1,000 fans fete Razorbacks

Morris, Yurachek, coordinators spearhead fervency

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, August 18, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris walks onto the stage Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, as he is introduced during the annual Kickoff Luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Chad Morris walks onto the stage Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, as he is introduced during the annual Kickoff Luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center in Springdale.

SPRINGDALE -- Chad Morris opened the talk-circuit blitz part of his summer schedule Friday with a positive message to more than 1,000 fans at the 11th annual Arkansas football kickoff luncheon at the Northwest Arkansas Convention Center.

Morris expressed his thanks to the large crowd, then told them, "We will not disappoint. Let's enjoy this afternoon as you get a chance to meet your future Razorbacks.

"They're going to put a product on the field we can all be proud of, so let's have fun, put it in the left lane and put the hammer down."

Morris, his coordinators John Chavis and Joe Craddock and Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek all spoke along with emcee Chuck Barrett, the team's radio voice.

The format of the event was tweaked in Morris' first season, with the players not wearing jerseys and not introducing each other in a steady procession at the podium as had been done in recent seasons. One of the highlights came when Chavis, a 23-year defensive coordinator in the SEC who has worked at his alma mater Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M, was asked about being a Razorback.

"It's the passion that the fans have, there's no doubt in my mind," Chavis said. "And I've been ... this is my fourth stop in the SEC, and I've seen more passion and more people talking about and supporting this program right here in Fayetteville, Arkansas, than anywhere else I've been."

That remark was met by a big round of applause from a crowd that included dozens of former Arkansas players and coaches, including Sen. John Boozman, Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones and former coach and player Ken Hatfield.

Morris remarked that the last two days of training camp have been the best, most energetic work thus far and said today's closed scrimmage in Reynolds Razorback Stadium is a key milestone in the path toward the season opener Sept. 1 against Eastern Illinois.

Without mentioning last year's 4-8 finish under Bret Bielema, Morris pointed toward the happy days he sees ahead.

"Face it, this state needs this," he said. "This university needs this and we're going to get it right. We're going to get it right because of the coaches and the players in this room, and the support staff in this room."

Yurachek, hired the day before Morris on Dec. 5, introduced the new coach.

"I'm excited ... about the man we have leading our program at this time," Yurachek said. "Chad Morris has brought new life, a new energy and a new passion and quickly changed the culture of our program.

"He is leading our program with his positive words, attitude and behavior. He has an unbreakable belief in the success that this program can have, and he displays an unconditional love for our student-athletes, his coaches, staff and all associated with his program. I promise you -- I promise you -- that great days lie ahead for the Razorback football program."

Morris' message sounded right for Boozman, a Razorback offensive lineman from 1969-73, who sent advice back to Morris.

"I think the enthusiasm today was tremendous," Boozman said. "I probably go around our state as much as anybody, just in the nature of what I do, and I can tell the whole state is very, very excited about Coach Morris being here. Now all we need to do is win some games."

Craddock gave some insight into how fast he'd like the Razorbacks to operate on offense.

"Sometimes it's how the game is going," Craddock said. "We have a goal that we want to snap the ball at least 80 times a game. We've gotten that up to about 105 in some games. ... The game dictates some of that, but we want to go as fast as we can and snap the ball at least 80 times a game."

Chavis, who has coordinated defenses that have been dealing with Spread, hurry-up attacks for years, discussed what it's like facing that style of attack.

"Two-thirds of the teams that we're going to play are going fast as well," Chavis said. "So you've got to have depth. When you're talking about snapping the ball 80 times a game, it's hard to play 80 snaps of defense if you're playing at tempo and giving the kind of effort that we demand on defense. So we've got to develop that depth."

The interactions with players was more limited than in past years. However, the quartet of Devwah Whaley, Dre Greenlaw, Santos Ramirez and Austin Cantrell was brought to the stage to answer a series of true-false questions that began with, "You knew how to call the Hogs before you signed with the Razorbacks," leading to "True" responses from all four.

Greenlaw missed on the statement, "The tallest player on the roster is a junior" by answering true. The other three players were right, perhaps knowing 6-9 Dalton Wagner is a redshirt freshman.

Asked if Chad Morris graduated in 1992, Greenlaw and Whaley properly responded true, while Cantrell and Ramirez missed with false.

Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed to this article.

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