SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen, Tyler, none of Razorbacks Nation needs your Negative Nancy attitude right now, capiche? All this pessimism, no place for it in a #HammerDown administration. Now sit up straight, put your feet on the ground and look at me when I’m speaking to you.
Clearly that paragraph is written in jest. New Arkansas coach Chad Morris won over the hearts and minds of the Hogs fan base, however, by his words since Thursday, many of which sounded a bit like that. He is being seen as a no-nonsense, detail-orientated, father-figure-type disciplinarian. Arkansas fans are lapping it up. Good for them, too, as this is a fan base that needs a leader on which they can cling.
Tyler is right in his question. This is a honeymoon period. Adversity will come. It always does. The question, to me, is whether that first bit of adversity is what ends the honeymoon period.
It’s hard to imagine the defensive coordinator hiring, whoever it may be, being something that sends negative vibes through the fan base. Morris can do no wrong in his first season, really. If he hires a lesser-known name, it will be chalked up to a change of culture. If he hires a well-known name, it will be painted as a boon. The athletic department has a lot of freedom right now to tailor its message to a public all too ready to hear about sunshine and rainbows. A new assistant won’t change that.
The quarterback competition is incredibly overstated. People keep telling me Cole Kelley isn’t a fit for Chad Morris’ offense. Where are they getting that? Because he’s large? Chad Morris threw the heck out of the ball at Southern Methodist. That, in case you have forgotten, is Kelley’s strength. He’s a gunslinger. This notion that Morris runs an offense where a quarterback must be a dual-threat simply isn’t true. SMU’s Ben Hicks, the Mustangs’ current quarterback, ran 47 times for 79 yards this year. Not exactly Steve Young. Kelley, at Arkansas in his first season, has carried 53 times for 74 yards. Toss in all the sacks Kelley was tagged with, and the number looks lower than it actually is.
Sure, Morris would like a dual-threat. But, c’mon, who wouldn’t? If Gerry Bohanon gets to Fayetteville, though, there will be a call for his entry and, yes, that will be contentious among the fan base. I just find it incredibly difficult to imagine a first-year freshman at Arkansas being thrown straight to the fire and starting his first few months as a collegian. Not impossible. Just difficult.
Arrests and off-field issues, as long as they are reasonable in number, comparable to other programs and not laden with grand scandal, those won’t steal Morris’ sunshine, either.
No, it will take real, actual football for the sheen to come off. Some fans are proclaiming an eight-win season in 2018 as “easy.” If Morris doesn’t deliver a bowl in Year 1, then the honeymoon is over. Fans won’t outright be disgusted with him, but we can settle back into reality, anyway.
In 12 months.
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