FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — New Arkansas coach Chad Morris had 13 days to add his touch to an early recruiting class that former coach Bret Bielema had spent years working on.
Morris took a break from his hectic first few weeks in Fayetteville to celebrate that work and reflect on his first two weeks on the job.
Arkansas signed seven high school players to letters of intent Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period, including four from Arkansas and three from Texas — where Morris began his career as a high school coach and later coached at SMU before being hired by the Razorbacks .
Morris started visiting recruits on the very night he was introduced as the new coach, and he spent every day through last weekend’s on-campus recruiting visits in contact with players he hopes can help turn around a program that finished 4-8 last season. In between, he watched an Arkansas high school football championship game, was introduced to fans at a Arkansas basketball game and spent countless hours working to fill out his coaching staff.
“To say that we were going to hit the ground running 13 days ago, I think is an understatement,” Morris said.
Among the signees was quarterback Connor Noland of Greenwood, Arkansas. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Noland had the most memorable signing ceremony of the day, inking his scholarship papers while visiting the Colosseum in Rome and positing it on Twitter.
Noland, who is also a top baseball prospect and could potentially be drafted by a major league team this summer, was committed to Arkansas under Bielema and stayed true to his home state following Bielema’s firing. He had interest from schools including Texas A&M, Penn State and UCLA.
“That would be hard to top across the country,” Morris said of Noland signing in Rome. “I don’t know if anybody could top that one. To have Connor Noland sign from that venue is pretty special.”
Morris said it wasn’t until after the weekend’s official visits ended on Sunday when he finally had a chance to begin evaluating the current roster, all the while continuing his search for a defensive coordinator.
He expects to sign another player or two before the early signing period ends on Friday, adding to Noland; defensive lineman Isaiah Nichols, Springdale, Ark.; defensive back Ladarrius Bishop, Ashdown, Ark.; wide receiver Michael Woods, Magnolia, Texas; defensive lineman Billy Ferrell, Fordyce, Ark.; offensive lineman Silas Robinson, Yoakum, Texas; and linebacker Bumper Pool of Lucas, Texas.
“It’s been non-stop all the way up until last Friday when we had an official visit weekend,” Morris said. “It’s been pretty wild, let me tell you. I couldn’t recall exactly where I’ve been because I’ve been so many places.”
Follow Kurt Voigt on Twitter @Kurt_Voigt_AP