I hope you’re sitting down Arkansas fans..
You won’t win any titles in 2019. Thankfully, nobody is expecting them to and it all falls into the Chad Morris plan.
Coming off the first 10 loss season in Arkansas history, 22 players going into the transfer portal and 52 freshmen on the roster, it could be easy to panic. But this is familiar territory to Chad Morris.
“I’ve been in this position before. I’ve stood in the same area of record, of building a program. Year one at Arkansas was like when we got to Clemson and watching the values and the vision that were set in place and in movement and the challenges that you had to go through in changing a culture. Year one at SMU (was similar).”Via SB Nation
There is a reason Chad Morris was one of the highest paid assistants while he was at Clemson. You can also look back at his SMU days and see, like he mentioned, he expected this. while most focus on the sky falling in Fayetteville, lets look at the positive comeback in the Razorbacks future.
Morris Was Molded For Rebuilds
Morris started his career as a high school coach in Texas and was incredibly successful. From 1994-2009 Morris compiled a Texas high school record of 169-38 as well as multiple championships. After a brief stop in Tulsa, Morris was on to help turn Clemson into the powerhouse it is today.
The two years prior to Morris arriving at Clemson, the Tigers went 15-12. Clemson would go 42-11 during his time at Clemson at it helped springboard them into the dynasty they have grown into.
Next was his time as the head coach at SMU. His first season was nothing short of a disaster as the Mustangs went 2-10. 2016 they improved to 5-7 and 2017 they finished at 7-5. He left SMU for the Arkansas job and that is where we are today.
2018 could not have gone much worse.
When we asked this question on Twitter, this was a popular response. Arkansas should never get blown out by North Texas and lose to Colorado State in the same season. Ever. But this is where his Clemson/SMU experience comes in. That starts with finding the right talent.
While Morris was at SMU he had two recruiting classes that were all Texas players. Texas just breeds players different and putting a strong focus on recruiting Texas pays off. Morris used his strong Texas ties to land a top 25 recruiting class in 2019. Former Razorbacks QB, Casey Dick echoed this belief in recruiting Texas:
“We have great football here in Arkansas, but it’s a different thing in Texas,” Casey Dick told Dudley E. Dawson of Hawgs Illustrated. “It means everything to them. Nowhere is football as important as it is to the people of Texas.
“It is just what you do growing up in Texas, and that’s why there are so many great teams and great players in Texas. There is so much support, and programs put so much money into it, and kids play from the time they can run. Arkansas got away from recruiting Texas, and I think that is part of why things started to turn the wrong way.”Via Saturdays Down South
Morris actually had more players from Texas (6) than he did recruits from Arkansas (5) in that 2019 class. For Morris to be able to pull a top 25 class in what was one of the worst seasons in Arkansas shows how far he can take this team. But first he will have to be patient and convince players to buy in. Luckily that second part is starting to take hold.
A Slow Build For Long Term Success
I previously mentioned the insane amount of freshman and an exodus of players to the transfer portal. At first glance it would be easy to panic. That is until you realize what Morris has replaced them with.
Arkansas was one of the worst teams in the country last season on both offense and defense. QB play was a disaster and it equated to a combined 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. So the easiest way to look at it, there’s nowhere to go but up, here’s why that’s true.
Morris has a QB battle on his hands worth keeping track of. His old SMU QB, Ben Hicks. Hicks had 2,582 yards and 19 touchdowns and yes, for those keeping track at home, that is more than Arkansas had last season. Morris also has Texas A&M transfer, Nick Starkel. Whoever comes out ahead should help put the Razorbacks in better position, but they don’t have to do that alone.
Arkansas returns two receivers and a tight end from last season as well as adding on 6-5 four star freshman, Trey Knox. Returning half your offense, bringing in talented freshmen and a QB familiar with your system is almost guaranteed growth. But most important is the older guys starting to buy in.
“I feel like as seniors, we hold the majority of the team accountable,” De’Jon Harris said. “That’s really what it was last year, no accountability on the team. I feel like everybody understands their role on the team and we bought into what coach Morris and coach Tru(main Carroll) emphasize all offseason. We’re just ready to put all the pieces together now.”Via SDS
They system is starting to take shape, the players are getting on campus and growth is coming. Patience will be key as Morris develops his system but even coaches around the SEC know that success is eminent for the Razorbacks.
“You know, it is strange that we hadn’t played them until this point, but it will be a real challenge for us,” Stoops said. “I have great respect for Coach Morris and what he’s done. I know they can move the football. There’s no doubt about that.Quote from Mark Stoops via SEC Media Days
“You saw them last year against some of the most elite defenses in the country move the ball very, very successfully. I know they didn’t have the results in the win-loss column that they wanted, but there’s no doubt in my mind you’re going to see a big jump by them this year.”
2019 and Beyond
There won’t be a miraculous turnaround in 2019, as I have mentioned, but stay patient. Morris has a proven record that his rebuilds are slow and steady, but they work.
The biggest bright spot will come in more wins in 2019. Arkansas should get at least four wins against Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State and Tulsa. It isn’t out of the question for the Razorbacks to steal a win against Kentucky, Ole Miss or Missouri as well. If you can say one thing about Chad Morris, he is consistent. 2019 likely holds five wins. After a 2-10 start at SMU, Morris went 5-7. Hang in there Fayetteville, you have the right guy.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Love all things college football and hate all things Michigan Wolverines