Welcome to the beautiful Arkansas Ozarks and the respected Razorback football program. We are pleased you and your wife Paula have joined us in God's Country. You will find the natural beauty (go see the Buffalo) and so many good people across this state. We wish you only the very best.
First, you should understand that while I was born in Arkansas and was once on this paper's staff, I am today an independent opinion columnist who speaks only for himself. I'm not a sports writer.
Yet I feel the need to share thoughts with you regarding the state of the proud Razorback Nation and family you've inherited. First, I assure you there are no more devoted fans anywhere than those you'll meet across this state. The good folks from Arkansas closely identify with the Hogs. It's woven into the culture from childhood.
Because of that, you will have legions of the lately disappointed desperately wanting you to succeed. We also realize this demanding task that will challenge your fullest capacities in the toughest and fastest division in college football. The SEC is a battle royale every week, as the last two coaches in your position learned.
Speaking honestly, most Arkansans were surprised by your hiring, although not in a bad way. But considering your 14-22 record at SMU, many believed we'd hire a coach with an overall winning college record to lift this great university back to the status it held for years in the Southwest Conference and even to performing respectably since joining the SEC in 1992. Your remarkably successful high school coaching record in competitive Texas was very similar to that of Gus Malzahn in Arkansas.
When Bobby Petrino sadly self-destructed after four years with a 34-17 record (21-5 in his last two), he'd already far surpassed expectations. Like you, offensive genius Petrino and staff had used a top quarterback and energized ingenuity with a quality staff to lead the Razorbacks into national prominence once again, rising into the top five. The fan base was excited by the Razorbacks' renewed respect and his exhilarating brand of football.
The Razorbacks have always been respectable. They are listed overall as the 23rd ranked team in college football history for total number of victories, and won the national championship in 1964. They won 13 championships while in the Southwest Conference and made three appearances in the SEC Championship games, representing the Western Division in 1995, 2002 and 2006.
After the wheels flew off when Petrino was fired, the grumbling began. Expectations by then had been set sky-high only to be dashed with the arrival of 10-month temp and nice guy John L. Smith (4-8), followed by nice guy Bret Bielema, who brought along a winning record in the Big 10 from Wisconsin. Hopes again were raised with expectations only to be steadily deflated like a leaky tire over the past five years.
The primary complaints from fans were that the Razorbacks had become too slow (on both sides) to effectively compete and win in the blazing SEC West. And defenses weren't, well, aggressive, capable or tenacious enough to play winning Hog ball for 40 full minutes. This became painfully obvious in the 2016 season when the team surrendered sizable first-half leads to lose to Missouri and Virginia Tech. Many believe those stunning defensive meltdowns set an ominous tone for the latest 4-8 season. SEC teams quickly saw how weak our pass defenses could be and exploited that.
So, here we are today, hoping things can, and will, only get better with you at the helm. Your reputation is that you steadily turned around a woeful SMU team to play in a bowl in only three years and are exceptionally talented at producing high-octane, exciting offenses. You're also known as being a good man and a fine recruiter, especially in "Friday Night Lights" Texas where we've fumbled in recent years.
Lifelong friend Mike Rogers of Cabot carefully follows recruiting and all things Razorback. He seems tentatively encouraged by your arrival in Fayetteville. While no coach, he's one keen observer who quickly spots weaknesses and strengths better than anyone I've ever known, including every coach, except perhaps legendary Hall of Famer Tommy Tice of Huntsville.
Anyway, I asked if he has anything worth sharing as a supportive fan who also wants to see you succeed.
"Chad Morris clearly understands productive offenses, " he said. "He also badly needs to hire the very best 'Root Hog' defensive coordinator in the country and staff up with excellent recruiters who understand the critical need for speed and toughness in this league."
To that I'd only add most teams in the SEC West are as accomplished as their dual-threat quarterback (see: Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Dak Prescott).
That's all I have, except to reassure you of just how pleased and excited many thousands of Hog-callers are to have you and your wife and family joining ours, and for wisely guiding our young men who will look to you for encouragement, guidance, energy and passion.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 12/10/2017
Print Headline: Hogs and Chad Morris