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Hogs: Football Notebook for Feb. 6

FAYETTEVILLE — Randy Shannon has a new title with the Arkansas football program. But it’s not defensive coordinator.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema announced Wednesday — during the Razorbacks’ signing day press conference — that Shannon was being promoted to senior associate head coach. His search for a defensive coordinator continues.

“Randy and I talked right away after the departure of Chris and Randy is going to bump up a little bit on our staff,” Bielema said. “He helps me in so many ways from everything from football to recruiting, to I’ve hired a couple of people he had hired in the past to work in our academics and work in our strength staff. …

“(The defensive coordinator position is) something I’ve been concentrating on, but I think because of where we’re at in the recruiting cycle and what we needed, it really wasn’t an issue with any kid that we came across. That’s why I opted to really put that decision making off until now.”

Shannon was believed to be in consideration for the defensive coordinator position, which opened when Chris Ash left the program to become the co-offensive coordinator at Ohio State. Former Rutgers defensive coordinator Robb Smith also is believed to be a candidate for the position, which has been vacant since Jan. 14.

Shannon declined to discuss whether he wanted the defensive coordinator job, insisting the day was about the players who signed with the Razorbacks.

“Right now, it’s all about what we’re doing at Arkansas,” Shannon said. “What we’re doing, trying to get this recruiting class done and things like that. Everybody’s going to hit me with the things about being a coordinator and those things. Only thing that matters to me right now is what we did in recruiting.”

His new position is expected to include a pay raise, but salary figures were not available. Shannon outlined some of his duties Wednesday.

“Something I may see, I may just take it up to him,” Shannon said. “Because, as a head coach, you’ve got so many different things going on. … He said that’s what he wants me to continue to do is help him because sometimes you don’t see as a head coach. You know, like anything - nobody sees anything when you’re the supervisor. You think everything is going hunky-dory and it’s not sometimes.

“If we’re all supporting each other we’re going to win.”

Shannon will continue to play a big role on the recruiting trail as well.

The Razorbacks signed five players from South Florida thanks to Shannon’s ties in the area. The former Miami head coach, assistant and player helped Arkansas continue to enjoy success in the area after Charlie Partridge’s departure.

Bielema hopes to have his next defensive coordinator within the next week.

“It’s something I’m working through,” Bielema said. “I visited with several people on the road. Visited with several coaches on the phone.”

Welcome JoJo

Arkansas didn’t get the news it was hoping for early Wednesday morning, when five-star defensive end Solomon Thomas announced his decision to attend Stanford during ESPNU’s National Signing Day broadcast. But the Razorbacks did gain one significant signing day addition to round out the class before Wednesday ended.

Receiver JoJo Robinson, who is rated as a four-star prospect on a five-star scale, selected Arkansas after previously making a verbal commitment to Florida State.

“He and (early enrollee Jared) Cornelius are both kids that can play in the slot, have good speed, good hands,” Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said. “They’re fearless. They can return punts. They’re good football players. So I’m tickled to death with those guys. It will be fun to see. I think JoJo is a very good player.”

Another Possibility

The signing day rush is over. But Arkansas may not be done signing players.

Westgate (La.) High defensive tackle Tae Thibodeaux did not sign Wednesday after reportedly receiving late offers, including one from the Razorbacks. Thibodeaux is rated as a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com and Scout.com.

Thibodeaux revealed on Twitter he plans to visit Arkansas Feb. 21.

In-State Group

Arkansas signed five players from the state: Springdale High defensive end Jake Hall, Eldorado High defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson, Pine Bluff High safety Josh Liddell, North Little Rock running back Juan Day and Bentonville High tight end Jack Kraus.

Bielema said he’d have no problem signing more if they’re talented enough to compete in the Southeastern Conference, but can’t “create numbers.”

“I was excited because I think the players that are here are very, very good,” Bielema said about recruiting the state. “The good news is, in my opinion, the classes coming up have a lot of talent. That’s the way I think Arkansas has been.”

Bielema looked back at the number of in-state prospects who have signed the past several years and said it has “fluctuated” from year to year. Tight ends coach Barry Lunney said recruiting the state is always important for the Razorbacks.

“As anybody who’s followed this program for any length of time knows, it’s the source, it’s the heartbeat of your program,” Lunney said. “What’s critical here — always has been and always will be — is the ones that you’ve identified, that you think are good enough to help you, you better hit a really high percentage of them.”

Kelly-Thomas Gone

Bielema also revealed Wednesday that defensive end Darrell Kelly-Thomas was no longer with the program.

The sophomore was part of Arkansas’ 2011 signing class. He played in three games during the 2012 season, but did not appear in a game last fall.

Kelly-Thomas joins linebacker A.J. Turner, cornerback Ray Buchanan Jr., linebacker Myke Tavarres, running back Nate Holmes and receiver Melvinson Hartfield as players who have left the program since the end of the season.

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