Morris, Arkansas embracing new up-tempo offensive approach
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Chad Morris arrived at Arkansas with the promise of turning the formerly pro-style Razorbacks into one of the most up-tempo teams in the Southeastern Conference.
During practices, games and even workouts, the new Arkansas coach — often armed with an energy drink at his side — wanted as much energy as possible.
“We’re going to go fast in everything we do,” Morris said.
Morris has spent much of his first spring with the Razorbacks instilling his need for speed, doing so with a team accustomed to a more measured approach under former coach Bret Bielema. The change in tempo has been noticeable during practices, and it was on full display during Arkansas’ Red-White game on Saturday.
Despite a day that started with a wintry mix and featured occasional snow flurries and chilly temperatures throughout, the Razorbacks showcased their new look for the first time in front of 7,000 fans in War Memorial Stadium.
While the quarterback competition between Cole Kelley and Ty Storey was the most-watched position battle of the scrimmage, how the signal callers operated the offense generated just as much interest.
After most plays, Kelley — last year’s backup to former starter Austin Allen — was busy waving at teammates and rushing them to the line in anticipation of the next play.
“The faster you go, the harder it is on the defense,” Kelley said. “You see people break big plays all the time because the defense isn’t ready. I have to try and get them to as fast as I possibly can.”
The up-tempo look is nothing new for many college football teams, or the prep teams many of the Razorbacks including Kelley played on. But the approach is new to Arkansas, which has long run a more traditional offensive attack and huddled even while leading the SEC in offense under former coach Bobby Petrino.
Morris, on the other hand, has long been known for his up-tempo approach — from his time as a high school coach in Texas to the offensive coordinator at Clemson and then as the head coach at SMU. The Mustangs were 15th in the country in total offense last season, with an average of 478.5 yards per game, and they did so while running 74.9 plays per game.
Arkansas, meanwhile, averaged only 66.8 plays per game in its final season under Bielema — finishing 94th in the country in total offense (373.4 yards per game).
As quickly as the Razorbacks ran their new-look offense on Saturday, Morris wasn’t happy with the pace early in the scrimmage. That improved during the second quarter, and both Kelley and Storey threw touchdown passes during the continuation of their competition to replace Allen.
Morris has said he won’t name a starter until the preseason in August. Whoever wins the job will be in charge of a fast-paced offense charged with helping the Razorbacks improve from last year’s 4-8 record — and whose new look has already earned the respect of the team’s defense.
“It’s demanding,” Arkansas linebacker Randy Ramsey said. “You have to be in shape. Any defense that goes against that tempo of offense has to be in shape.”