there’s some great football players that are athletic enough to achieve success at this level, but also have the characteristics off the field. Understanding that school is very important to get a degree. What they do off the field will also show up on the field in the long term. A lot of people think star rankings – the quick fix is getting the four- and five-star kids — but we kind of look at it almost in a different light. If you can find those three stars or two stars or four stars, whatever they are, that are kids that have a higher ceiling than maybe that five star. That could really become bigger, faster and stronger, really starting to become a great football player than already having, for lack of a better word, tapped out as far as their potential.”
Q: Bret and the staff have made a big deal of that ‘Be uncommon’ theme. You’ve put it on literature everywhere. Commitments have made it a part of their vocabulary, it seems. So how well do you think the message has caught on?
A: “It has. Kids buy into what you’re selling and if you’re consistent with it, I think they really see that we believe in that. We’re not just going to go the everyday common route and try to go after, again, guys that everybody else wants. Everybody else in the country could offer a kid and for whatever reason we might not feel that that kid is what we want in our program. And vice versa. There’s kids that we’ve taken chances on that, for whatever reason, we feel that he’s going to be a guy that will fit into Arkansas. Korliss Marshall, to this point, has been someone who has obviously shown he’s got a bright future and we’ve been right on.”
Q: You’ve had some obvious challenges this month in recruiting without a defensive coordinator. How has that affected what you’ve tried to get accomplished on the defensive side of the ball?
A: “I just don’t think we’ve let it affect us. I’m not saying it maybe hasn’t in some instances. But we’re obviously a great university, a great program with coach Bielema. He’s going to play things the way he wants to play them. We’re going to hire a successful coach that has a great background and is obviously going to help us win football games. So I think people understand that. In the meantime, it’s hard sometimes maybe for the defensive side of the ball to identify with exactly that guy that’s going to run the defense. But I think coach Bielema has handled those questions in meetings and people have been pleasantly surprised with the insight that they get when they’ve met with him.”
Q: The staff has made an emphasis from building this program from the interior out and it looks like you’ve done well on paper in this class. How much progress do you feel like you’ve made in building your offensive line since arriving in December 2012?
A: “It goes unsaid, (offensive line coach) Sam Pittman is probably the best recruiter in the country at the offensive line position. With that, you’re able to go get the guys you really want and we’ve been able to do that again in this year’s class. There’s always that attraction, I guess, to get the best wide receiver, the best running back or this and that. We do believe it starts from the inside out and that’s our offensive line. They’re recruited very well and also coached very well. (Offensive coordinator) Jim Chaney has a huge hand in that, too, because of his offensive background and his offensive line background. The kids realize when they get in here that when they talk with coach Pittman and coach Chaney it’s basically the same terminology, the same everything. When they, hopefully, want to achieve their dreams at the next level they’re more prepared coming into our program than 90 percent of the other programs in the country. They realize that when they get in here and get around our guys and our coaches and see how similar it will be to the next level.”
Q: Bret said in mid-December, right after Charlie Partridge left, that he didn’t think it would create much more than a “blip on the radar” for South Florida recruiting. How well were you able to recruit down there even without Charlie?
A: “I don’t even know how words can describe how valuable that area has been with the last two recruiting classes and it continues again to go into the ’15 class with some of the kids we’ve been on. (Linebackers coach) Randy (Shannon) has done a phenomenal job as far as – I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I felt that way that it would be a blip because Charlie Partridge is really, really good and has a lot of solid connections there. But Randy has done an outstanding job. Again, from my standpoint, we need to have some type of tie just besides Randy down there with how good things are for us at this point. That will be something to figure out, obviously, with this next hire and so on and so forth. But it’s been really good to us. I don’t know where we’d be without it.”
Q: I know recruiting never ends for you guys, but what is today like when the 2014 class is signed and you can present it at all of the events that are lined up?
A: “It goes through its stages. In the morning, everybody is so on edge. Until you get that fax you just never know for sure. Come mid-afternoon when we have the faxes and you have the full story on some of those kids that are still trying to decide between us and another school possibly, it will just be a sign or relief really. And I think everyone can kind of exhale and their body will relax a little bit and take a breath. You just try to enjoy it. And, again, it’s a lot of sitting around and looking at each other at times. We really, obviously, don’t do that a lot in this profession. So it’s kind of a bonding time for us. But it’s also a time to, again, get those 2015 kids on the phone. Contact their high school coaches. We have a schedule of kids to call in and tell them this is what we want you doing a year from now on this date. It’s more of a fun thing than a work thing. It will be enjoyable, hopefully, after about noon, 1:00.”