By Otis Kirk
Arkansas coach Chad Morris met with the media on Thursday prior to leaving for a recruiting trip.
Morris and several members of his staff will do an in-home visit with Clemson grad transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant later today.
“Growth is happening in this program in two places,” Morris said. “It happens in developing and it happens in recruiting.”
As far as developing Morris talked about that aspect of the program now that the season is finished.
“Our Quarter One program began on Monday at 7 a.m. with a team meeting,” Morris said. “And we’ve got to develop the players on our roster. We’ve got a mandatory off week. They’ll be back in with Coach Tru (Carroll) on Monday and excited to get back to our Quarter One. There is no learning curve. We’re not starting over. We’re continuing with what we established. And we’ve got to do some things and continue to develop these players from a Year Two standpoint. We spent Year One trying to get their bodies like we wanted them. And now we’ve got to continue to build off of that and get stronger and get faster.
“We know them and they know us. They know what to expect in that weight room. And I expect there will be huge gains as there are high expectations this offseason.”
He also talked about the recruiting aspect of the growth in the program.
“The second part of the growth is recruiting,” Morris said. “And we’ve got to recruit players to come in here and make a major impact when they step on campus. And we’re doing that. We’re doing that at a very high level right now. We’ve got coaches on the road right now as we speak. They are at high school games all over the country Friday and Saturday. There are no days off as are coaches are on the road recruiting.
““I’m leaving immediately after our press conference to get on the road. Was in home visits on Sunday night. I’ll do eight home visits this week, and Sunday was our first day out. But it’s going extremely well. We’ve got to get this class to the finish line. But we expect up to 12 midyears to join us in January and will come in and create an immediate impact and compete this spring and create some competition.”
Morris once again stated the desire to sign 29 prospects in the Class of 2019.
“We expect somewhere of signing upwards or getting upwards of 29 new faces in here,” Morris said. “But we’ve had some that have chosen to move on, and we want to wish them the best. If we can help them in any way, we’ll be more than happy to.
“We’ve got to create some competition. And I think that’s the thing. I anticipate signing in December probably anywhere from 22 to 25. But overall getting in here probably somewhere around 29 new faces. We’ve got to create some competition, and competition brings out the best at every position.”
While Morris has targeted Bryant, he was asked if they didn’t land him would they go after another older quarterback?
“Well, I’m not at liberty to discuss any names,” Morris said. “But we know we’ve got to have consistency at all positions. We’ve got to have competition at all positions. So all positions are wide open. When you go 2-10, there is nobody who has a permanent position.”
The offensive line is an area of concern with three senior starters. How does the offensive line get better in 2019?
“We’ve got guys already targeted in this ’19 class,” Morris said. “We’re continuing to target more guys. Would love to get a couple of junior college older guys in. I think that’d give us an opportunity to have some experience to be able to come in here and create some competition. The guys that have played and have played some high snap totals, they’ve got to have a great offseason.
“I’m extremely excited about Noah Gatlin. He played early and obviously we saved his fourth game for the last game and he played a lot. I’m excited about him. I think he has a chance to have an unbelievable career, but he’s got to get stronger. So you have to develop. It goes back to developing the guys that we have and we’ve got to go continue to recruit and recruit at a very high level.”
Arkansas is bringing in Iowa Central Community College’s Myron Cunningham and Lackawanna (Pa.) Community College’s Chibueze Nwanna for official visits on Dec. 7-9. Both are highly recruited offensive linemen.
Arkansas currently has four commitments at wide receiver in the Class of 2019. Morris talked about the need to get better at that position in the future.
“To get this from 30-35 percent of the playbook being opened up and being able to open up our offense at the level we want to run at, we’ve got to have depth at wide receiver and you’ve got to be able to have the speed in some of the positions we’ve got to have,” Morris said. “I’ve talked about that overall. I did not think we were near fast enough and we could not separate like I wanted to separate.
“When you go and you change from being a predominantly 12 or 13 personnel team and you’re going to a predominantly 11 and some 12 but we’re doing it in a different tone and spreading it out, you’re creating some 1-on-1s. And when you create 1-on-1s you put guys in space, and when you put guys in space, that’s when we’ve got to become faster and be able to separate ourselves coming in and out of breaks. We’re recruiting, and we’ll develop the guys we’ve got. The bigger-body style receivers, that’s an area we’ve addressed. We’ve got to continue to recruit that style of a wide receiver, and not only wide receiver, but all positions. When you can create in space, you’ve got to be able to win those 1-on-1s, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Morris did feel that center was important to the team as well. Ty Clary started several games there this season and also he redshirted Silas Robinson.
“It’s vital,” Morris said. “You’ve got to have a guy there that can run the whole show. It’s like having a quarterback. Llke in baseball. When you’re solid right down the middle you’re pretty good. We’ve got to be solid right down the middle, from RB to QB to C to LBs to Ss. When you’ve got the center on your team, you know, you want things right.
“That center position is the quarterback of that group. And so moving forward, obviously Ty played a lot this year. He played a lot of snaps. We’re expecting huge gains from him this off season and high expectations for him. Umm, but to get the absolute best at that position, we’ve got to have a competition there. We’re redshirting Silas. Silas has gotten quite a few reps at center and will get more reps there. And you know we’ll need to do that.”