FAYETTEVILLE — Four-star rated recruits quarterback Connor Noland, 6-3, 205, of Greenwood, inside linebacker Bumper Pool, 6-2, 213, of Lovejoy High School in Lucas, Texas, and defensive back Ladarrius Bishop , 6-0, 189, of Ashdown headline the seven signees for the Arkansas Razorbacks in Wednesday’s opening of the 3-day December early signing period.
Rated 3-stars by various recruiting services, defensive linemen Billy Ferrell, 6-3, 331, of Fordyce and Isaiah Nichols, 6-4, 275, of Springdale, offensive lineman Silas Robinson, 6-4, 300, of Yoakum, Texas and receiver Michael Woods, 6-2, 180 of Magnolia, Texas also signed Wednesday with new Arkansas coach Chad Morris’ Razorbacks.
The stars lavished by the recruiting services seem among the least of Morris’ considerations.
“We don’t star recruit,” Morris said. “A guy may be a 2-star or a 5-star. Does he fit? Because if he fits, that’s what we want.”
Morris was hired away from SMU only Dec. 6 to replace former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema but seems confident the seven he signed Wednesday will fit.
“Seven, expecting possibly one to two more may join us by Friday,” Morris said. “ Four defensive players, three offensive players and definitely feel like we addressed some of the speed and the size and the length we were going after.”
Noland’s signing spot, he was visiting The Coliseum in Rome when he tweeted a photo, makes his signing nationally unique.
“I said that would be hard to top across the country,” Morris said. “I don't know if anybody could top that one. To have Connor Noland sign from that venue was pretty special. That will be one we talk about for a long time.”
Noland, rated a 4-star by ESPN an 247 Sports, passed for a career 61 touchdowns and 5,768 yards at Greenwood and this 2017 season quarterbacked coach Rick Jones’ Bulldogs to a 13-0 record Class 6A state championship.
He also is a standout baseball pitcher who will get his chance with Coach Dave Van Horn’s baseball Razorbacks, Morris said Wednesday, though there is speculation, prompting a question to Morris, that Noland could be offering a pro baseball draft offer out of high school this summer.
“I am just going with what he and I have talked about,” Morris said. “I know that he is a fantastic baseball player and I look forward to watching him play. But I feel confident all indications are he’s going to be here and be ready to go.”
Regarding Noland’s football ability, Morris said, I'm really excited about him. I got to go spend some time with him and his family. I'm really excited about his competitive background that he brings. I think he's gonna be a great player for us.”
Pool, rated 4-star by Rivals and 247 Sports, totaled 166 tackles this past season including 14 for losses, broke up four passes, forced three fumbles and intercepted three passes and scored six touchdowns employed when Lovejoy High used the wildcat offense.
“We recruited Bumper for quite some time,” Morris said. “A lot of insight on him, excited about what he brings with a hard-nosed approach at the linebacker position.”
Originally committed to Mississippi State, Morris persuaded Bishop, rated 4-star by Rivals and 3-star by ESPN and 247, starred both as a running back and cornerback at Ashdown and was Rivals’ second-ranked player in Arkansas and has clocked 4.4 in the 40-yard dash.
“A young man we felt like we had to have with some speed and athleticism at cornerback,” Morris said. “Obviously he was committed to another school. So right here in our own state we had to go get that guy and I think he's gonna bring a lot to our program. He's got the size at corner.”
Ferrell was another not Razorbacks bound until Morris’ arrival.
“B.J. Ferrell was a young man that we offered when we first got here,” Morris said. “I’m really excited about him and his size and athleticism from Fordyce. We saw some clips of him playing running back. Excited about him.”
Nichols had orally committed to the Bielema regime and was quickly re-recruited by Morris.
“He was committed and I went over and did a home visit,” Morris said. “He was kind of wavering with the unknowns and I went over there to see that young man. He comes from a great program and athleticism.”
Robinson apparently would be the lineman most apt to throw a surprise pass.
“ He’s big, athletic” Morris said. “As a matter of fact played quarterback just a few years ago.”
Morris had received commitments from Robinson and Woods at SMU before Morris moved to Arkansas.
Woods, the lone receiver of the seven, is “very dynamic and explosive and he’s got great size.”
Woods is a mid-term high school graduate who will enroll for spring semester in January at the UA,” Morris said.
Nichols graduated from Springdale High at midterm and also is presumed to enroll in January and participate in the Razorbacks’ winter conditioning program and spring football practices.
Expected to bring SMU strength coach Tramain Carroll to Arkansas following SMU’s Frisco Bowl game Wednesday night against Louisiana Tech in Frisco, Texas, Morris has not hired a defensive coordinator nor a single defensive coach since he says he will co-hire a defensive staff with the defensive coordinator.