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Texas A&M Football

Razorbacks rebuilding in first season under head coach Chad Morris

July 9, 2018
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Prior to SEC Media Days on July 16-19, Olin will preview each of Texas A&M's conference opponents for the 2018 season. Check out the full series here: 2018 SEC Opponent Previews

When will Arkansas re-emerge as a national football power?

The answer seems to be: “When pigs fly.”

New coach Chad Morris hopes to get the Razorbacks’ offense off the ground, but that doesn’t figure to be an easy task.

Though his rapid-paced, pass-oriented teams at SMU were ranked 16th and 17th in the nation in pass offense the past two seasons, Morris inherited an Arkansas roster that was assembled for a run-oriented scheme. Thus, the offense underwent an extreme makeover in the spring.

“I thought there was some things we went through that we got better as spring went, and I thought we achieved a lot of things we wanted too mainly incorporating our fast-paced style of play,” Morris said after spring drills.

It is vital to pork futures that Morris has results in Fayetteville similar to those he had at SMU.

Recall, the air-oriented Razorbacks were legitimate Southeastern Conference contenders in 2010 and 2011 under Bobby Petrino. Arkansas ranked among the nation’s top 15 in passing offense and posted double-digit victory totals both seasons. The Razorbacks even finished the 2011 season ranked fifth in the nation.

Then, Petrino had the infamous motorcycle crash. A year later, Bret Bielema arrived with the idea of transforming Arkansas into a Big Ten-style power-running offense.

Despite having good quarterbacks, the Razorbacks never ranked higher than 32nd in passing under Bielema. They also never posted more than eight victories. The inevitable coaching change was made after a 4-8 debacle last season.

It would seem clear that Arkansas cannot consistently recruit the type of players that would enable the Razorbacks to beat Alabama and LSU at their own style of play. Therefore, hiring Morris makes perfect sense.

It would seem clear that Arkansas cannot consistently recruit the type of players that would enable the Razorbacks to beat Alabama and LSU at their own style of play. Therefore, hiring Morris makes perfect sense.

However, he has no proven quarterback. There are no star receivers, either.

Indeed, the most proven offensive players are guard Hjalte Froholdt, a strong run blocker, and running back Devwah Whaley, who rushed for 656 yards a year ago.

Further, the Razorbacks don’t seem capable of relying on their defense while rebuilding the offense. Nose guard McTelvin Agim is a genuine star, the linebackers are solid and the secondary projects to be improved. Still, Arkansas allowed an average of 36.2 points last season. Eight opponents scored at least 33 points.

There is little reason to believe the Razorbacks’ defense will be dramatically improved.

Consequently, there’s little reason to think the Razorbacks will dramatically improve on last year’s win total.

Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Coach: Chad Morris
  • 2017 record: 4-8, 1-7 in the SEC West

Returning starters

  • Offense (6): TE Austin Cantrell, G Hjalte Froholdt, G Johnny Gibson, T Colton Jackson, T Brian Wallace, RB Devwah Whaley
  • Defense (7): NG McTelvin Agim, SS Kamren Curl, WLB Dre Greenlaw, MLB De’Jon Harris, FS Santos Ramirez, DE Randy Ramsey, DT T.J. Smith
  • Special teams (3): P Blake Johnson, K Connor Limpert, KOR De’Vion Warren

Area of strength: Arkansas was ranked 93rd in the nation in pass defense last season, so putting the secondary here might seem sadistic. But take a closer look. Santos Ramirez and Kamren Curl return as starting safeties. Plus, cornerback Ryan Pulley is back after missing almost all of last season because of a torn pectoral muscle. He’s the Razorbacks' best coverage guy. Kevin Richardson, a team captain, was awarded a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA, too.  Sophomore corner Chevin Calloway is also solid in man coverage. There’s a nice blend of talent and experience.

The departure of Austin Allen caused quarterback to go from an area of strength to one of concern. Coach Chad Morris hasn’t named a new starter, but it figures to be either sophomore Cole Kelley or junior Ty Storey.

Area of concern: The departure of Austin Allen caused quarterback to go from an area of strength to one of concern. Coach Chad Morris hasn’t named a new starter, but it figures to be either sophomore Cole Kelley or junior Ty Storey. Kelley stepped in last season when Allen was injured and passed for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns but had turnover issues. Also, he threw for more than 200 yards in just one game — a come-from-behind win over Coastal Carolina. There are questions of whether the 6-foot-7, 265-pounder is mobile enough to be effective in Morris’ offense. Storey got just as many spring reps as Kelley did. He isn’t as likely to make big plays, but also isn’t as prone to mistakes.

Top three players

  • McTelvin Agim, DT: Though listed as an interior lineman, he could play on the end and excel there, too. He was one of the best recruits Arkansas has ever signed.
  • Ryan Pulley, CB: A lock-down corner who was injured most of last season. When healthy in 2016, he was second in the SEC with 13 passes broken up.
  • Hjelte Froholdt, G: The Denmark native was originally a defensive lineman, but made the switch to offense two years ago. He’s started every game at left guard since and has made significant improvement.

Impact newcomer: If the name Rakeem Boyd sounds familiar, it should. He started his career at A&M and then transferred to Independence (Kan.) CC. He rushed for 1,211 yards and 10 touchdowns in junior college. Don’t expect him to unseat Devwah Whaley as the starter, but Boyd does figure to share the rushing load.

2018 schedule

  • Sept. 1 vs. Eastern Illinois
  • Sept. 8 at Colorado State
  • Sept. 15 vs. North Texas
  • Sept. 22 at Auburn
  • Sept. 29 vs. Texas A&M at Arlington
  • Oct. 6 vs. Alabama
  • Oct. 13 vs. Ole Miss at Little Rock
  • Oct. 20 vs. Tulsa
  • Oct. 27 vs. Vanderbilt
  • Nov. 10 vs. LSU
  • Nov. 17 at Mississippi State
  • Nov. 24 at Missouri

Predicted finish: 5-7

Discussion from...

Razorbacks rebuilding in first season under head coach Chad Morris

KSigAg12
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AG
The worst team in the SEC West by a long shot. Yes Ole Miss defense is probably worse than Arkansas but that offense is going to be top 15 in the country. Arkansas might be in the bottom 15.

Honestly right now I'd say:
1. Alabama
2/3 Miss State/Auburn
3/4 Texas A&M/LSU
5. Ole Miss



11 billionth. Hogs
hogfan14
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KSigAg12 said:

The worst team in the SEC West by a long shot. Yes Ole Miss defense is probably worse than Arkansas but that offense is going to be top 15 in the country. Arkansas might be in the bottom 15.

Honestly right now I'd say:
1. Alabama
2/3 Miss State/Auburn
3/4 Texas A&M/LSU
5. Ole Miss



11 billionth. Hogs

I would take the Arkansas running game over Ole Miss, but yeah the Ole Miss passing attack should be lethal. Arkansas dominated them under Bielema though. Plus it's at home. The Arkansas offense showed some flashes last year, scoring 43 on A&M, 38 on Ole Miss and 45 on Missouri but they weren't very good against the better defenses.

Pretty fair preview, but I may put LB De'Jon Harris over Agim. He had 115 tackles last year. Also wouldn't be surprised if Dorian Gerald makes a bigger impact than Boyd, there are 4 other RBs that could split carries pretty evenly.
Tamu_mgm
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AG
I think Miss. St. and Auburn take a step back this season. Mullen made Fitzgerald and he's coming back from season-ending surgery where running was his primary strength. If I had to bet, I'd bet Mullen is a better coach than Moorehead as well. Defense will still be good, but I think their offense will regress.

Auburn loses 3 if not 4 OL starters, RB 1&2, and some secondary players. Will still have a very good front 7, but vulnerable on the back end. Their running game takes a step back and Stidham will be asked to carry more of the load and therefore be forced into more mistakes. He was very good last year because of how good their running game was at keeping defenses honest.
Balrog
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AG
Arkansas had to submit a waiver (that was accepted by the SEC) to get games against Colorado State to qualify as a power-5 non-conference opponent. Smells fishy to me.
Danimal
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AG
KSigAg12 said:

The worst team in the SEC West by a long shot. Yes Ole Miss defense is probably worse than Arkansas but that offense is going to be top 15 in the country. Arkansas might be in the bottom 15.

Honestly right now I'd say:
1. Alabama
2/3 Miss State/Auburn
3/4 Texas A&M/LSU
5. Ole Miss



11 billionth. Hogs
laugh/cry face
hogfan14
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Balrog said:

Arkansas had to submit a waiver (that was accepted by the SEC) to get games against Colorado State to qualify as a power-5 non-conference opponent. Smells fishy to me.


Yeah we were supposed to have a home and home with Michigan but they backed out late and CSU was the best we could fill it with
rangerdanger
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4 cupcakes and Vandy on the schedule, and Olin has them winning only 5 games. Seems about right to me.
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