Expectations low for Arkansas entering Morris’ first season

FILE - In this July 17, 2018, file photo, Arkansas head coach Chad Morris speaks during the Southeastern Conference NCAA college football media days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Arkansas opens its first preseason camp with new coach Chad Morris at the helm on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Everywhere Chad Morris goes around Arkansas these days, he’s excited.

The first-year Razorbacks coach has been preaching his excitement since being hired away from SMU last December, doing so at fan clubs, to the media, on social media – and to anyone else who will listen.

He’s excited about a talented recruiting class that’s taking shape and the weight-room progress Arkansas’ players have made since the end of spring practice.

Most of all, he’s eager to start his first preseason camp in Arkansas on Friday.

”We’re a better football team right now that we were at any point in time since I’ve gotten here,” Morris said.

How good that is, especially compared to the usual gauntlet that is the Southeastern Conference, remains to be seen.

Expectations from the outside looking in this season are low for the Razorbacks, who were picked to finish last in the SEC West by the media last month.

Morris, however, is confident Arkansas is ready to begin the process of re-establishing itself after a 4-8 record a year ago, including 1-7 in the SEC. Overall, the Razorbacks have gone 33-42 in the six seasons since the firing of scandal-ridden Bobby Petrino in 2012, the school’s worst stretch since 1948-53.

While Morris will be rightly focused this month on putting together a full depth chart in his first preseason after replacing the fired Bret Bielema, two big-picture issues will be what most observers are focused on with the Razorbacks.

Frist, how will Arkansas adjust from Bielema’s slower, more-traditional approach compared to the frenetic pace of Morris’ up-tempo offense?

Secondly, who’s the quarterback ?

”I know that’s kind of the main one that everybody wants to hear about and talk about,” Morris said.

Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock don’t have an answer for who will start the season under center when the Razorbacks open the season against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 1. At least, not one they are making public quite yet.

Returners Cole Kelley and Ty Storey figure to have the best shot at winning the job, but Morris isn’t ruling out the possibility of a newcomer earning the position. Kelley has the experience edge over any other challenger, having started four games last season as a freshman in place of an injured Austin Allen.

Still, the 6-foot-7, 258-pound Kelley has had to regain the trust of his coaches and teammates after being arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated late last season.

Storey, meanwhile, has seen only limited action over his two seasons and was behind Kelley on the depth chart last season under Bielema.

Whomever wins the job will need to meet one key requirement to satisfy Craddock over the next few weeks.

”Consistency,” Craddock said. ”… Do you make those other 10 guys around you better? That’s what we’re really looking for, we’re looking for a leader, looking for a guy who’s really got pop and to take the reins and show everybody else what it looks like.”

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