Question: Coaching or talent?

By: WholeHogSports
Published: Sunday, September 16, 2018
Arkansas coach Chad Morris runs onto the field during warmups prior to a game against North Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas coach Chad Morris runs onto the field during warmups prior to a game against North Texas on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Fayetteville.

Editor's Note: This analysis of Arkansas' 1-2 start was pulled from our football insider message board.

JacksonReid: When an SEC football team, any SEC team, loses to a bad Mountain West team and then gets boat raced at home by a Conference USA team you have a five alarm fire on your hands from a program standpoint. Arkansas, without question, is at present one of if not the worst P5 team in the country.

The question is why? How did this happen? How do you change the depressing status quo?

Some on this board (me included) think Morris inherited a train wreck of a program from both a culture and talent standpoint. Kids conditioned to losing and severe talent deficiencies at most positions.

Another group contends Morris and staff are completely over their heads. The talent may not be the best, but they think it’s certainly better than the talent of the last two we played and we should be competitive in several SEC games if this staff was just competent which it obviously is not per this segment of the fanbase.

Well, who’s right? Both to some degree? Neither? One or the other?

Clay Henry: Arkansas is off to a disappointing start to the Chad Morris era with a 1-2 record after being favored in all three games. The losses were to Colorado State and to North Texas. There was a disappointing finish in Fort Collins, a horrible start in Fayetteville.

So whats the problem: talent or coaching? As Lee Corso often says in his Saturday morning predictions, not so fast.

It's not a simple answer. It's like when someone asks a question that has an either or answer and you say "yes."

There is some talent on the team. But there are some areas where there is such a limited amount that it is hard to see it. There have been some coaching mistakes, but there is transition to everything these coaches have installed. That's tough to absorb in quick fashion. It can not be done in a few practices with gaps in talent and experience.

Without question, the overall team speed with the team is lacking. It is not SEC speed. The Hogs were not faster than Colorado State and North Texas. That should not happen.

The talent and numbers in the offensive line is very poor. The best of the offensive linemen is probably Hjalte Froholdt, a converted defensive tackle. He finally figured out offensive guard by the end of last year, now he's being asked to figure out the most complex position on the field aside from quarterback and that's center. And he is doing that after practicing at guard in the spring.

I don't think there is any question that the O-line lacks talent. Worse, it lacks experience and also is in a new system. Experience is the most important thing in the O-line.

Chad Morris said after the opener that the line played soft and too high. I don't see that the problem has gone away.

Recruiting slipped and then you add a new system both offensive and defensively (for the third straight season) and things slow down. Fast players look slow.

I think the quarterback recruiting slipped under Bret Bielema. I think it's interesting that both Brandon Allen and Austin Allen were routinely criticized by fans, but they played better than the current quarterbacks. This team aches for one of them now.

Of course, Dan Enos picked quarterbacks and the requirement was that they be 6-4. Taylor Powell (6-1) wasn't picked. And, clearly Mason Fine (5-11) wasn't considered. Those were in the backyard, both Gatorade Players of the year (in Arkansas and Oklahoma) within an hour of campus. Jim Chaney picked Rafe Peavey and Ty Storey. Dan Enos picked Cole Kelley and Daulton Hyatt.

You can't miss on quarterbacks. Fine is good enough. I think Powell is, too. He's taken snaps for Missouri already this season and will likely be their quarterback next year after Drew Lock graduates. Powell was MVP of the Chad Morris camps two years ago. He wanted to play in the SEC, so he didn't go to SMU.

You must recruit well in the defensive and offensive line. You must recruit well at QB. I think Chad Morris understands that. Bielema failed in those areas. That's a big problem right now.

Dudley E. Dawson: It would be nice if I could offer up a quick fix or a great assessment to the problems here.

Clay's post handles the assessment.

I'll take a shot at the fix - which is simply recruit better players, more speed, more mentally stronger individuals.

The former staff recruited well early - as evidenced by the players in the NFL - and didn't recruit well late. Also missed out on key positions and that's why depth is bad at several spots.

That is rearing its ugly head now.

It has to be a combination when you take losses like the last two.

Coaching mistakes have been made, but then again they have only a few options.

As I have said before, I don't know whether Coach Morris and his staff will succeed here.

I don't automatically think he is going to fail either.

He deserves the chance to recruit himself out of this - the 2019 class seems like a good step - but it also has to show steps forward sooner than later.

I always laugh a bit at those who don't tell me about the lack of talent or say don't tell me he is a good coach.

You have to consider everything, not just what people want to hear.

Matt Jones: I think Arkansas has the players to be able to outscore Colorado State and North Texas. I say outscore because the defense is not good, so it will be up to the offense to win those games. But the offense has been pretty bad, too, and put the defense in some no-win situations with all the turnovers yesterday. I think North Texas had 31 points off turnovers. It's hard to overcome that.

It has looked to me the last two weeks like the coaching staff has been stubborn offensively, and it's not just by staying with a quarterback too long. The play calls have lacked imagination; it doesn't look anything like the reputation that preceded it. I suspect part of that has to do with there not being a quarterback capable of doing the things they want and a bad offensive line, but because of that I thought we would see a lot more creativity getting the ball into playmakers' hands via direct snaps, screens, the push pass like the one to Hammonds at Colorado State, etc.

I have a hard time writing off losses to Group of Five teams to a lack of players, especially ones like we've seen the last couple of weeks when Arkansas was outscored 69-17 over a little more than five quarters. Those typically point to poor coaching performances. There is no doubt Seth Littrell and his staff out-coached Chad Morris and his staff yesterday. Mike Bobo did the same in the fourth quarter the week before.

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