2018 Predictions: Hogs will show slight improvement in first year under Morris

By: Rick Fires
Published: Sunday, August 19, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris watches practice Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Arkansas coach Chad Morris watches practice Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Change has come to Arkansas, where the Porkers under Chad Morris will pick up the pace and go wee, wee, wee in the left lane, hammy down.

Should be fun. But I caution fans from expecting too much, especially at the outset, when hype is often crushed by reality.

“I didn’t come here to be great in three years,” said former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who appeared on the cover of this publication in 2013 under the headline “A new day.”

Bielema wasn’t great and left after five years with a record of 29-34, including 11-29 in the SEC.

I missed badly last year by predicting a winning record for an Arkansas team that won only four. But access to practice for evaluation is restricted and even Saturday’s scrimmage was closed. Still, I will try again with a new coach who promises a little less (bold) talk and a lot more action.

KEY GAME

You want proof of progress, real progress?

Then beat Texas A&M, which Arkansas hasn’t done in six years. The Arkansas bandwagon will be crowded if the former coach at Southern Methodist trumps his alma mater Texas A&M and its $75 million investment, Jimbo Fisher.

BEST WIN

The magic returns to War Memorial Stadium when Arkansas uses a late score to defeat Ole Miss.

The victory comes after consecutive losses to Auburn, Texas A&M, and Alabama to begin SEC play.

WORST LOSS

Arkansas fans were jolted by a loss to Toledo in 2015 that occurred on the Razorbacks’ home field. Colorado State is another mid-major searching for respect and the Rams get the Hogs at home in a $220 million stadium that opened last year on campus.

Colorado State has added quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels, a graduate transfer from Washington, to a program that’s finished 7-6 the last three years. The Rams won’t be intimidated about facing an SEC team, especially one in a rebuilding mode like Arkansas. Colorado State coach Mike Bobo, a former quarterback and offensive coordinator at Georgia, will make sure of it.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

The Razorbacks are supposed to throw a lot more, right?

That’ll mostly benefit Jared Cornelius, a fifth-year senior, who must overcome injuries that’s hindered his career.

BREAKOUT PLAYER

It doesn’t say much for the running back position when no player on a power rushing team gained at least 100 yards in an SEC game last year. But there should be more opportunities in open space for guys like Chase Hayden, who showed flashes as a freshman before being injured.

Hayden’s got the speed and the moves to turn a short play into something big.

TOP NEWCOMER

Arkansas’ offense will get most of the attention, but the Hogs will only get better by strengthening a defense that allowed 36.2 points per game last season.

So, who can help?

I’m guessing Joe Fuqua, a defensive back from New Orleans. We’ll know early how good Fuqua is if he can run down field with a receiver and turn his head around in time to make a play.

We haven’t seen much of that from the Arkansas secondary.

FINAL RECORD

Bowl talk dies for Arkansas when the Razorbacks lose at Missouri to end the regular season.

But progress is made with a 5-7 season that is slightly better than the 4-8 record that ended Bielema’s five-year term. Fans enjoy the fast-paced offense and a recruiting class headed by Treylon Burks gives them hope the Hogs will be back in bowl business in 2019.

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