Arkansas football: 5 biggest mistakes Chad Morris has made since arriving
Things haven’t gone so well for Chad Morris since leaving SMU for the limelight of the SEC. The lure of becoming a head coach in the best conference in America brought this Texan across the border. But more and more among Hog Nation are jumping on the bandwagon with those who, in 2 years and 15 consecutive SEC losses, have run out of patience, concluding that Morris is simply in over his head.
Whether that’s true is debatable, but the facts remain that the Arkansas football program under Morris has taken a decidedly downward trend and as the weeks pass, optimism for a turnaround wanes.
And that’s before Saturday’s visit to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 1-ranked Alabama.
Morris has made some mistakes since arriving at Fayetteville. Here are 5 of the biggest.
1. Not moving his family with him to Fayetteville
Not a good look. If Morris can’t get his own family to buy into the program and come with him to Arkansas, how do we expect him to get the players to commit to it? Morris’ family remains in Texas, including a high school son, whom he jets back and forth to see play. Chandler Morris is a 5-10, 172-pound dual-threat QB who has committed to play for his dad at Arkansas.
We understand the reasons. Morris didn’t want to uproot everybody’s life, especially with a son in high school.
But it was the wrong move (see what I did there?) from the beginning and things have only spiraled ever since.
2. Making big promises
You’ll remember when upon arriving in Fayetteville, Morris said, “This will be one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football.”
I’m sure he thought that would happen. An offensive guru, he recruited Deshaun Watson and helped Clemson turn that program around and set it on the course it continues to ride today.
Those words ring of overconfidence and lack of awareness less than 2 years later. Arkansas ranked 14th in the SEC in scoring offense last season at 21.7 points per game.
This season is better, Arkansas ranks 11th (24.7 points per game), but by no means is it one of the most explosive in college football. And the Hogs still have to play Alabama and LSU.
3. Developing the offensive line
Injuries have been a factor, but the depleted offensive line has not seen much in the way of improvement in the 2 years under Morris. In the 2018 recruiting class, Morris brought in 3 3-star tackles. The 2019 class includes 4 3-star tackles and 2 3-star centers. So far in the class of 2020, Morris has zero commits from offensive linemen.
Only one of those signees has started a game this season for a line that has had criticism heaped on it.
4. Not pulling in the better talent from Texas
A big reason for the hire was Morris’ connections with Texas recruits. He was a high school head football coach in the state of Texas from 1994-2009. But that hasn’t seemed to help him draw the better talent from one of the largest hotbeds in the nation.
Morris has pulled in fewer than a handful of 4-star standouts from the Lone Star State over 2 recruiting classes — Bumper Pool being the biggest name yet. He was No. 18 nationally at his position in the 2018 class, according to 247sports.com.
Of course, quarterback transfers Ben Hicks and Nick Starkel are Texans, but neither has proven he can be a consistent starter at this level. And Morris’ son, who is playing for Highland Park in Dallas, is on the way.
But overall, Morris’ connections with Texas have not panned out as hoped.
There are lots of mitigating factors. Morris inherited a roster that didn’t fit with his system. It needed to be overhauled and that takes time.
Morris could have helped the process, however, by adjusting better to what he had.
He still hasn’t found a quarterback, which is the key to his system.
Details aside, it all boils down to this: Losing to Colorado State, barley beating Portland State before losing again to San Jose State. You don’t recover from that, not in Year 2, especially when you still haven’t won a conference game.
It’s one thing to struggle to win in the SEC, but when you don’t take care of the “cupcakes” on the schedule, there’s a problem. It’s a systemic problem, the culmination of a series of problems within the program.
Arkansas has to win the winnable games, there can be no excuses. In 2 seasons, Morris is 4-3 outside of the SEC, games most programs would consider “rent-a-win” games. That’s not a record any coach can point to for job security, especially in the SEC.