FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas hired Chad Morris on Wednesday as its 33rd head football coach.
Morris arrives from SMU, where he had a 14-22 record over three seasons. Most recently, the Mustangs finished the 2017 regular season 7-5 and earned their first bowl berth in five years.
The media spoke to Morris for the first time since his hiring Thursday morning. Here’s are some of the highlights from what he had to say:
- Julie Cromer Peoples, who led the search for a new coach as interim athletic director, is first to speak. She is seated at the podium next to new athletic director Hunter Yurachek, who was hired Tuesday.
- Cromer Peoples says a conversation she had with Terry Don Phillips played a major role in deciding Morris was the best choice for the job. Phillips is a former Arkansas player, coach and senior associate athletic director.
- Yurachek is very complimentary of Cromer Peoples. “You have no idea the fire she was thrown into the past couple weeks,” he said. “She did a wonderful job. She took this search to the 1-inch line and I was a big hefty lineman that came in and pushed the ball over the goal line.”
- Yurachek says Morris recruited his son, who is a Class of 2018 linebacker. He says Morris spoke with every recruit and their parents at a camp that featured what he estimates at 400 recruits.
- Morris takes the podium and beings by making the rounds on saying thanks to everyone involved in the process and everyone that helped him get to this point. He specifically names his agent Jimmy Sexton, who is also the agent for Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. Sexton helped Malzahn get a contract extension at Auburn while in the process reportedly turning down an offer from Arkansas.
- Morris says Deshaun Watson, who he recruited to Clemson, is a like son to his family. He recruited Watson for four years and coached him for one.
- Morris’ daughter is youngest son are both here. His two older sons are not. His daughter attends Texas A&M.
- Morris describes Wednesday as a very emotional day for him saying goodbye to his players at SMU.
- Strong words from Morris: “We will become the model program for all others to follow.”
- Morris says he’s a high school coach at heart. He understands what those coaches go through and the role they have. He sends a message to the high school coaches within the state that they are always welcome and they will all play a role in getting the program back to where it was in 1964, the year of Arkansas’ only national championship.
- Morris has kind words for former coach Bret Bielema: “I want to give credit to Bielema for what he’s done for these kids.”
- Morris on recruiting: “The jet is fueled up and we’re ready to go.”
- The first order of business for Morris is putting together a staff. He says that will be finalized in the next few days. Building the 2018 recruiting class is also at the top of his agenda.
- Morris on the offense coming to Arkansas: “You won’t find a more explosive offense in all of college football. There won’t be many times to sit in your seat.”
- Morris on the defense coming to Arkansas: “I’ll hire the best defensive coordinator in all of college football.” He has a shortlist of defensive coordinators and will start working on hiring one today. He says Dabo Swinney “wouldn’t like it very much” if he came after Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
- Morris says he sees where Arkansas is today as exactly where Clemson was when he got there. Obviously, Clemson has done really well since then.
- Morris says he is not ready to announce who is coming with him. He indicates he does have a group assembled ready to come with him.
- The offense is described by Morris as a “two-back run-first system” that will move at “break-neck speed.”
- It’s important for Morris to describe himself as a high school coach because he says they are most adaptable of any level. He adds it’s important to him to get the high school coaches on his side.
- In recruiting, Morris says all 10 of his assistants will have a part of Arkansas to recruit in addition to recruiting areas across the country.
- Morris highlights recruiting, retaining and development as the keys to building a successful program at Arkansas.
- Recruiting speed will be a major priority for Morris. “You’ve either got speed or you’re chasing speed.”
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