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New faces in tight spaces, but Hogs have plan

By: Wally Hall
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas coach Chad Morris speaks during a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The tiny interview room was cramped and extra chairs were being dragged in for the overflow crowd of media who were there to confirm the final additions to new University of Arkansas, Fayetteville head football Coach Chad Morris' staff last Wednesday.

Down the hall a few feet was a beautiful, spacious team meeting room that was vacant.

The upstairs lobby, where the head football coach has his annual media day news conference, was available.

Bud Walton's media room was empty.

Yet, there we were, crammed into a tiny room in the spacious football facility. Apparently, a room for a news conference was an afterthought, although the hour-and-a-half news conference was topped off with a nice barbecue lunch.

It just seemed odd that space was chosen for such a big announcement, but there's a new sheriff in town and maybe things will change. In fact, all indications are a lack of availability and the policy of double-locking all doors may change with new Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek.

Granted, Morris doesn't seem totally comfortable with the media yet -- or at least with the amount of media that covers the Razorbacks on a daily basis. When he walked into a news conference at SMU, there might be three guys there.

There were more than 10 times that many at Wednesday's news conference.

By the time Morris stepped away from his final question to make room for the other coaches, it was obvious the new head coach had spent considerable time evaluating himself and what he wanted in a staff.

He made it clear that he knows he's not at SMU in the American Athletic Conference anymore, and that he's running with the big dogs of the SEC now.

Hiring John Chavis was just a part of the strategic plan. Chavis helped hire the defensive staff, and he picked guys he can work with and not around. Counting Chavis, the defensive coordinator, all the faces on the defensive staff are new except for John Scott, who coached the defensive line last year.

Scott now will be under the tutelage of Steve Caldwell, who Chavis highly recommended. Caldwell was at the UA for two years and was at Tennessee for 14 before that.

Morris obviously was looking for some guys with SEC experience as well as a balance of up-and-coming coaches blended with seasoned veterans.

He's also looking to be more of a CEO and less of a play-caller.

When he arrived at SMU, Morris assured the fans he would call plays, and nothing was going to change much from his days at Clemson.

Now, Morris said he is going to count more on Joe Craddock for the play calling. Craddock has been Morris' understudy since their Clemson days. Morris is going to pay a little more attention to the defense than he did at SMU.

He also made it clear he has the right to "suggest" plays at certain times.

"I can't be the head coach I need to be and be a 100 percent play-caller," Morris said.

Morris stressed that he wasn't just looking for assistant coaches, but guys who would be on the same team on and off the field. When a staff likes each other it is more productive.

Everyone who spoke that day -- Morris, Chavis, Craddock, and new strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll -- mentioned the need for more speed, which will be music to the Razorback Nation's ears.

Judging by what was seen on Twitter this weekend, every coach who is allowed hit the road looking for players, especially those who can run through a hole in the wind.

Sports on 01/16/2018

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