The decision to hire Chad Morris a long period of speculation about who would replace Bret Bielema as the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Many fans told THV11 that they feel a sense of relief simply knowing the program has a new leader. But that does not mean they are sold on Morris as the right leader just yet.
“Ideally, I feel like Gus (Malzahn) was kind of like our savior we were looking for,” Austin Armstrong said.
David Allen said he hoped to have a coach with local ties, to generate more passion in fans and recruits.
“I’m big on staying where your roots are,” he explained. He added that Malzahn was his preference to replace Bielema: “I think just about everybody in Arkansas was kind of looking forward to Gus coming. He’s a well-rounded coach, and everything.”
Steve Jenkins had a more selfish reason for wanting Malzahn to be the Razorbacks’ coach. As the owner of the Hogman’s Gameday Superstore chain, he said business suffered this year as apathy and losses piled up.
“We think that he would make an immediate impact on the Razorback Nation,” Jenkins said. “But in looking at what Coach Morris brings to the table, he’s a winner.”
While Morris does not have the same level of name recognition that Malzahn enjoys, Jenkins thinks he will ultimately be a good fit in Fayetteville.
“A lot of folks are not very familiar with Coach Morris,” he noted, “but if you really check into it and begin to look back on his career and see what he’s done, he’s an exciting and entertaining guy, and he’s going to bring an exciting and entertaining brand of football to Arkansas.”
Morris and Malzahn have had similar career paths. Both earned reputations as innovative offensive coaches in the high school ranks (Malzahn at Springdale High School; Morris at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas) before becoming collegiate offensive coordinators and head coaches.
Armstrong believes it was not important for Arkansas to hire someone with previous ties to the program. “I think that, if you know how to play the game and you know how to recruit, anything is possible,” he reasoned.
But whether they know much about him or not, many Hogs fans said the Chad Morris era cannot be as frustrating as the Bret Bielema era was.
“Don’t know too much about the coach that was hired,” Allen said, “but just looking forward to seeing what he can do with Arkansas’s team.”
“And it’s gonna take a long time,” Armstrong claimed. “Arkansas fans, I’ve noticed, are kind of impatient. But, the reality is, it takes time to build up a good team, good talent.”
Jenkins said he is optimistic about Morris’ chances, but knows that only time will prove him right or wrong.
“Five years from now,” he said, “people are going to look back, and there’s going to be either those folks that are saying, ‘I told you so,’ or there’s gonna be those folks who look at this hire and say, ‘whoever hired this guy was a genius.’”