Arkansas football: Why are Hogs on track for first 10-loss season ever?
Arkansas is on track for its first 10-loss season in school history. A 45-31 loss to Vanderbilt last Saturday made that extremely likely. The Hogs are 2-7 with three games remaining — LSU, at Mississippi State and at Missouri. Barring something drastic in the coming weeks, Arkansas is going to be a heavy underdog in each of those games.
Losses in these final three contests were to be expected even before the season. It’s the losses to the likes of Vanderbilt that have some Razorback faithful frustrated in head coach Chad Morris’ first season.
Rightfully so, because Vanderbilt does not have more talent than Arkansas. Not even this Arkansas team. The Razorbacks’ average SEC recruiting class ranking over the past five years is 11th. Vanderbilt’s is 13.6 after having the worst-ranked recruiting class in the conference four of the past five years. The Commodores defeated the Hogs, however, just as Colorado State and North Texas did in September.
The point is, this season’s failures cannot all be blamed on talent alone. Key coaching decisions have been especially troubling in all three of those losses.
There were the inexcusable failures on defense when the Hogs allowed four touchdown drives in the final 20 minutes against Colorado State. Rams quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels led that comeback and he has since been benched. There was the decision to start Cole Kelley against North Texas and not turn to Ty Storey at any point even as Kelley threw four interceptions and gave the Hogs no chance to win. Against Vanderbilt, there was the failure to stop or even adjust to the Commodores’ screen passes which continually gouged Arkansas’ defense at crucial moments.
All that being said, it’s painfully obvious the players are not a fit for what Morris wants. That is also a significant reason Arkansas is where it is right now. And that’s most evident at quarterback and wide receiver.
Storey has improved greatly and is at least capable of pointing the offense in the right direction most of the time. He’s easily the Razorbacks’ best option at quarterback right now. He’s just not nearly talented enough to help this up-tempo offense reach its full capability.
Also, Arkansas has no standouts at wide receiver. It’s just a bunch of decent options with tight end C.J. O’Grady serving as by far the greatest receiving threat. For this, the previous coaching staff is to blame. It’s not as if any of these receivers or quarterbacks would be a good fit in any offense at the SEC level.
It is interesting, though, that running back Rakeem Boyd has clearly been Arkansas’ best offensive player. The new coaching staff signed him in February. It’s an indication this staff knows exactly what it needs to thrive with the Razorbacks and is capable of bringing such players to Fayetteville.
And that is where the hope lies for Arkansas fans. Even with the possibility of a 10-loss season very likely, the coaching staff is showing an ability to recruit at a high level. The Hogs’ 2019 recruiting class has 23 commitments and currently ranks No. 16 nationally according to the 247Sports composite.
So, was Morris dealt a good hand when he arrived at Arkansas last December? Not at all. But he also hasn’t exactly gotten the most out of it. And for that, he shouldn’t be immune to criticism as Arkansas nosedives toward 10 losses.
At least he and his staff are doing an effective job of stacking the deck in their favor for the future. Maybe within a couple years, Morris will have a hand he does know how to play.