Arkansas’ new coaching staff received a major recruiting victory Friday with the signing of defensive end Dorian Gerald.
Gerald (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) is a 4-star prospect and the No. 1 JUCO defensive end recruit in the class, according to ESPN. He chose the Hogs over Texas A&M while also holding offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and others.
So, why Arkansas for the former Tennessee commit with many other perceivably better options? The answer begins with Razorbacks defensive coordinator John Chavis, who was hired by Chad Morris in early January after three seasons at Texas A&M.
“The recruiting process, to me, was all about relationships,” Gerald told Brandon Dunn of ABC 15 Sports. “I was committed to Tennessee. I felt like I had the best relationship with those guys, but they left. The next school up was Texas A&M and coach John Chavis. We had been building a huge relationship. He moved to Arkansas, brought a great staff with him and I just felt it was best.”
Signing Gerald should help alleviate concerns about Chavis, at age 61 in his 39th year of coaching, as a recruiter. Arkansas desperately needed a pass-rushing defensive end in its 2018 class. The Chief had one month to secure such a player — with many options off the board after the early signing period — and he signed arguably the best available player.
“They want me to come in to contribute and make an immediate impact,” Gerald said “They don’t really go the JUCO route unless they need someone to come in and play right away and that’s their huge need because they are transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3.”
Gerald officially visited Arkansas in late January. He visited Florida immediately after leaving Fayetteville, and many experts predicted he would sign with the Gators on National Signing Day last Wednesday.
But he opted to push his signing back two days and had narrowed his choices to Arkansas and Texas A&M by Friday. Even then, experts favored Texas A&M in the race to get him. But it was the Razorbacks, with Chavis and surprisingly impressive facilities, that ultimately won out.
“A lot of people don’t know, but Arkansas’ facilities can compete with the best of them,” Gerald said. “They’re up there with Texas A&M, Florida State, all of them.”
Gerald signed with the Hogs surrounded by family at West Florence (S.C.) High School. As a senior at West Florence in 2016, he had no major offers. He took a chance by heading to College of the Canyons in California with hopes of keeping his football dreams alive.
That decision paid off. In two seasons at the junior college level, he had 96 tackles and 22 sacks.
“This is what we dreamed of,” Gerald said of signing with Arkansas. “This is what we did it for. This is why I went to California.”
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