Razorbacks report:

Team has to earn the Hog logos

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, February 8, 2019
Arkansas offensive lineman Shane Clenin goes through a workout Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, at Fred W. Smith Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas offensive lineman Shane Clenin goes through a workout Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, at Fred W. Smith Center in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- University of Arkansas Coach Chad Morris and his staff put together a plan to improve the resolve of the Razorbacks during winter conditioning and it started with a one-word challenge and stripping away of some of the perks of playing football.

The department's social media team has posted several videos during the winter of players working out in drab grey sweats with no Razorback logos visible. The state of the art locker room at the Smith Football Center, which is undergoing renovations, has also been deemed as off limits.

"It's a big deal to play football at the University of Arkansas," Morris said on national signing day Wednesday. "There's no entitlement. We've got to get away from that. We're not entitled, we've got to earn it."

Morris said he and the staff met on ways to hone the team's focus and came up with a single word to drill it home.

"What is your one word?" Morris said of the idea. "We challenged our players with that. Our one word for the team is 'Every.' I asked our players to think of a word that follows 'every' and it matters.

"Whether it's 'one,' or 'body,' or 'breath,' or 'rep', 'game practice.' Every matters. Whatever follows every matters. The biggest thing is every day counts."

Morris said the players have been "very appreciative" of the earn everything plan, which extends to the workouts set up by strength and conditioning coach Trumain Carroll and his staff.

"Last week was a week we had to pull a win out, had to have a perfect Friday, and when you win you earn a piece of gear," Morris said. "We earned a pair of shorts. So we have a Razorback logo on our shorts. We're excited about that.

"Hopefully this week we can get a win and we'll get another piece of gear. But that will be an opportunity and eventually we'll earn our way back into our locker room."

New coach

Chad Morris said he hoped to land a 10th assistant coach to fill out his coaching staff in the next few days and certainly by the start of spring practices on Feb. 26.

Arkansas lost defensive line coach John Scott Jr. to South Carolina last month.

Speaking Wednesday, Morris said there could be flexibility with the new position in that he could hire a special teams coordinator.

"There is a possibility of that, or a special teams coordinator that will coach a position as well," Morris said. "There's different options there. We hope to have a replacement definitely before the start of spring ball. Obviously we'd like to have something in there in the next few days if we could."

A couple of potential targets for the position have gained new employment in the last few weeks. Marion Hobby, a former Jacksonville Jaguars assistant, is reportedly in line to join the staff of new Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores, according to the NFL Network. Also, David Turner, a long-time SEC assistant coach who had been at Texas-San Antonio, has been hired at the University of Florida. Turner worked with Florida Coach Dan Mullen for four seasons at Mississippi State.

Kicking the PAT

Linebacker De'Jon Harris was named the first winner of the football program's PAT Award, as announced by Coach Chad Morris on Thursday.

"Passion, Attitude, Trust. That's what the PAT award is all about and nobody is more deserving to be our first winner of 2019 than [Harris]," Morris wrote on his Twitter account with a link that showed highlights of Harris in workouts, on game tape and doing community service.

Two days

Now that Chad Morris has had a full year to recruit on the new NCAA calendar, which features an early signing period in mid-December, followed by the traditional signing day on the first Wednesday in February, he's warming to the idea.

"A year ago it was awful," Morris said. "A year into it, it has been very productive. Now the month of December was incredibly difficult. I think we logged somewhere around 40 [thousand] or 41,000 air miles.

"It's what I've been over the last month, month and-a-half, however long we've been recruiting. The month of December is really tough. You're doing nine in-home visits in a week. You figure that out and you're eating just about every one of those home visits. Sometimes there's two meals in the same night within a couple of hours, and you eat all you can."

Morris said the new recruiting calendar allowed him and his staff to hone in on in-state recruiting in January.

"We're going to hit every school in this state at some point within the year," he said. "So it allowed us to do that. It allowed us to really dive into 2020 recruiting, 2021 recruiting and just start putting our board together."

Top five

Chad Morris said defensive back Jalen Catalon, a signee from Mansfield (Texas) Legacy, is one of the top five Texas high school players he's seen.

That's particularly high praise considering Morris was a Texas high school coach for 16 seasons.

"One of the top high school football players I think I've ever seen, top five for sure," Morris said. "I've been watching high school football for a very long time and recruiting for a very long time and this young man is one of the best that I've seen. He can play a lot of positions."

Morris listed DeShaun Watson and Vince Young at the top of the list of high school players he had evaluated.

Catalon will begin his Arkansas career by playing safety, which he played at Legacy along with quarterback.

Resilient Hicks

Quarterback Ben Hicks, a graduate transfer from SMU, thrived under Chad Morris.

In two seasons as the Mustangs' starter in 2016 and 2017 under Morris, Hicks completed 510 of 894 passes for 6,499 yards, with 52 touchdowns with 27 interceptions.

After Morris took the Arkansas job, Sonny Dykes was hired at SMU, and he replaced Hicks with freshman Willie Brown as the starter for three games.

Hicks regained the starting job the final six games after starting the first three. He competed 208 of 372 passes for 2,582 yards, with 19 touchdowns with 7 interceptions.

"A coaching change is always tough," Morris said. "It's tough on everybody. But to watch the way [Hicks] responded and be able to come off the bench and win ballgames for them was huge.

"That tells you his resilience, and his fight and his drive, and he knows our offense and he knows us and he knows what to expect. He's been a great addition to our program."

Knee reactions

Chad Morris said receiver Treylon Burks and defensive back Jalen Catalon are both "well ahead of schedule" in their recoveries from knee surgery.

"We anticipate those guys being back and ready to go when they get here in June," he said. "Full throttle and ready. They'll come up and go through evaluations in front of our team doctors, but our doctors will be in touch with theirs and making sure that everybody's on the right page. So we anticipate those guys being ready to go for sure for fall camp and summer workouts."

Walker gone

Linebacker Dee Walker "is no longer a part of us" Coach Chad Morris said.

Walker, 21 was arrested in December on felony drug and weapons charges, including possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. He is awaiting trial, which is scheduled for Feb. 26, the day the Razorbacks open spring drills.

Combine list

Four former Razorbacks were included on the official invitation list for the NFL Scouting Combine later this month in Indianapolis. The invited Razorbacks are three seniors in offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt, linebacker Dre Greenlaw and defensive lineman Armon Watts and junior cornerback Ryan Pulley.

The SEC leads the way at the combine with an average of 6.4 players invited per team. The Big Ten is next with 3.8 invited players per team, followed by the Big 12 (3.3), the ACC (3.28) and the Pac-12 (3.25).

Sports on 02/08/2019

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