State of the Hogs: Morris making sure on fundamentals

By: Clay Henry
Published: Monday, March 11, 2019
Arkansas coach Chad Morris directs his players Tuesday, March 5, 2019, during practice at the university practice facility on campus in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from practice.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coach Chad Morris directs his players Tuesday, March 5, 2019, during practice at the university practice facility on campus in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from practice.

— In the year-end review, Arkansas coach Chad Morris explained that one of the shortcomings in a 2-10 season was the lack of separation in the one-on-one matchups this offense provides wide receivers.

After the Razorbacks finished the sixth practice of spring football Monday, the question that begged to be asked: Are the wide receivers getting any separation?

“Our returning guys returned with a different mindset so far (this spring),” Morris said. “Mike Woods, Deon Stewart and De’Vion Warren feel the competition.”

The competition, among others, is coming from newly enrolled freshmen Trey Knox and Shamar Nash. Both have drawn praise in the two media sessions conducted by Morris.

“Trey had a really good (first) scrimmage,” Morris said. “At some point, he will probably hit that freshman wall, but he continues to impress. His skillset is off the charts.”

Morris hit one of the same topics after the sixth practice that was a major point in a pre-spring media conference. Tempo is important, but will take a back seat to fundamentals.

“We are focusing fundamentals,” Morris said, noting that the sixth practice was partly spent correcting mistakes from the scrimmage.

It’s clear that the head coach wants to play well before playing fast.

“It’s not about how much we put in, it’s about how much we know,” he said. “We focused today on getting better.”

Watching the snippets of practices that are open to the media, it appears the Hogs have improved. Morris confirmed that.

“I do think we are a better football team,” he said.

Most want to know if that pertains to quarterback play, where SMU transfer Ben Hicks, redshirt freshman John Stephen Jones and junior Jack Lindsey are getting the majority of practice snaps with Connor Noland spending most of his days with the baseball team. He was the starting pitcher for Dave Van Horn’s club while the first scrimmage took place.

Morris said the three quarterbacks in the scrimmage “are really improved. Ben has done a lot with that quarterback room. I was pleased with his decision making. I was pleased with John Stephen. Jack got the third-team reps. Our quarterback play has definitely elevated.”

There was a reminder from Morris that he’s still trying to elevate every position on the team. Visitors at the scrimmage included over 80 recruits, most of them of the elite level. It may have been the most impressive collection of high school players ever to be assembled on the UA campus in one spring practice.

“That was definitely a big day for our program,” Morris said. “There were a lot of people on our campus, recruits and their families.

“It was impactful from an energy standpoint with what our players did on the field.”

Perhaps it’s like the wide receiver returnees, the rest of the team knows what is happening or going to happen.

It’s more than just the wide receiver room, too. Junior college transfer Myron Cunningham continues to turn heads. Morris and offensive line coach Dustin Fry believe Cunningham may be ahead of schedule as he competes for playing time at offensive tackle.

“We are very, very pleased with Myron,” Morris said. “He’s really progressed.”

Morris said Cunningham is "further ahead than we thought.”

The head coach also praised center Ty Clary for improvement and looking “like a veteran. He’s shown up.” There was also praise for senior Austin Capps at left guard, who missed practice Monday due to a conflict with a class.

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