Arkansas has already made one crucial move this offseason — replacing Jeff Long.
The Razorbacks hired away Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek on Monday, completing one of their two important tasks. The new football coach was the next major step in the process, in hopes of restoring the once prominent program.
Yurachek and his staff didn’t take long making a decision: SMU head coach Chad Morris will replace Bret Bielema at Arkansas. The Associated Press reported Morris agreed to a 6-year deal Wednesday.
BREAKING: AP Source: Chad Morris agrees to 6-year contract to become football coach at Arkansas pic.twitter.com/eoc8Ub7Nvd
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) December 6, 2017
While Morris wasn’t the first option on the Razorbacks’ short list, the Arkansas family should be thrilled to have him. Morris brings a number of valuable attributes to the table.
Morris, who celebrated his 49th birthday on Monday, coached 16 years at the Texas high school level, has been an offensive coordinator at Tulsa/Clemson and the head coach of SMU.
Here are five reasons Arkansas fans should be thrilled with Chad Morris hire.
1. Knows offense
Morris is a wizard when it comes to scoring points. The Mustangs were the No. 5 scoring offense against FBS winning opponents in 2017. From 2012-2013, Clemson had a top 10 scoring offense with Morris as the offensive coordinator. During his one season at Tulsa in 2010, the Golden Hurricane were the No. 6 scoring offense.
In his first season as the Mustangs coach, the offense increased its points per game by more than 15 from the previous season. While he was with the Tigers from 2011-2014, Morris helped achieve 127 offensive records. During that span, Clemson had three of its best scoring years in the history of the program.
Morris has had offensive success at every stop he’s been at, giving Arkansas fans reasons to be excited for what is to come.
2. Recruiting presence
Morris has a monster track record at high schools in the state of Texas. That will be instrumental in his ability to recruit the area. Because Arkansas lacks in-state talent, the Razorbacks need to snatch recruits in Texas, Oklahoma and other surrounding states.
He coached 16 years of Texas prep football, gaining vital relationships along the way. His stops at high school level in the Lone Star State include Eustace, Elysian Fields, Bay City, Stephenville and Lake Travis. During that span, six of his teams went to their respective state championship games.
At Clemson, Morris recruited Deshaun Watson, Shaq Lawson, Artavis Scott, Jordan Leggett, Wayne Gallman, Ben Boulware and many other outstanding players who led Clemson to back-to-back national championship games.
It is easier to recruit players to the ACC’s “Death Valley.” Morris faces a higher degree of difficulty getting players to “The Hill,” but his track record should yield little concern for fans.
3. Develops quarterbacks
Tajh Boyd remains one of the all-time great Clemson quarterbacks and much of that is due to Morris. Under the former offensive coordinator, Boyd improved his completion percentage, yards per attempt and quarterback rating every year from 2011-2013. During his senior season, the Clemson offense averaged 40.2 points per game, tied for 8th in the country.
He helped kick-start Deshaun Watson’s career as well. As a true freshman, Watson completed 67.9 percent of his passes and had a 14-2 touchdown-interception ratio playing spots in 2014 before tearing his ACL.
This season, SMU quarterback Ben Hicks is a prime example of how Morris is a “quarterback whisperer.” Hicks’ completion percentage, touchdowns, yards per attempt, passing yards and quarterback rating all spiked under Morris in 2017. The Mustangs scored more than 40 points per game this season.
He coached Jevan Snead in high school who had a successful career at Ole Miss. Morris also watched over Garrett Gilbert at Lake Travis High School. Gilbert set the Texas high school single-season passing yards mark at the time under Morris’ leadership.
4. Learned from Dabo Swinney and Gus Malzahn
Dabo Swinney is one of the best coaches in college football. Depending on whom you ask, some rank him behind only Nick Saban and above Urban Meyer. Three consecutive College Football Playoff appearances and a national title help his case.
Swinney has had only one losing season at Clemson. In his time there, Swinney has had six All-Americans — Shaq Lawson, Deshaun Watson and Vic Beasley to name a few. He won numerous coaching awards in 2015, including the AP Coach of the Year.
Swinney’s teams have shined in the postseason, winning 7 of 11 games. The Tigers managed to beat Alabama in the championship in 2017, a task many others have failed at. He has had double digit wins for the past seven seasons.
Some of Swinney’s coaching traits and wisdom have rubbed off on Morris. Kirby Smart’s quick success at Georgia should give Arkansas fans hope after he was with Nick Saban for so many years.
Morris and Malzahn never worked together, but Malzahn’s innovative offenses influenced Morris early in his career.
5. Wants Brent Venables
Arkansas hasn’t had a good defense since 2014. Even that unit doesn’t compare to what Brent Venables has been able to establish at Clemson. His defensive lines have been destructive, leading all FBS schools in tackles for loss the past four seasons.
According to FootballScoop.com, Morris is will try to lure Venables from Clemson and become his defensive coordinator. While this might be a long shot, Morris is certainly showing that he aims to have a salty defense. The two worked together at Clemson from 2012-2014.
Clemson is second in the country in 2017, at allowing only 12.8 points per game. The Tigers are No. 8 in passing yards given up, 13th in rushing yards allowed and No. 6 in total yards surrendered. They also lead the nation with 44 sacks.
Venables was at the Broyles Award Presentation Monday — an award he won in 2016 — in Little Rock. He was asked about the Arkansas head coaching job by Sports Talk’s Bo Mattingly. Venables mentioned his representatives have spoken with people connected in Arkansas.
We asked Brent Venables if he’s a candidate for the Arkansas job. Here’s his response: pic.twitter.com/JsytaCUkc7
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) December 4, 2017
Source: Saturday Down South