Some would say that the Chad Morris era is best left in the rear view mirror.
That there’s no use revisiting the absolute all-time rock bottom of the Arkansas football program when there’s so much to look forward to.
However, the Chad Morris era and its infamously inept total of four wins should never be forgotten for a couple simple reasons. First, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Secondly, it serves as an important reminder of how good the Arkansas football program has it under current Hogs coach Sam Pittman. Sure, drinking the Kool-aid isn’t an issue right now in the preseason, when hopes run high all around, but it will be an issue whenever the first rough patches in the season show up (as they always do).
At that point, it should be a solace for fans to read and listen to what Rickey Williams, the father of Arkansas defensive lineman Zach Williams (pictured below), recently said when comparing the cultures under the two coaches.
Former Arkansas Football Player Speaks Out
Rickey Williams is a former Razorback linebacker who started in 1986 and 1987 and made the first-team all-SWC team. Playing alongside Steve Atwater and Wayne Martin, he led a stellar Arkansas defense in tackles.
Williams’ son, Zach, was a 4-star recruit out of Joe T. Robinson High in Little Rock who chose the Arkansas football program over the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Oregon and more.
Williams joined the team in early 2019 at 6’4″ and 225 pounds but since then has put on more than 30 pounds.
“I think Zach is one of the most athletic guys we have,” Arkansas defensive lineman Dorian Gerald recently said. “He’s huge, he can run, he can move. He took it personal when he came in and everybody was saying he was small as a D-end — small, small, small.”
Rickey Williams has been a fairly regular guest on the Buzz 103.7 FM who brings direct insight into the dynamics of the locker room through both the last year of the Chad Morris era (2019) and these last couple years under Sam Pittman.
Based on what he has heard from his son, under Morris the coaches and players “used a bunch of last names, like ‘Ridgeway’ or ‘Williams.'”
“Now, we use the first name,” Williams told Justin Acri and Wess More on “The Zone.”
“To me that says that they’re getting along and they’re more personable with each other. So they want to know more about each other.”
“In the past they wanted to get out of their locker room as fast as they could and get back to their places and get away from the team. Now they’re hanging out in the locker rooms, working together after practice on different techniques and different skills.”
“They’re talking to each other, they’re starting to communicate.”
The fact that they weren’t communicating well under Chad Morris is both borderline baffling and absolutely no surprise given how the wheels fell off the bus down the homestretch of that 2019 season.
Nor is it surprising considering the below summer 2019 Tweet about Chad Morris from a former Razorback:
“Coach Morris has a high football IQ, and does a lot to try to develop professional young men, not just football players.”
“With that being said, Coach Morris did not try to develop any type of relationship with his players.”
“Players hardly hear from him or see him unless there is a camera rolling. He constantly says one thing, but then does another. No players trust that he wants what is best for them as a person or player.”
“Our team under Morris also lacked competition. He and his staff had predetermined the starters from day 1 of spring practice.”
“It didn’t matter how bad one of their selected players performed in practice, the weight room, the classroom or in games, and our record of 2-10 reflected that reality,” the anonymous former Arkansas football player told Inside the Team.
“All of these statements are true for scholarship players, but the way Coach Morris treated walk ons was even worse.”
“The first thing Coach Morris did was separate the walk ons in the locker room by placing them all on the back wall of the locker room while the scholarship players were grouped by position in the rows of lockers.”
“This coaching staff consistently took every opportunity that was presented to belittle walk ons and remind them they were second class citizens in this program.”
“Overall, Coach Morris could be a good coach because he has good ideas, but he mostly needs to learn how to improve his relationships with players.”
At the time, Morris fired back:
“I put zero credibility into someone that’s going to put something anonymous out there. You talk to our players and you talk to our guys and you walk in to our locker room. No credibility into that.”
“Well we always do that every year. We go through and visit with our guys. Our purpose is relationships.”
It’s such a sweet, sweet feeling to have a head coach now who doesn’t have to learn how to build relationships and teach communicating on the job.
Instead, those skills are arguably Sam Pittman’s most impressive. As is his disdain for gimmickry and B.S.
In the Buzz 103.7 interview, Rickey Williams continued talking about the current Arkansas football team:
“I don’t think a true leader can been found on the defensive line, but I do think that the offensive line is coming together.”
“But as team, they’re looking toward each other to win. They’re not a bunch of individuals; they’re truly working hard to win together.”
Make sure to listen to the interview here:
Insight into Arkansas Defensive Line
Rickey Williams shared more thoughts on a Razorback defensive line that looks much deeper and stronger than last year’s.
He’s been especially impressed with incoming transfers John Ridgeway, Markell Utsey and Tre Williams.
“They bring experience and the knowledge of the game, and what they are doing is they have raised the bar. So if the young ones are gonna play and compete, they are going to need to compete up a higher level.”
“And that’s the only way you can win the SEC, because we know the loop it into the rest of the schedule.”
“We’re going to pull out a high level every single Saturday. That’s the simulation that I’m starting to see some practices, even when they don’t have full pads, they just have on shells, they’re still going after it.”
Razorbacks are especially bullish on Illinois State grad transfer John Ridgeway, the 6’6″ tackle who should give Arkansas the kind of mammoth, run-stopping nose tackle it has so often lacked in recent years.
“It’s always nice to have bigger guys that can hold up in the middle and give you a little push, especially guys that work hard like Ridgeway and the other guys that are sitting in there,” Arkansas defensive line coach Jermial Ashley said.
“He’s a big guy, 326 pounds I believe. He’s a solid guy in the middle… has the type of mindset that we look for in the middle. Just an aggressive guy to bang and battle.”
“He plays that head-up nose,” Arkansas guard/center Ty Clary added.
“He’s a big guy and he will just try to bulldoze you over, so you better hold your weight against him or you’ll be going back in the backfield.”
Here’s the latest on the Razorback defense from defensive coordinator Barry Odom: