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Borrowing our Southern parlance, it’s “awful early yet” in the Hog coaching career of Eric Musselman, but while he’s helming an almost impossibly small, basically six-deep roster, he’s also accomplishing things in his first year that most of his predecessors couldn’t fathom doing.
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Sam Pittman’s sterling recruiting reputation and “coach’s coach” vibe—there’s a reason a couple of analysts felt it was far and away the best hiring of those made in the SEC, and maybe beyond—fits in well with a program that had sold out to a lot of false gimmickry.
Attentive fans know that Sam Pittman’s presence on Bret Bielema’s inaugural staff in 2013 was widely seen as a major coup. The amiable, energetic veteran had carved out quite a reputation as a master developer and recruiter of linemen. And guess what Arkansas football needs right now, more than ever?
You don’t have to watch the previous six games of 2019 or any of 2018 to get up to speed; you can watch a single Razorback game, get a full-frontal picture of everything that is wrong within three tortured hours, and then continue or stop at your leisure. The tone rarely changes — it’s black comedy to the hilt — but the jokes always seem fresh.
Arkansas lost 31-27, and acquitted itself very well on the heels of the humiliation it just sustained against San Jose State. Alas, the team yet again could. not. freaking. FINISH. If this program needs a profound “culture change,” then yet another winnable game turned into an actual loss is not the ticket there.
The program appears absolutely lifeless, and I’ll stop short of saying “is already lifeless.” It has been consumed by a pervasive apathy that has been a byproduct of decades — not just years, mind you — of asinine personnel decisions followed by pecuniary choices that resemble a young child flailing about it in a toy store with a fistful of saved money that the kiddo cannot WAIT to irrationally spend. Reynolds Razorback Stadium has never been more expansive and impressive, and yet has had the paradoxical misfortune of never feeling so empty.
Chad Morris bragged of the speed with which his offense would operate. There was this incredulous moment at which the used and dingy Buick Skylark that represents Razorback football would suddenly veer into the passing lane and the Skylark would accelerate appreciably. You know, as if a blunt instrument was hitting the Earth with force. You might remember a certain prior Hog coach who spouted off some sort of huckstering nonsense about how he was presiding over the construction of a national champion, and then John L. Smith became infamous for equating urine temperature with success.
Chad Morris knows that whatever grace period he might’ve garnered as a first-year coach of a rebuilding program housed in a vicious division is now gone. A 2-10, 0-8 season in which the team was disjointed, outmanned, and ultimately just plain bad hastened the trial by fire.
Before we get into the meat of the 2019 schedule and assess whether Chad Morris’ second season on the sideline will be demonstrably better than his forgettable first one, we deal with the usual array of burning questions about the program as it tries to once again rescue itself from the dregs of the SEC.
We Razorback fatalists known as “fans” are mindful of the fact that just when you think the University of Arkansas’s flagship athletic programs are filling you with shameless optimism, disappointment is in the offing.
As is common when a “coaching search” gets underway at the University of Arkansas—at this rate, it’s been about an average of every two or three years during my lifetime that either the basketball or football head coaching position has changed—the rumor mill churns at a feverish pace and almost always ends up being discredited for one reason or another.
Any epitaph on someone’s coaching tenure is customary rife with negativity. This coach disgraced the program by falling off a motorcycle, lying about the circumstances, and hiring a young blond with no conceivable credentials as his “aide.”