HOGS: Morris vows great days ahead
ROGERS - Kicking off the Razorbacks annual Kickoff Luncheon Friday at the John Q. Hammons Center, second-year Arkansas Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek tried to erase visions of last year's 2-10 team.
"This is not the same football team that sat in this room last year," Yurachek said.
Second-year head coach Chad Morris then sold the premise of a Razorback resurgence to the packed house.
It included a large contingent of UA alums, including retired NFL running back Darren McFadden, the two-time Doak Walker Award winner and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist who was elected for 2019 induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.
The current Razorbacks will don uniforms styled like McFadden wore during his 2005-2007 Razorbacks days.
"D-Mac is in the house," Morris said during his opening remarks. "We're going to look like you, and we're going to play like you. We're excited about that to start the football season."
Morris promised no shortcuts to success.
"We’re going to build a winning program that’s going to sustain one time." Morris said.
But he certainly implied better than 2-10.
"There's going to be a lot of great days ahead of us," Morris asserted in building the program that from 2012 through 2018 mostly has struggled: 4-8, 3-9, 8-5, 7-6, 4-8 and 2-10, a long way from the 1964 national championship glory days of the late Frank Broyles.
Morris announced these Razorbacks will honor Broyles by honoring a player in the name of Arkansas's 50-year legend as a Hall of Famer both as athletic director and head football coach.
"We’ll give a Coach Broyles Award to a player tomorrow (Saturday) night," Morris said. "We’ll give it every year moving forward. It’s for a senior, and it’s what Coach Broyles stood for, the impact he had not only on our university but our state and our college football. It’s important to share the history of Razorback football."
Regarding team specifics, Morris cited his preseason All-SEC honored defensive anchors, senior tackle McTelvin "Sosa" Agim, senior linebacker De'Jon "Scoota" Harris and junior safety Kamren Curl.
He praised improved depth in the offensive and defensive lines and the wide receiving corps, and primary secondary improvements with cornerbacks Jarques McClellion an Montaric "Buster" Brown and free safety Joe Foucha. The return of last year's top three running backs, Rakeem Boyd, Devwah Whaley and Chase Hayden, was lauded as was the star power that senior Cheyenne O'Grady brings to a deep corps of tight ends.
O'Grady is shelved by a knee injury requiring arthroscopic surgery, but Morris insists he will be ready for the 3 p.m. Aug. 31 season-opener against Portland State at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Other than saying he's "excited about the quarterback room," Morris avoided specifics about his quarterbacks led by competing graduate transfers Ben Hicks via SMU and Nick Starkel via Texas A&M.
"I’m not going to name a starter right now as you were hoping that I’d do," Morris said Friday. "But I will tell you we need that (quarterbacks) room at its best to win."
The last real scrimmages of the preseason Saturday and Wednesday seem the last tests for Morris and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Craddock to select their starter.