Tuesday, it was reported that former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris was set to become the next head coach at Arkansas, replacing the fired Brett Bielema. Thursday, Morris officially started the job and addressed the Razorback players for the first time.
During his motivational speech to the team, Morris talked about the future he envisions for Arkansas on the field. His offensive game plan is no secret: at SMU, Morris ran a high-powered, up-tempo spread offense, which he will likely bring with him. In talking about the Razorbacks’ defense, however, Morris sparked intrigue.
“Defensively, I’m gonna have the best defensive coordinator in the country right in here,” Morris said.
Morris has yet to hire a defensive coordinator, but he used to work with the man who is widely considered the best defensive coach in the country: Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. His comment immediately caused some, such as South Carolina television reporter Daren Stoltzfus, to speculate that Morris is planning to try to lure Venables away from Clemson.
WATCH: Chad Morris’ first meeting with the Razorbacks. Arkansas landed an absolute superstar.
— Daren Stoltzfus (@DarenStoltzfus) December 7, 2017
Venables, who is in his sixth season at Clemson, was considered one of the leading candidates for the Arkansas head coaching position, so many Clemson fans were relieved when the Razorbacks opted to hire Morris. Last year, Venables won the Broyles Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top assistant coach. Wednesday, USA Today revealed that Venables was the second-highest paid assistant coach in the country this season, earning $1.7 million from Clemson.
Under Venables, Clemson’s defense has ranked in the top 25 nationally in points allowed in each of the past five seasons. Three times, including both of the past two years, the Tigers have ranked among the top 10.
This season, Clemson ranks second in scoring defense, allowing 12.8 points per game, and sixth in total defense, giving up just shy of 280 total yards per contest. The Tigers also lead the nation in sacks and rank third in tackles for loss.
It seems extremely unlikely that Venables would leave Clemson for another assistant coaching job. However, given Morris’ words Thursday, it seems feasible that Morris will at least try to lure his former comrade away from the Tigers.
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