In the land of Rebels, Bulldogs, Volunteers and Tigers (oh my!), the Hogs are excited about their football future under new coach Chad Morris.
Arkansas Razorback fans in the Mid-South got a chance to meet and hear from their new football coach last week when Morris visited the local Razorback Club annual fundraiser.
The area Razorback Club annually meets at Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis for a fundraiser and Morris was this year’s featured speaker.
Morris was hired away from Southern Methodist last December after three seasons leading the Mustangs, a team that last year fashioned a 7-5 record and a Frisco Bowl bid, SMU’s first postseason appearance since 2012.
He’ll be charged with improving Arkansas’ football fortunes, which last season included a 4-8 record and a seventh-place finish in the SEC West.
That result led to the firing of coach Bret Bielema, whose Razorback record was 29-34 over five seasons after three Big 10 Conference championship years at Wisconsin.
For Morris, the recently-completed spring practice period has had him learning about his squad, who they are and what they can do.
“The transition part is just learning new guys and them learning a new system and adapting,” Morris said. “We have to develop our team speed and I think that’s an area that has to be developed. Creating depth is one thing to be successful in this league (SEC) and we have to be a player-led football team, not a coach-led football team.”
Depth was an area that Bielema had trouble building at Arkansas, whose teams never did better than a tie for third place in the SEC West in 2015, a season climaxed by a 45-23 Liberty Bowl win in Memphis over Kansas State.
An important area for the Razorbacks this fall will be at quarterback, where Morris didn’t see any one of his signal callers break away and establish himself as the number one guy when the spring game was played in Little Rock.
“We’ll put one out there on the field in September,” said Morris. “I don’t know which one but there’ll be one out there. We got a great competition going on with Ty Storey and Cole Kelley.”
Kelley started four of nine games played for the Razorbacks last season and threw for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns. Storey briefly played in three games of the 2016 season.
Morris was more glowing about the defensive side of the ball, where he feels Arkansas is more solid in the heart of that side of the field.
“I knew we were going to be pretty good at linebacker,” Morris noted. “Dre Greenlaw is an outstanding leader and him and Scooter Harris have done a really good job anchoring that linebacker corps.”
Still, Morris said he was excited about where the team finished spring practice, but added his team needs to have a “great summer.”
The new coach also said he is placing added emphasis on recruiting high school talent inside the state.
“It’s so important that we’re going to divide 10 coaches around this state,” Morris stressed. “Every coach will have an area of this state. We’ll comb through this state and find all of the talented players that we can find.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.