Morris tries to clean up Hogs’ pigsty

Two days into SEC Media Days, and there’s a clear leader for the biggest shock to the conference’s system.

There’s lots of competition there in Atlanta with five new coaches in the league — six, if you count Dan Mullen, a veteran conference coach with a new school at Florida.

But Arkansas’ Chad Morris, now this is really, really different. This might really take some getting used to.

Put it this way: when the Razorbacks decided to make a clean break from the Bret Bielema era, the Hogs didn’t fool around.

They must have really been unhappy with Bielema, no matter that he was always a wise-cracking favorite at Media Days.

It’s like that committee immediately scratched anybody with any resemblance to the folksy, slightly chubby, man’s-man Bielema. 

If it was definitely a clean break they were looking for, it appears they got their man in Morris. 

Morris is one of five FBS head coaches who did not play college football, and he wears it on his sleeve.

He’s also one of two SEC coaches (along with Auburn’s Gus Malzahn) who first made his name as a high school coach, and it’s obvious that, like most, he did more than bark at football players in the prep ranks, like maybe teaching civics classes.

If nothing else, Bielema was the college coach from central casting, seemingly born with a whistle around his neck and always most comfortable in a loose sweatshirt.

Morris, not so much.

Morris is that fastidious, immaculately dressed male high school teacher who seemed obsessed with convincing you that this boring social studies class should be an integral part of your life.

In high school he taught math, his major (with a minor in statistics) at Texas A&M, certainly not the usual academic path to a coaching career.

Before getting sidetracked, his intended career choice was as an actuary, which, as we all know (I looked it up), is the study of statistics to calculate insurance risks.

Which seems about right for him.

He seemed to spend five minutes Tuesday tidying up the area around his bottled water on the podium before making his Media Days debut.

Bielema would have just slopped some down from the water hose. Yes, the Hogs kicked Oscar out of the house to make room for Felix.

He may take some getting used to, but anything would be welcome after the recent struggles.

Morris comes from SMU, where he was best known for one of those pop-gun, pass-happy, up-tempo offenses that beep beeps all over the field for 60 full minutes.

It’s one of the reasons former Barbe High star Trey Quinn chose the Mustangs when he transferred there from LSU, and Morris’ departure figured in Quinn’s decision to enter the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining last spring.

It’s the offense that will replace Bielema’s old-school, grind-it-out attack, one imported from the Midwest and centered around offensive linemen the size of dump trucks.

The spring must have been quite a shock to the Hogs.

At a glance you figure they’re trying to turn burly lumberjacks into ballet dancers.

Good luck with that, particularly a pass-oriented offense with no idea who the quarterback will be. It may take a few recruiting classes.

Similar offensive shenanigans have been tried in the SEC before, in varying degrees, with mixed results.

Defense will be a bigger problem. Yet to be proved in the SEC is that you can run that kind of nutty attack without hanging your defense out to dry.

One of Morris’ first moves was to hire John Chavis from Texas A&M’s dismissed staff as his defensive coordinator.

Chavis was a defensive legend at Tennessee and LSU, but even he couldn’t do much at A&M while trying to counteract the Aggies’ offense, a scaled-down version of what Morris likes to do.

Morris terms it tempo rather fast-paced, and apparently there is a difference. 

“Tempo at times is a buzz word that’s used to think you just go fast the whole time,” he said. “Truly ‘tempo’ is the ability to change the pace of the game. Go fast. Huddle up a little bit. Maybe break a huddle fast, maybe go slow. 

“It’s the ability to change the tempo of the game. Talking to defensive coordinators, they would much rather you play one speed.

“Your ability to change the tempo causes people problems. And that’s who we’re going to be.”

Not sure who that is. But it will certainly will be different.

 


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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First-year Arkansas head coach Chad Morris crossed paths with LSU’s Ed Orgeron years ago when Orgeron was at Ole Miss. The two met to discuss a job for Morris on Orgeron’s staff, but details of the meeting are sketchy.

(AP Photo/John Amis)

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