Ty Storey or Cole Kelley? That’s been the question going all the way back to last spring when the subject of Arkansas’ number one quarterback comes up. Following Chad Morris’ weekly Monday press conference that situation had not changed as the Hogs began work for Saturday’s North Texas game.
If fans are getting impatient Morris is not.
“My last year at Clemson we were still rotating quarterbacks all the way into conference play until we found the opportunity, the guy that was gonna lead this football team,” Morris told reporters. “At some point that’s what we’re gonna find and we’re gonna run with it. If it’s this week, it’s this week. If it’s next week, it’s next week. It’ll be the right time.”
Kelley said after Arkansas 4th quarter loss to Colorado State that he and Storey are still trying to get comfortable running Morris’ power spread offense and that game reps are what’s going to make it happen. “We are just two games into the process,” Kelley added.
On Monday offensive coordinator Chad Morris agreed with that assessment.
“They’re still learning us and we’re still learning them,” Craddock pointed out. “Obviously we’ve practiced however many times we’ve practiced but you don’t really found out what you’ve got until you get in a game and live bullets are flying.”
But Craddock did not dismiss the importance proper game preparation in practice.
“We went into last week and kind of wanted to see what they’d do in practice,” Craddock recalled. “Kind of challenged them both and Ty, by far, practiced the best. I shared that with Cole last night. I said, ‘Dude, you gotta practice better. If it’s gonna be you, we’re not gonna put a guy out there in a game that didn’t show that he was capable in practice.’ “
“Ty really took a step up after getting some confidence in that Eastern Illinois game and he had a really good week of practice,” Craddock continued. “That’s how we’ll approach it this week and see which one of those guys has the best week of practice and which guy gives us the best chance to win.”
In answer to a question from the media Craddock did indicate the direction he and Morris are leaning if they eventually decide to explore their options with a third quarterback.
“From a third quarterback standpoint I think you would have to look at Conner,” (Nolan) Craddock revealed. “But I’m extremely proud of my guys. They’re all staying together. You could very easy have some arguments and bickering in my room with playing two guys and that’s not the case. When Ty ran out there for pregame warmups I heard Cole have his back (saying) ‘Hey, let’s go (number) 4. You got it baby,’ and that’s what makes this game great.”
The Colorado State loss was evidence of a problem going all the way back to the end of the 2016 season: Blowing big leads. Morris indicated that he and his staff are well aware of the issue and have addressed it from the first meeting with the players back in January.
“We did not handle success well,” Morris said of Arkansas fourth quarter collapse. “We lost focus. We were one stop and one score away from that thing being over with. At some point we’ve got to break this cycle. There’s going to be a moment when we’re gonna break it. This is on my watch. I’ll continue to hold the coaches, I’ll continue to hold the kids accountable.”
At the same time the head coach stressed that his first season at Arkansas will not be defined by what happened Saturday night.
“Ain’t nobody panicking, I can promise you that,” Morris declared. “If anything, this is an opportunity to dig deep. I love the opportunity to see how this team, these players and this coaching staff are going respond this week.”
Craddock issued a similar message saying, “We’ll continue to recruit at a high level, the way we’re doing and stay the course. We’re not going to flinch. Coach Morris has said it already to us and we’re not flinching. We’re not backing down. We’re staying who we are. We’re not going to change what we do. We’re just going to keep pounding the stone.”
Also addressing reporters, defensive coordinator John Chavis put the blame on himself for the 25 unanswered points the Rams scored from the late third quarter on.
“We got to lead ’em as coaches and we got to help ’em as coaches,” Chavis stressed. “Our players gave us outstanding effort. I got to do a better job coaching. We’re gonna correct what needs to be corrected but we’re going to do it in very, very positive way and we’re gonna move forward.”