Still too early to judge Morris
A little less than a year ago, I wrote in this space that it was premature to judge Chad Morrisí performance as the University of Arkansasí head football coach after an ugly road loss at Colorado State.
As it turned out, Colorado State was just an omen of things to come for the Razorbacks in 2018. Arkansas lost its next four games as well, and finished with 10 losses for the first time in school history. The Razorbacks went 0-8 in conference play for the second time in six years, dropping their SEC mark to 13-43 since 2012.
Still, I believe itís too early to assign full responsibility to Morris. The Razorbacksí talent level was down, discipline wasnít where it needed to be and the program was at a low point.
Donít buy that? Consider that Arkansasí top two quarterbacks transferred to lower-level schools in the offseason and neither won the starting job in their new programs.
It may be another two or three years before the Arkansas football team truly reflects Morrisí coaching ability. Thatís not to say the Razorbacks will be winning a bunch of games in 2021 or 2022 ó the SEC will remain the toughest conference in college football ó but if Morris is going to build a winner in Fayetteville, we should certainly be seeing signs by then.
In some respects, this yearís schedule looks easier for Arkansas. The Razorbacksí four nonconference opponents ó Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State and Western Kentucky ó went a combined 11-36 last season. Letís pencil in four Arkansas victories there, although donít be surprised if Western Kentucky mounts a challenge.
A key game for the Razorbacks comes Sept. 7 at Ole Miss. The Rebels went 5-7 last season but return just three starters on offense. Arkansas could gain a lot of momentum and confidence with a win in Oxford. Letís call this one a W.
That means Arkansas will be 4-0 going into the annual meeting with Texas A&M in Dallas. The Aggies are rebuilding on defense, and Arkansas is usually competitive in this game ó before finding a way to lose. So, make it a 4-1 start.
From there, itís going to get rough. Alabama, Auburn and LSU are losses. Western Kentucky is a win, though maybe not an easy one.
Thatís 5-4 without taking into account home games against Mississippi State and Missouri and a trip to Kentucky. The guess here is the Hogs will win one of those three and finish the regular season 6-6. Or maybe theyíll beat Missouri AND Kentucky for 7-5.
Where will that leave Morris?
As I said, still two or three years away from a fair assessment.