Hogs still trying to get out of ditch

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Saturday, September 14, 2019
An Arkansas football helmet is shown during SEC Media Days on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
An Arkansas football helmet is shown during SEC Media Days on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

While working this week on a Hawgs Illustrated feature story on a pair of Arkansas 2020 pledges from Carthage, Texas, I got a chance to talk to one of Texas’ most successful high school coaches.

Carthage head coach Scott Surratt took over a program in 2008 that had not won its district in 15 years and promptly did that in year one.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Surratt led Carthage to a state title in his second season and is pushing this season toward what would be a seventh state title in 13 years.

In other words, the guy knows how to win and also knows that offensive lineman Ty’Kieast Crawford and wide receiver Kelvontay Dixon will likely help the Razorbacks do that in the future.

He has known Razorback head coach Chad Morris for over 20 years and knows the challenge Morris is facing in overhauling a program that has won just 7 of its last 28 games and only one of its last 17 SEC games.

Morris inherited a team that was void of enough SEC talent to compete in the nation’s toughest conference after the previous staff’s recruiting, evaluation and development in its final three seasons was not up to par.

Morris also is a proponent of a far different type of offense than predecessor Bret Bielema.

“I have known him (Morris) that long and he is really good friends with my brother,” Surratt said. “I think they are going to get it done. It is really tough with the transition with the players they had that were recruited for the power football and pro-style offense and things.

“Now you are changing it over to more athletes in space so it is a tough transition, but they are getting more of their type guys in.”

That is especially hard in a league as tough as the SEC.

“It is not a quick transition or a quick fix,” Suratt said. “It is never going to be a quick fix in the SEC or in college football for that matter, but certainly not in the SEC.

“Hopefully the Arkansas fan base can be patient and he can have it done in the next two or three years.”

Nobody wants to hear excuses about the team being young, that there are not enough SEC caliber athletes on the roster or that the coaches seem to be making some questionable coaching decisions based on those two factors.

But while fans may not want to hear it, those things still ring true.

Even with a team that is seemingly on a downward trend and has gone through NCAA probation, Ole Miss still looked faster and more talented last Saturday night in a 31-17 win over the Razorbacks in Oxford.

That loss moved Morris’ record to 3-11 in his first 14 games and the offense has yet to live up to his promise of hammer down in the left lane although there was more creativity shown last weekend.

While Arkansas showed signs of life in the second half with new starter Nick Starkel taking over, it still ended with another frustrating loss that has the fan base justifiably upset.

Radio talk show callers and message board posters have voiced their displeasure loudly after that loss as one might imagine.

Morris and his staff should be given lots of credit for landing some key players in the 2018 class and 11 4-star recruits in a 2019 recruiting class that was ranked 23rd in the 24/7 composite rankings that include ESPN, Rivals and 24/7.

With 16 commitments in the 2020 class, Arkansas is 24th in the composite rankings although that is still a mind-numbing 12th in the SEC.

There’s only one way out of the ditch Arkansas has been in since 2012 and it’s to continue to recruit and get SEC talent at every position and depth for the injuries that will happen in a contact sport.

Winning against Colorado State would seem to be the next baby step .

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