Commentary:

Arkansas' problems extend far beyond the QB position

By: Rick Fires
Published: Sunday, January 20, 2019
Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey looks toward the video board during a game against Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey looks toward the video board during a game against Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Imagine sitting at your desk at a large corporation — where you’re head of quality control — and someone you’ve never seen before walks into the boss’ office.

You ask a co-worker sitting nearby, ‘who is that?’

“He’s applying for the job of quality control,” he says.

But that’s my job, you say.

“Apparently, not any more,” he responds.

That’s essentially what happened to Ty Storey, who will likely transfer from Arkansas after Razorbacks coach Chad Morris revealed he was searching for more options at quarterback.

“Absolutely,” Morris said on Dec. 19, the first day of the national signing period. “We’re still exploring options to bring an older quarterback in, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Option 1 failed when Kelly Bryant, who lost his starting job at Clemson to freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence, transferred to Missouri, which also added a transfer quarterback from Texas Christian. Those moves also likely mean less playing time for former Fayetteville standout Taylor Powell at Mizzou.

Arkansas then turned to Option 2 and added Ben Hicks, who’ll spend his final year at Arkansas as a graduate-transfer after playing for Morris at Southern Methodist. Hicks passed for 2,582 yards with 19 touchdowns and 7 touchdowns in 12 games for a team that finished 5-7 last season.

An upgrade? We’ll see.

Quarterbacks get much of the blame, but I know Storey is not the primary reason Arkansas lost 10 games last season. Arkansas lost 10 games because of a line that couldn’t block, receivers who couldn’t get open, and a defense that hasn’t stopped anybody consistently for several years. Oh, and it doesn’t help credibility for a “Hammer down, left lane” approach when the head coach decides to punt on 4th-and-inches at the 50 against Colorado State with 6-foot-7 Cole Kelly at quarterback.

“Looking back on it, you almost wish I would have gone for it on fourth down,” Morris said shortly after the game. “We were back and forth on the headsets.”

It always amazes me to hear fans complain about the quarterback position even in games Arkansas could’ve won had the defense made a key stop, like against Ole Miss when the Rebels drove 97 yards in the final seconds to win 37-33. But Morris is the head coach and he has the right to bring in anyone he wants. His job is particularly tough, especially with the mess he was left by the previous coaching staff.

It’s disappointing to me, and likely many others, when it doesn’t work out better for local guys like Storey, who had several Division I offers after leading Class 3A Charleston to undefeated seasons in 2013 and 2014. Razorbacks fans don’t like it when one of our in-state stars sign with other top programs like Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, and Ohio State. That was obvious recently when Florida senior guard Kevaughn Allen was booed repeatedly at Bud Walton Arena four years after leading North Little Rock to a state championship in basketball.

And here was Storey, an Arkansas kid and four-star recruit who fulfilled a childhood dream of playing for the Razorbacks.

No one claims Storey is an NFL prospect. He has his limitations. But I am convinced Storey is good enough and the Hogs would’ve won more games had he been surrounded by better players.

I saw Storey for the first time when he was a starting linebacker as a freshman at Charleston. He was the toughest player on the field that day and he displayed that same toughness as a quarterback for Charleston and later at Arkansas, where he started nine games as a junior.

You have to be tough, really tough, to play quarterback at Arkansas, which ranked near the bottom of 129 teams with 32 sacks allowed last season. Yet, Storey didn’t point fingers after the beatings he took. He was a stand-up guy and accepted blame, even in the worst of times.

“We couldn’t get anything going,” Storey said after the Hogs were embarrassed 52-6 at Mississippi State. “That’s as much on me as it is anybody.”

Hopefully, Arkansas will show improvement this season with the quarterback from SMU who knows Morris’ system well. But I’m going to check in occasionally on the former Arkansas quarterback and pull for his new team, wherever he lands.

That’s because Ty Storey is a winner, even if it didn’t show nearly enough on the field.

Discussion

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