At least 20 from SMU joining Morris at Arkansas

By: Matt Jones
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville. Carroll is one of several former SMU staff members who have followed Razorbacks coach Chad Morris to Arkansas.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville. Carroll is one of several former SMU staff members who have followed Razorbacks coach Chad Morris to Arkansas.

— The University of Arkansas’ incredible growth over the past decade has been bolstered by a 293 percent increase in the number of students from Texas, predominantly from communities in the northern part of the state around Dallas and Fort Worth.

In 2018, Arkansas’ football program hopes to grow with the help of Dallas residents as well.

When all is said and done, somewhere around two dozen football staffers will have joined Arkansas from SMU, where new Razorbacks coach Chad Morris spent the past three seasons, compiling a 14-22 record as head coach of the Mustangs, improving the team’s win total from one the year before he arrived to seven by his final campaign in 2017.

North to the SEC

A non-exhaustive list of former SMU staffers expected to join Chad Morris at Arkansas.

Rhett Brooks, Associate Strength and Conditioning Coach

Will Bryant, Offensive Analyst

Trumain Carroll - Strength and Conditioning Coach

Brooks Cockrell - Assistant Video Director

Joe Craddock - Offensive Coordinator

Dustin Fry - Offensive Line Coach

Tyren Gatson - Offensive Graduate Assistant

Julian B. Griffin - Offensive Quality Control

Jared Hunt - Assistant Recruiting Operations Director

GJ Kinne - Offensive Analyst

Sam Ogden - Video Director

Randy Ross - Operations Director

Mark Smith - Cornerbacks Coach

Marc Soltis - Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach

Brooke Stepp - Recruiting Director

Justin Stepp - Receivers Coach

Jeff Traylor - Running Backs Coach

SJ Tuohy - Assistant Operations Director

Cody Vincent - Assistant Operations Director

Lance Yancey - Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach

If you walk through the football office parking lot, it’s dominated by Texas license plates as new staffers roll into new roles with the Razorbacks.

Every area of Morris’ vast football department at Arkansas is heavily influenced by his time at SMU’s campus in the Dallas suburb of University Park. Half of his first on-field coaching staff - offensive coordinator Joe Craddock, running backs coach Jeff Traylor, offensive line coach Dustin Fry, receivers coach Justin Stepp and defensive backs coach Mark Smith - followed him from SMU, as did notable support staff members such as recruiting director Brooke Stepp, strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll and football operations director Randy Ross, whose hire has yet to be made official.

“It’s all about continuity,” said Joe Craddock, Arkansas’ first-year offensive coordinator who spent the past three seasons in the same role at SMU. “I’m extremely excited about my staff. I’ve been with a lot of those guys for a couple of guys now and the continuity we have - they know what I’m looking for and they know what Coach Morris is looking for, and it just makes for an easy transition.”

A new coach surrounding himself with familiar faces is not exclusive to Morris. Houston Nutt’s first Arkansas coaching staff in 1998 included six assistants who had coached with him the year before at Boise State, as well as a graduate assistant from Boise. In 2008, Bobby Petrino hired three men who had assisted him at Louisville in his most recent college job two years earlier, as well as his former strength coach at Louisville.

As staff sizes have grown as a result of more revenue available to football programs, so has grown the influence from a new head coach’s previous employer. In 2013, Bret Bielema’s first staff included two on-field assistant coaches from his time at Wisconsin, but also from Wisconsin came Bielema’s director of operations, strength coach and recruiting director.

Morris has taken it a step further to include two video staffers, three assistant strength coaches and an unknown number of recruiting staff from SMU, including at least one member whose responsibility includes attracting recruits with graphics, primarily on social media platforms.

The ability to recruit, Morris said, is at the heart of his reason to bring so many people he trusts to Arkansas.

“Everything starts with recruiting,” Morris said. “I’ve said this before: If you can’t be involved in recruiting and add some value and worth to this football program and the University of Arkansas in recruiting, you will not last. It’s just the bottom line.

“Our ability to turn SMU around in the two-and-a-half or three years that we did, was strictly - you can say Xs and Os all you want - but it was about getting the right type of players in there. The model of where I’m wanting to get this program, which is a national contender that we’re going to be, has got to start with recruiting and end with recruiting.”

Also coming from SMU are offensive graduate assistant Tyren Gatson, offensive analysts GJ Kinne and Will Bryant, and offensive quality control coach Julian B. Griffin. Retaining so many employees is the “blueprint” from Morris’ time at Clemson, where he was an offensive coordinator from 2011-13 ahead of the Tigers’ stretch of national prominence.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and those who work or have worked for him often cite the family atmosphere there, where kids and wives are welcome at practices and are often seen around the program’s offices.

“The family atmosphere that everybody talks about, we truly are about that,” said Craddock, who was an offensive graduate assistant under Morris at Clemson. “I think you see that by who Coach brought with him.”

Carroll, the strength coach, said he thinks that culture was what made SMU “special,” likely leading to so many following Morris more than 300 miles northeast.

“I feel like for our staff, that’s the biggest part of our job - implementing the culture,” Carroll said. “These young men are going to be successful on the football field, but it’s much more than that, much deeper than that.”

“(Morris) has an unbelievable vision and he’s been around some great coaches at other stops that had a great vision,” Craddock said. “He implemented that in three years at SMU. We had a huge turnaround there and I’m looking forward to seeing what Coach is going to help us do here.”


Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.