Mor­ris aim­ing to turn Ra­zor­backs around

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Nate Allen

FAYET­TEVILLE - What hap­pened at Clem­son can hap­pen at Arkansas, Chad Mor­ris said.

In fact, the new Arkansas Ra­zor­backs coach banks on it hap­pen­ing.

Of­fi­cially hired Wed­nes­day to suc­ceed Bret Bielema as Arkansas’ head coach, Mor­ris was in­tro­duced Thurs­day, and he re­called coach Dabo Swin­ney’s 2010 Clem­son Tigers had only gone 6-7, but were build­ing when Mor­ris joined them as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in 2011.

Clem­son went 10-4, 11-3, 11-3 and 10-3 dur­ing Mor­ris’ ten­ure and still are go­ing strong.

De­Shaun Wat­son, the quar­ter­back that Mor­ris re­cruited, led Clem­son to suc­ces­sive 14-1 sea­sons and a na­tional run­ner-up and na­tional cham­pi­onship for 2015 and 2016.

Even with Wat­son in the NFL, the cur­rent Tigers rank No. 1 and are in the Sugar Bowl as part of the four-team Col­lege Foot­ball Play­offs.

It hap­pened there and it can hap­pen here, Mor­ris told a gath­er­ing of me­dia, Ra­zor­backs staffs and fans.

Clem­son had the tra­di­tion and fan base to do it and so does Arkansas, Mor­ris said, cit­ing the Ra­zor­backs tra­di­tion that in­cludes 42 bowl games, 13 con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships and crowned by the 1964 na­tional cham­pi­onship achieved un­der late Hall of Fame coach Frank Broyles.

“Clem­son came off a 6-7 sea­son and had just got­ten beat by South Florida in a bowl game,” Mor­ris said. “So com­ing in and see­ing the sim­i­lar­i­ties to seven years ago and build­ing that pro­gram and where the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas is right now, the sim­i­lar­i­ties are re­ally scary as you look at it and how we can build this thing.”

First coach­ing col­lege as the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for 10-3 Tulsa team in 2010, Mor­ris as a first-time col­lege head coach in 2015 at SMU in­her­ited a Mus­tangs team that went 1-11 in 2014 and of­fen­sively ranked 128th among the na­tion’s 128 teams play­ing Di­vi­sion 1 foot­ball. They only im­proved to 2-10 in 2015, but af­ter a 5-7 2016, they blos­somed to 7-5 this year, rank­ing eighth na­tion­ally of­fen­sively av­er­ag­ing more than 40 points per game and headed for the Frisco Bowl to play Louisiana Tech.

Hunter Yu­rachek, Arkansas’ ath­letic direc­tor who was hired this week and gave fi­nal ap­proval to the Mor­ris coach­ing hire made by in­terim ath­letic direc­tor Julie Cromer Peo­ples, was hired from the Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton whose foot­ball team an­nu­ally plays SMU in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence.

On Thurs­day, Yu­rachek first­hand de­scribed the dis­par­ity be­tween SMU’s 2014 team be­fore Mor­ris and the 2017 Mus­tangs with him.

“We com­peted against the 7-5 SMU team this year, and I can tell you there was a huge dif­fer­ence in those two pro­grams un­der his lead­er­ship,” Yu­rachek said. “When I heard that we were on track to hire Chad Mor­ris, I was ex­cited and I was on board from the start.”

Mor­ris is renowned for his in­no­va­tive, quick-strik­ing, fast­paced no-hud­dle of­fenses, but said above all, he’s “a high school coach.”

Mor­ris logged 16 years coach­ing high school ball in Texas, in­clud­ing three state cham­pi­onships and re­la­tion­ships he said helped him re­cruit Tex­ans to Clem­son and SMU. He brings them now to Arkansas, adding to the base he al­ways ex­pects to re­cruit in Arkansas and neigh­bor­ing states, es­pe­cially Louisiana and Ok­la­homa be­sides Texas.

“I'm a high school foot­ball coach and I'm ex­tremely, ex­tremely proud to say that,” Mor­ris said. “When you're a HS coach, you have to wash the clothes, you have to line the field, you've got to meet with boost­ers, you've got to meet the English teacher. You've got to be in the lunch room on lunch duty. You get it. I'm able to walk into a room at the HS coaches of­fice and sit down and re­late im­me­di­ately to what their day to day life is. To the high school coaches in our state, we're here for you. This is your uni­ver­sity.”

Mor­ris also ex­tended an open in­vi­ta­tion to Ra­zor­backs past.

“To all Ra­zor­backs past, present and fu­ture, I’ve got a plan,” Mor­ris said. “I need you to be a part of this. This is your home. We're go­ing to make a spe­cial ef­fort daily to wel­come you back. We want you here, we need you here. You're wel­come back with open arms all day, any day.”

Mor­ris de­scribed his of­fen­sive style as mul­ti­ple, “an ex­cit­ing brand of foot­ball that'll be spread side­line to side­line end zone to end zone. We'll go fast and we'll play fast and we'll have fun do­ing it. De­fen­sively, we'll be built around stop­ping the run. In this con­fer­ence, you have to stop the run. I firmly be­lieve that. I'll hire the best de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in all of foot­ball. That's our stan­dard.”

Mor­ris, com­pli­ment­ing Bielema on the im­pact the now for­mer five-year Arkansas coach wielded on his Ra­zor­backs play­ers, said he will meet with Bielema’s still at

Arkansas staff.

How­ever, it’s ob­vi­ous he in­tends to bring in a ma­jor­ity if not all new coaches.

Mor­ris did not get spe­cific on whom he’ll bring in, es­pe­cially with SMU ready­ing for the Dec. 20 Frisco Bowl, but Randy Ross, Mor­ris’ direc­tor of foot­ball op­er­a­tions at SMU, at­tended Thurs­day’s press con­fer­ence.

Mor­ris said he had an emo­tional part­ing with his SMU team on Wed­nes­day in Dal­las and a good first-meet­ing with the Ra­zor­backs Thurs­day.

Mor­ris was asked about re­ceiver Jared Cor­nelius, the lead­ing re­turn­ing re­ceiver from 2016 who was in­jured for the sea­son af­ter just three games in 2017 and is el­i­gi­ble for a fifth-year se­nior hard­ship sea­son in 2018 if he doesn’t turn pro.

“All in­di­ca­tions are he’s com­ing back,” Mor­ris said. “I know he had an in­jury this year and we are go­ing to put a top 10 re­ceiver this year in the draft from SMU. So why not? Why wouldn’t you want to come back and play into some­thing that’s go­ing to be fun and ex­cit­ing?”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.