During the halcyon days of the old Southwest Conference, Arkansas jutted out from Texas like a sixth toe of sorts. Eight of the schools flew the Lone Star flag, while the Razorbacks sat to the northeast, SWC members but certainly not Texas.
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Unless you looked at the roster. Sure, the Hogs grabbed every standout they could from the home state, but they also dipped into Texas for talent. UA stalwarts Chuck Dicus, Loyd Phillips, Lance Alworth, Bill Montgomery and Joe Ferguson were all Texas natives, and new Hogs coach Chad Morris understands the importance of looking to other locales to fill out recruiting classes.
“When Arkansas was in its heyday, it won with a mix of players from Arkansas and Texas, Tulsa and Memphis,” he says. That’s the footprint we need to win at Arkansas.”
Morris sure knows Texas. He spent 16 years as a head coach in the state, and as recently as 2009 he was on a prep sideline. His rise from Friday night to the big chair in the SEC program has been meteoric and is due to his potent offensive mind, attention to detail and commitment to doing things right. In just nine years, he has gone from Tulsa’s offensive coordinator to OC at Clemson to SMU’s head-coaching spot to Fayetteville, where he will try to help the Hogs gain traction in the treacherous West Division.
He’ll have a dangerous scheme, all right, but he needs the players to make it work. When Morris estimates that 2019 “will be a good year” for in-state players, he means there are seven or eight prospects good enough to win in the SEC. Florida this ain’t. Even though Morris has already built relationships with coaches and prospects throughout The Natural State, the bulk of his recruiting classes will have to come from Somewhere Else.
“We have to make the logo popular,” he says about Arkansas’ charging razorback. “Right now, it’s not popular. There are two types of recruits. One says, ‘The logo’s popular, and I want to go there.’ The other says. ‘That logo isn’t popular; I want to make it popular.’”
Morris has been popular for a while. He helped Clemson make a power move nationally with his attack and became the highest-paid D-I assistant in the process. At SMU, he took over a 1-10 team and lifted it to 7-5 three years later. He comes to Arkansas with the requisite Texas roots, a hot system and a mandate to compete at the highest FBS levels possible.
“Everywhere he’s been, whether it’s been as a high school coach, offensive coordinator at Tulsa, coordinator at Clemson and at SMU, he’s had success,” says Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek. “He has brought the type of culture and attention to detail that a young person needs to have to be successful in the classroom and on the field on Saturday.”
Now, he just needs to sell that -- inside and outside the state of Arkansas.