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Kudos spread wide for new UA football coach; offense, man draw plaudits

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FAYETTEVILLE -- Chad Morris' first day on the job as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks appeared to score a key recruit.

Arkansas receiver Jared Cornelius expressed his approval via social media over the hiring of Morris, who is considered one of college football's top offensive minds. Cornelius appeared to indicate he'll return for another run at his senior year.

"Exciting for the 2018 Razorback Football Season! What's up @coachchadmorris #WPS #OneMore," Cornelius wrote on his Twitter account.

Cornelius, who is eligible to claim a medical redshirt season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in a 50-43 loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 23, previously had indicated he would wait until a coach was hired to make a decision about returning in 2018.

Arkansas senior Frank Ragnow, who has finished his college career, had fun with Cornelius' post, writing: "Sources: Jared Cornelius will be a Razorback in 2018. Heard it here first."

Morris held his first team meeting with the current Razorbacks, assistant coaches and auxiliary personnel on Wednesday afternoon. He is scheduled to be formally introduced at a 10 a.m. news conference on campus today.

Morris agreed to a six-year deal with a salary of $3.5 million and incentives that could add up to $1.2 million per year. He also has a substantial buyout that begins at $14.7 million and decreases incrementally until $3.5 million in the final year of the contract.

Morris' offenses have racked up big numbers in the Texas high school ranks, as an offensive coordinator at Tulsa, during his four-year run at Clemson and onto his first head coaching gig at SMU.

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He offered a bold prediction during his flight to Fayetteville on Wednesday for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville offense on his watch.

"Well, we're going to be very explosive," he said to Brett Dolan, an announcer on the Razorback Sports Network. "This will be one of the most explosive offenses in all of college football. That's taking the model we've been about, a two-back, run-oriented, play-action, [deep] shot football team.

"You've got to run the football. I firmly believe that. But you've also got to be dynamic, you've got to be explosive, and you've got to think outside the box a little bit, too. So we'll be creative. It'll be fun. There won't be a lot of people sitting down. We like to score and we like to score fast, so we're excited about taking a whole new approach to a different style of offense we're bringing to the Hill."

Praise for the Razorbacks' hire poured in Wednesday.

Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson, whom Morris recruited at Clemson during his stint as Tigers offensive coordinator from 2011-14, issued a statement that read: "Arkansas got a great coach in Chad Morris. What I love about him the most is he's a very loyal man. He's been there since Day 1 for me and been that father figure that I never had in my life. He's very energetic, very truthful and very honest. He makes everyone around him better and has a bright future. Arkansas hired the right man to lead their football program. All love to the Morris family!"

SMU receiver Courtland Sutton, one of two Mustangs to rank in the top 22 nationally with 1,017 receiving yards, posted on his Twitter account, "I'm so thankful for [Morris] and all that he has done not only for myself, but for the SMU program. I will always respect and love you coach! @ArkRazorbacks y'all are getting a great Man and leader!"

Former Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema offered congratulations to Morris via his Twitter account, writing "congrats ... on this opportunity at a very special place for you and your family. Well deserved & earned. #WoooPig."

Former Arkansas Coach Ken Hatfield, a star defensive back and punt returner on the Razorbacks' 11-0 national championship team in 1964, endorsed Morris.

"From everything I've heard, it sounds like it's a good marriage between us and Chad," Hatfield said. "I think he's got some missing ingredients that really will help Arkansas."

Hatfield said Morris' background as a high school coach in Texas for 16 seasons and his three seasons as SMU's coach will be critical in elevating the Razorbacks' recruiting in Texas.

"When you look back at it the last 50 years or more, there have been so many players from Texas that have contributed to Arkansas' success," Hatfield said. "It's even easier to get here now from Texas than it was during those days."

Hatfield said he's not worried about Morris' 14-22 record at SMU considering he took over a program that was 1-11 the year before his arrival and has coached the Mustangs to records of 2-10, 5-7 and 7-5.

"SMU has steadily improved under Chad, and everybody knows that program has not been an easy sell," Hatfield said. "It's the only program that ever got the NCAA death penalty. I think it speaks volumes for Chad what he's done there, to have the team going to a bowl game this year."

Morris' up-tempo Spread attack will change the look of the Arkansas offense, which under Bielema used a pro-style formation with a heavy dose of tight ends and fullbacks and huddled almost all the time to help control the tempo.

Bielema was intent on implementing a power-run offense with a play-action pass element at Arkansas, but he never could sustain success. The Razorbacks signed the running backs to execute that style but could not consistently put together the kind of dominating offensive lines to provide the ball-control element he craved.

The 2017 Razorbacks, decimated by injuries in every unit on offense, rank No. 93 in total offense with 373.4 yards per game and No. 63 in scoring with 28.8 points per game.

Bielema's highest-ranked offense came in 2015 with first-year coordinator Dan Enos working with senior quarterback Brandon Allen, junior tailback Alex Collins and receivers led by Drew Morgan, Cornelius, Dominique Reed, and tight ends Hunter Henry and Jeremy Sprinkle. That unit ranked No. 29 in total offense with 465.5 yards per game, No. 27 in scoring with 35.9 points per game, No. 34 in rushing with 197.3 yards per game and No. 5 in pass efficiency.

Reports Wednesday indicated Morris intends to bring several members of his SMU staff to Arkansas, although no hires have been made official.

The Dallas Morning News, citing an anonymous source, reported SMU offensive line coach Dustin Fry would join Morris in Fayetteville. Also citing anonymous sources, FootballScoop.com reported SMU offensive coordinator Joe Craddock would take the same job with the Razorbacks. Nikki Chavanelle, a publisher for the Rivals.com affiliate at SMU, posted on Twitter that SMU receivers coach Justin Stepp will join the Arkansas staff.

Fry, 34, and Craddock, 32, each have spent six seasons with Morris. Both joined his SMU staff after the 2014 season after stints as graduate assistants at Clemson. Stepp, 34, was a graduate assistant under Morris at Clemson in 2011 and coached receivers at Appalachian State from 2012-2014 before joining Morris' first SMU staff.

Mark Smith, who has been SMU's recruiting coordinator since 2015, accompanied Morris on his flight to Fayetteville on Wednesday and is expected to join the Razorbacks' staff as recruiting coordinator and possibly an on-field position.

Smith is a former high school head coach in Texas who spent two years as an offensive quality control coach on Bob Stoops' Oklahoma staff in 2008 and 2009.

According to the Dallas Morning News, SMU running backs coach Jeff Traylor will serve as the Mustangs' interim head coach. SMU is scheduled to play Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 20.

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Sports on 12/07/2017

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