SEC preview: Arkansas adjusts to new head coach Morris

Tony Walsh/The Red & Black

Chad Morris, head coach of the University of Arkansas football team, speaks at the 2018 SEC Football Media Days in Atlanta in July.

 

Leading up to the start of the college football season, The Red & Black will preview each of the 13 teams Georgia plays alongside in the Southeastern Conference. Today, The Red & Black takes a look at the Arkansas Razorbacks.

2017 results

4-8 (1-7 SEC); finished seventh in the SEC West

Summary of last season

The 2017 season was the first time Arkansas recorded a losing overall record and did not appear in a bowl game since 2013. Before that, the Razorbacks had seen a slight uptick in their success with three winning records and three consecutive bowl appearances.

Arkansas lost its first four SEC contests of 2017 before recording its only conference win of the season against Ole Miss. The Razorbacks then limped into the end of the season with three more losses to SEC opponents.

Coaching change

Arkansas fired head coach Bret Bielema last year after five seasons with the Razorbacks. He posted only one winning record in the SEC during that time. Arkansas then hired Chad Morris to fill the position as head coach. Morris was the head coach at Southern Methodist University from 2015-17 and previously worked as the offensive coordinator at Clemson.

Key returning players

• Jonathan Nance, wide receiver: The senior wide receiver enters his last season with the Razorbacks as a key part of the unit. Nance finished the 2017 season with team highs of 37 catches, 539 receiving yards and five touchdowns. With concerns at quarterback and the offensive line for the coming season, consistency at wide receiver will be important for the Arkansas offense.

• De’Jon Harris, linebacker: The junior led the Arkansas defense in total tackles in 2017 with 115. He also led in tackles for loss with 8.5 and sacks with 3.5. The Arkansas defense has a new coordinator in John Chavis and Harris will be a key to help what has been a struggling defense improve in 2018.

Season outlook

The 2018 season will be an interesting one for the Razorbacks, as it will start off with three consecutive nonconference games. But it then goes into a stretch of conference games where it faces preseason top 10 teams Alabama and Auburn. In that same stretch it will see Texas A&M and Ole Miss. The schedule also sees two crossover games in the calendar, with matchups against Vanderbilt and Missouri.

The four nonconference games throughout the season and a meeting with Vanderbilt offer the Razorbacks and Morris a chance at some success. Arkansas may be able to improve from 2017, but the Razorbacks making it to a bowl game might still be out of reach.

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization, based in Athens, Georgia. For more UGA sports news, visit www.redandblack.com/sports.

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