Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Morris backs OT changes
Arkansas football coach Chad Morris talks to the media during the State of the Hog event on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock.
HARRISON -- University of Arkansas Coach Chad Morris has yet to be involved in an overtime game during his brief tenure with the Razorbacks, but he's obviously studied up on the program's heavy involvement in some of the longest games in college football history.
Morris was asked Tuesday night prior to his speaking appearance at the Harrison Area Razorback Club what he thought of the recently approved tweak to the administration of overtimes from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel.
The change will mandate running alternate two-point plays starting with the fifth overtime rather than proceeding with the old rule of starting at the 25-yard line for both teams. The rule of requiring two-point conversion tries after touchdowns starting with the third overtime period will remain in effect.
"I was in some of the meeting and going through some of that," Morris said. "I believe it got passed today. I can understand why. The length of some of the games.
"I know Arkansas has had a past of playing some long overtime games. Again, anything you can do for the health and safety of our players is always on the front burner with our coaches."
The rule got fast-tracked after Texas A&M and LSU engaged in a seven-overtime game on Thanksgiving weekend, won 74-72 by the Aggies.
The Razorbacks were involved in the first two seven-overtime games in NCAA history, outlasting Ole Miss 58-56 on Nov. 3, 2001, and Kentucky 71-63 on Nov. 1, 2003.
Morris displayed his public speaking chops to the crowd of about 200 at the Harrison United Methodist Church, cracking jokes about himself and family members during his address and a question-and-answer session that lasted about 45 minutes.
Morris said his daughter Mackenzie, who is attending a "school in the center part of Texas that we play once a year in Dallas," will graduate from Texas A&M in May.
"I tell her the University of Arkansas does pay for that Texas A&M education," Morris said. "She's graduating on May 10, and then she's coming up to get her masters at the University of Arkansas.
"Now the University of Arkansas will be paying for that University of Arkansas education."
Morris also talked about his son Chandler, who led Highland Park High School in Dallas to the Class 5A Division I state title as a quarterback.
"He's going through a lot of his recruiting right now," Morris said. "He is the one recruit I can buy a car for. I can probably buy him a couple of cars. I can buy his mom a car, too, if that's what it takes."
After the crowd finished laughing, Morris continued.
"We know that it'll be his choice," he said. "We'll see. I think we know his mom well enough. I guess we'll find out here in about a month or so."
Morris also made a local connection, thanking the Burlsworth family -- Barbara and her son Marty and his wife Vickie -- at the top of his remarks.
"We're striving extremely hard to build our walk-on program to be the best in the country," he said, a reference to Brandon Burlsworth, the former Razorback All-American and walk-on from Harrison. "There's no reason it can't be. We're working hard to build that walk-on program."
Morris said he has a strong connection to two winners of the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given to the best former walk-on in college football: Baker Mayfield and Hunter Renfrow.
"Baker Mayfield was my ninth grade, B-team quarterback at Lake Travis High School," Morris said.
Morris did not shy away from the Razorbacks' 2-10 season in his debut last year, making several references to the tough season.
"I'm not going to back down from it," he said.
Later, he said he knows the Razorbacks need to add speed because you either have it or you're chasing it, and the Hogs chased a lot of jerseys last year.
"We're not where we need to be from a speed standpoint," he said. "We're better, but we're not there yet."
Morris was also asked about the recent recruiting successes the Razorbacks have had.
"I think we're well on track," he said. "I'm excited with where we're at. I'm excited about coaches being on the road right now and being in schools as we speak and watching practices. I think this will be another opportunity for us to sign a full class."
Morris said the players returned from a break of about two weeks after the end of spring practice and have started the program's "third-quarter" phase.
"It'll be right at two and half to three weeks of weight work, and skills and drills," Morris said. "Some of the coaches will be on the road recruiting. Some will be coming off of it at times to be ... involved with the players in some of the workouts with our strength staff. It's like your winter conditioning again, picking up in the third quarter. That's where we're at right now. As a matter of fact, I just left out from a team run."
Morris wrapped up his talk by telling the fans that he and his staff are working tirelessly to get the football program right and that there had been great success instilling the culture inside the walls of the Fred Smith Center even while the results on the field were not up to the standard he expects.
"I know what the blueprint is supposed to look like," he said. "If your culture is not right, you have zero chance to sustain success.
"Year Two, we know the culture. Now it's time to live it."
Sports on 04/24/2019
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