Hogs staff preps, bonds at Hideaway Meetings

Cornerbacks coach Mark Smith, defensive tackles coach Kenny Ingram and other members of Arkansas' football staff pose following a fishing trip on the White River in late July. (Photo/Mark Smith, Twitter)

— Retreats during the summer months or in the final weeks prior to the beginning of a new school year are becoming more and more commonplace across college athletics.

The aim of a trip is to create camaraderie among coaches and players that all involved hope extends throughout their respective seasons and, possibly, beyond. They are also a final opportunity to blow off steam before getting down to business.

For the first time in Chad Morris' tenure at Arkansas, the entire Razorbacks coaching staff shared time together prior to a season far away from the football offices that sit in the shadows of Razorback Stadium.

Collectively, coaches ironed out key details, set goals and objectives for the upcoming season and Morris gave an overview of the team. Everything that has to do with the program was discussed. It’s about a three-day process.

"It could be anything from our philosophy on offense and defense and special teams to what the process is for your wife to get tickets to the game," said Mark Smith, in his second season coaching Arkansas' cornerbacks. "It’s things you have to do every year, so you take that time at the end of the summer to go through that."

Golf and trout fishing on the White River was involved, too. It's all part of the staff's Hideaway Meetings.

"This was the first time we just broke it up," Smith added. "We did (meetings) during the day then we went and had some fun in the afternoon. The last several years we’ve actually done those on campus. We just kind of get everybody away and there’s no distractions.

"But this year, coach Morris wanted to take us away and to another site."

Smith said he believes Morris' idea for the getaway stems from his time at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. At SMU, his staff did not carve out time in its schedule for such a trip. It didn't come to fruition prior to Morris' first season at Arkansas either.

"He wanted to make sure we did this year," Smith said. "When we finished, coach Morris said he was going to make sure we do it every year."

The fishing portion of the experience was broadcast on social media by Smith, offensive coordinator Joe Craddock and tight ends coach Barry Lunney. It was Craddock's first time fishing for trout, he said, but it turned out to be a rousing success. His catches included a 23-inch and 26-inch brown.

He credited Lunney, who Smith said had a nice catch right off the bank one day, for the assists.

"Coach Lunney put me on a couple of good ones," said Craddock, who tries to take the offensive staff on a golf outing before each season. "He said I was very under-excited, I guess. I’m more of a bass fisher. He said he thought I’d be jumping out of the boat or making us flip over or something like that.

"We had a lot of fun and it was good to get around the guys in a different place."

The White River was another opportunity for exploration for defensive tackles coach Kenny Ingram, who was hired in mid-February after John Scott Jr. left for a similar position at South Carolina. Ingram learned to fish around one year ago.

"The White River, it’s clear. You can see through it," said Ingram, who took his family whale watching in Alaska in early July. "I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. The Mississippi River is not clear. Just to be out on the White River, it was clear, you could see fish. It was a relaxing time and an exciting time. I had a great time.

"I work with a great bunch of men and women in the office. People I’m around are very genuine, so any time we can have time to spend time together and enjoy each other, it always has a great impact and a positive impact on me because the people are genuine."

Some coaches even joked that Ingram continued to break down barriers on the trip. He calls it destroying stereotypes.

"There are some things (I do) that people think aren't natural," he said. "A lot of people don't have (whale watching, trout fishing) on their radar. I'll tell you, I had a blast. The things we haven't been exposed to, we can close doors to those things, be open-minded and be exposed to things."

Following the trip, Craddock told Morris he thought it was one of the best things the staff had done as a group. Smith agreed, adding the outing allowed coaches to build more trust with one another.

"When you take time away to do those things, those shared experiences - whether it’s with your team or with your staff - that’s what really allows you to grow closer together," Smith said. "The staff is really great. It’s a tight group, but any time you can get away and do some things like that together, it builds closer bonds.

"It allows you to stick in there and hang in there together even more throughout the course of the season."