Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Razorbacks' next rebuilding phase is now
Arkansas coach Chad Morris is shown during the Razorbacks' spring game Saturday, April 6, 2019, in Fayetteville.
The NCAA calls them quiet periods.
It is when coaches are not allowed off campus, so recruiting is supposed to come to a screeching halt.
The NCAA believes that.
In this day of multi-million dollar contracts coaches are never quiet. They may not leave campus, but they aren’t going fishing, taking the family to the beach or watching Game of Thrones.
The way most coaches — football and basketball — make their money is by winning, and they do that by getting the best players to play for them.
Chad Morris gets that as well as anyone, and he and his staff know where the University of Arkansas football program is and where it needs to be, which is no where close to where it is now.
In basketball, great coaches ask, “Can he shoot?’
In football, great coaches ask how fast a recruit runs the 40-yard dash. That wasn’t asked very often the last few years at Arkansas.
Just a guess here, but Morris had to be puzzled when he was at SMU and found out the Mustangs and Razorbacks were after some of the same prospects.
SMU is a great school, an academic giant, but it would finish behind Vanderbilt in football in the SEC, or in other words, last.
Bret Bielema tried to play smash-mouth football in the SEC. It obviously didn’t work well. Speed is king in the SEC.
Part of Bielema’s problem was because smash-mouth football was perfected in the SEC, and while it isn’t played by any of the other schools, the coaches knew how to defend it.
For at least the last two seasons the Razorbacks were perhaps the slowest team in the SEC.
It seemed on the rare occasion Bielema’s staff signed a speedy receiver he ended up in the doghouse or kicked off the team.
Bielema’s recruiting classes averaged a little less than five four-star signees per year. What looked like his best class was 2015 when he signed seven four-star players, but two transferred, one had a career-ending injury and another was a junior college player.
That class was just another indication things weren’t going well on the Hill. Assistants were bailing out and replacements weren’t as experienced.
After beating Texas — which didn’t want to be there — in a second-tiered Texas Bowl, Bielema was awarded an unbelievable contract, one that paid almost as much to not work as it did to work.
Throwing out Bielema’s first recruiting class — which you have to for any new coach — Bielema recruited about 120 players and 22 were drafted by the NFL. Those numbers are not good, and the players averaged to be fifth rounders, which is where Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams both went.
The only first-round pick was Frank Ragnow, who Bielema recruited out of Minnesota, and Hunter Henry was a second-round pick. Henry’s family on both sides run deep in the Razorbacks’ history books.
So Morris, who relished the chance to compete in the SEC, took over a 4-8 team and went 2-10. In the process, a bunch of Bielema’s recruits left or were asked to leave.
Discipline is a big word in the Razorback football program now.
Look for the 2019 Razorbacks to be improved — especially in the fourth quarter — but it may not be what fans are hoping for this year.
Morris and staff are in the process of remodeling and improving the program from the ground up. The first phase of remodeling is always choosing a crew, second is demolition and those are done.
The third phase is choosing materials, and that started with a recruiting class that ranked No. 23 but had 11 four-star recruits.
Now the project is ready to get started.
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