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Andy Hodges

Hicks big reason for Morris’ confidence going to second season

Chad Morris got his shot a the SEC Media Daze circus Wednesday and it became clear he’s not forgetting last year, but taking steps to make sure there’s not a repeat.

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Chad Morris got his shot at the SEC Media Daze circus Wednesday and it became clear he’s not forgetting last year, but taking steps to make sure there’s not a repeat.

“Last year was hard,” he said in probably as big of an understatement as anything uttered.

There are obvious changes with the players that have stuck it out after a season many would like to forget last year.

And at least one new face has seen it before. Quarterback Ben Hicks was at SMU during a 2-10 season.

“He’s been a quarterback of a football team that went 2-10,” Morris said. “So he stood in that team room. He stood in front of teammates before.

“And he’s also dug a team out of being in that position before.”

For the first time since being in Fayetteville, Chad has a quarterback he’s comfortable with. That’s not a knock on the guys here before, but they simply didn’t understand what he and his staff wanted and that’s the most critical position in his offense.

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“He’s done a great job of taking the young guys in that room — from the day he got here in January — he took the young guys (under his wing),” Morris said about Hicks. “He took John Stephen Jones and Jack Lindsey and those guys … and at the time Connor Noland, took him under his wing and said this is what we’re doing and this is how it needs to be ran. And you’d see those guys up there.

“He’d bring receivers up on weekends and work with them and bring the quarterbacks in.”

We told you when Hicks announced where he was going that it was, for all intents and purposes, a graduate assistant in a uniform.

“His leadership has been valuable,” Morris said.

Hicks will probably start the season. Morris said he wants to make that decision sooner rather than later, but we’ll see Nick Starkel, who came in from Texas A&M with two years of eligibility left, before long.

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“To watch the way the ball jumps out of his hand, how electric and how hot that ball comes out, his decision making, how he can progress and see the field, and his accuracy is what impressed me as I watched him,” Morris said. “Had it not been for an injury to him two seasons ago, the outcome for him in his season might have been totally different.”

Morris has a confidence he’ll get the Razorbacks back from the train wreck last year. At SMU, they improved from 2-10 to 5-7, but he has better talent in this approaching second season than he had then … even taking the differences in conferences under consideration when saying that.

“I’ve been in this spot before,” he said Wednesday in Hoover. “I’m confident I understand what it looks like getting out of it, because I’ve done it. And we’ve done it. We got a lot of memories of our staff that have been in this spot.”

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Maybe one of the biggest believers is a key staff member that wasn’t on that SMU staff. John Chavis was dealing with a lack of depth behind some pretty good players at Texas A&M and developing the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

Chavis had an option to leave after the first year. When I saw that in his contract, it was a baseline to judge the direction of Morris’ program after the first year.

While he may catch some heat from the Lunatic Fringe of the fan base saying he’s over the hill there are a lot of coaches at some pretty good programs that would hire him in a second.

Chief stayed, getting a raise to be the highest-paid assistant in Hogs’ history.

I don’t think he stayed for another losing season.

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