New UA football coach Morris recruiting for Dec. 20 payoff

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017
New Arkansas football coach Chad Morris address the crowd during the Minnesota basketball game Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, during the first half in Bud Walton Arena.
Photo by Andy Shupe
New Arkansas football coach Chad Morris address the crowd during the Minnesota basketball game Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, during the first half in Bud Walton Arena.

FAYETTEVILLE -- New Arkansas Razorbacks football Coach Chad Morris thinks he and his staff have time to assemble a strong class of signees for the first early signing date in college football on Dec. 20-22.

Speaking after his introductory news conference Thursday, Morris said "100 percent recruiting, recruiting, recruiting" is his top priority in the coming days.

"I think we've got a chance to put together an elite class," he said. "We're not going to rush. We're not going to jump out there and sign someone to be signing.

"We're going to find the right fit. If that's not the case, we're going to sit back on it and see what happens after that in January."

The traditional signing day on the first Wednesday in February still will take place, but most FBS programs expect to land the bulk of their classes on those three days before Christmas.

Morris spent part of Saturday at the Class 4A state championship game at War Memorial Stadium. He and former Arkansas quarterback Barry Lunney Jr. were there to observe Warren junior receiver Treylon Burks.

Morris, who spoke to a full house at Walton Arena during the Razorbacks' home game against Minnesota on Saturday, already is wielding the power of social media. He has started the tagline "RazorbackFAST18" to attach to his online posts.

He has extolled the talents of the top-level athletes he and his staff have been recruiting without mentioning them by name.

An example, "Just had an amazing home visit with a dynamic playmaker and an incredible family! Great Day 1," Morris posted to his Twitter account.

Also on Friday, he posted, "Had some great phone conversations today with future Hogs...can't wait to get them on campus."

Morris also replied to a tweet from former Razorbacks great Darren McFadden, who had playfully suggested during Arkansas' coaching search he could take the reins if needed.

McFadden posted "Looks like RazorbackFB picked someone else to be the new head coach but I'm not mad. Good luck [Morris] #WPS" on his Twitter account after Morris was hired.

Morris shot back, "Thanks D-Mac! You know you're welcome on The Hill anytime! #WPS."

As he headed out for a recruiting visit Friday, Morris posted a short video of the fictional movie character Forrest Gump, played by Tom Hanks, bolting out of his driveway and out onto a road with the intro, "Sprinting out the door for this home visit with a game changer tonight be like ..."

Morris acknowledged his uptempo offensive style, which he referred to as "full-tilt boogie" in his first team meeting, would need time to transition from the personnel assembled by Coach Bret Bielema, who preferred a ball-control attack that huddled virtually all the time.

"You know, I think there's going to be some transition there," Morris said. "I think there's going to be some depth issues at some key positions. But until we get in there and find out, it's going to be hard to see right now.

"We know there's going to be a little bit of a roster flip that we're going to have to have as we transition. But again, you're still going to line up and run the power and the counter, and the inside and outside zone. That's college football. We're just going to do it in different ways."

Morris has not made any known moves to start putting together a defensive staff, but he has given a general description of the type of defense he wants to run.

"We're going to be multiple," he said. "We'll base out of an odd [3- or 5-man] front. We'll still get into some four down.

"I think the key is being multiple, to be able to stem in and out, disguising a lot of your coverages. And being very aggressive with how you present your pressure packages in both your odd and your even fronts."

Morris seemed undaunted, even motivated, by a scheduling quirk that will pit his first Razorbacks team against a tough trio to start conference play in the fall.

After opening against Eastern Illinois, Colorado State and North Texas, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will play Auburn on the road, Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas, and Alabama at home on successive Saturdays. The Tigers, Aggies and Crimson Tide all have head coaches who have been part of national championship teams in Auburn's Gus Malzahn, A&M's Jimbo Fisher and Alabama's Nick Saban.

"I think it's huge," Morris said. "I think you're in the best conference and best division in college football. You have an opportunity to recruit to that. Let's use it to our advantage.

"Some people look at it as, 'Wow, it's the hardest ever.' Well, why not look at it the other way and say, 'This is a great opportunity to recruit to come play with some of the best in all of the country.' When you can do that, you can do a lot of great things."

Sports on 12/10/2017

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