Dec 6, 2017
by Chase Gage
Chad Morris has been named as the 32nd Head Coach at the University of Arkansas. He formerly served as the Head Coach at SMU and Offensive Coordinator at Clemson.
Bret Bielema was relieved of head coaching duties November 24th and the search began.
After speculation that Arkansas may hire Gus Malzahn, Mike Leach, Mike Norvell and even Lane Kiffin, the search has finally come to an end with Morris.
To many, Morris may be a bit of an unknown name compared to the others that were in the conversation, but that does not mean he doesn’t have a solid resume.
Morris was born in Edgewood, Texas, just outside of Dallas. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1992 with a Bachelors of Mathematics and a Minor in Statistics. Two years later, he landed his first coaching job at Eustace High School in Texas. From 1994 to 2009 he served as a high school head coach in Texas, leading five different schools to an overall record of 169-38.
Morris’s first stint at the collegiate level came in 2010. He was named the Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach for the University of Tulsa. That season, the Golden Hurricane finished as Conference USA West Division Co-Champions with a record of 9-3 (6-2 C-USA). They won the Hawaii Bowl 62-35 over Hawaii to eclipse the 10-win mark and finished the season ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll.
The next season, Morris took over as the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach for the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers amassed a 9-3 (6-2 ACC) record that year, good enough for a spot in the ACC Championship game. Clemson knocked off Virginia Tech 38-10 to win the ACC and earn a spot in the Orange Bowl. They lost that game 33-70 to West Virginia. The Tigers finished the year ranked at No. 22 in the final AP Poll. Their offense that season notably included DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans), Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Rams), Martavis Bryant (Pittsburg Steelers) and Dwayne Allen (New England Patriots).
In his second year, Morris helped the Tigers to an ACC Atlantic Division Co-Championship and a Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU. They finished the season at 11-2 (7-1 ACC) and ranked No. 9 in the final coaches poll. The two blemishes on their record came on the road against No. 4 Florida State and at home against No. 13 South Carolina.
In 2013, Clemson again finished with a record of 11-2 (7-1 ACC) and topped off the season with a 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers finished ranked No. 7, and again their losses were to No. 5 Florida State and No. 10 South Carolina. Their season included wins against No. 5 Georgia and No. 7 Ohio State. They peaked at No. 3 in the polls before their loss to the Seminoles.
In his final season at Clemson, future Heisman Trophy winner Deshaun Watson made his debut on campus. The Tigers had a relatively down year, finishing with a record of 10-3 (6-2 ACC) and a 40-6 win in the Russell Athletic Bowl over Oklahoma. Their three losses were at No. 12 Georgia, at No. 1 Florida State and at No. 24 Georgia Tech. Another notable player on the roster that year was former Jonesboro High School standout Zac Brooks at backup running back.
In 2015, Morris got his first head coaching job at the collegiate level when he was named as the head coach at SMU. He took over a team that finished 1-11 the year before. In his first season, he only improved the Mustangs’ record by one game, finishing 2-10 (1-7 AAC). Four of the 10 losses came against top-25 competition.
The 2016 campaign was highlighted by a win over No. 11 Houston as the Mustangs finished 5-7 (3-5 AAC).
Morris’s last season at SMU was this current season. He led the Mustangs to a 7-5 (4-4 AAC) record and their first bowl appearance since 2012. They will face Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl later this month. Though SMU lost five games, three of them came against ranked competition. They fell short against undefeated UCF at home, and lost to No. 20 TCU and No. 18 Memphis (both of two losses to undefeated UCF) on the road. The season featured wins against Arkansas State and North Texas, two teams that lost in their respective conference championships.
As a head coach, Morris accumulated an overall record of 14-22 (8-16 AAC), but his success should not be record-dependent. He improved the program he inherited by six wins in a span of three years.
Morris has strong ties to Texas and has a Heisman Trophy winner on his recruiting resume. That alone should excite Razorback fans. But can he have success in the toughest division in all of college football? The SEC West schedule includes matchups against Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn every season.
There is a lot for Morris to prove and huge shoes to fill as an SEC Head Coach. He may not turn the program around in a year, and may not turn it around at all. However, if he can improve the quality of the product on the field and recruit a team that can compete (not necessarily win) in the SEC West, Hog fans should be happy. He may not be the long-term answer, but have hope that he can be. Only time will tell.