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Andy Hodges

Morris can’t overcome Hogs’ decade of ignorance, incompetence, quickly

For 10 years, Arkansas football was run into the ground with a deadly combination of ignorance, incompetence and lack of forward thinking and Morris has to build it back.

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It was Sylvester Croom in 2008 that sat at an interview in Starkville and flat told me on the air, “we may be a better team, but not have as good of a record.”

He said that during an SEC show that I was doing at the time as we made stops all across the South. Croom, coming off an 8-5 season with Mississippi State in 2007, couldn’t manage much in 2008 and got fired.

About the only thing he managed that year was beating Arkansas and first-year coach Bobby Petrino in Starkville.

What he talked about after the show was how tough things are in the SEC.

“You can win 10 games and finish third in your own division in this league,” he said.

That’s exactly what happened to the Razorbacks in 2011, by the way. When Alabama and LSU play in the national title game and those are your only two losses during the season, well, it can happen.

In 2010 they won 10 regular-season games and finished in a tie for second place with LSU. After a loss to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, the Hogs ended up 12th in the final polls, behind Auburn, LSU and Alabama.

If you’re going to play in the SEC West, there’s no easy path.

And Arkansas hasn’t found anything approaching that success since those two seasons.

The SEC has changed in the last 11 years. Arkansas simply hasn’t kept up with the pace Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Les Miles and some others introduced with a relentless pace of getting the best players to their schools.

During the summer “talking season” (credit to Spurrier for that one), the Razorbacks’ football woes have been chronicled from about every angle possible.

This all started, in my opinion, when Jeff Long and John White hired Petrino. As many told me when it happened, it’s a way to get short-term gratification just before the ship nose-dives into the depths of the SEC ocean. At the time I said it was going to set Arkansas football back 10 years and I was a little low.

Many will disagree, but I predicted on the air the morning after a Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State that 2012 was going to be 6-6 … at best. That was reinforced in the spring game when the complete lack of depth became apparent.

Hiring Bret Bielema didn’t even keep the program at mediocrity. It was a hilariously bad hire to begin with, but some didn’t see that.

Chad Morris now gets the task of building a program nearly from the ground floor up. Bielema liked to say how close his last team was to winning some games, which was verbal confirmation he wasn’t a winner.

You don’t hear winners talk about close unless they’re discussing dancing or throwing hand grenades.

Morris probably wouldn’t admit it, but he’s having to walk a delicate line between expectations and hope.

The Lunatic Fringe and many of the mouth-breathers on message boards don’t know there’s a difference, especially with a program that went through a decade of ignorance, incompetence and lack of forethought.

Expectations should be realistic while hopes can be off the charts.

It’s completely reasonable to expect Morris to get this team to a bowl game in his second season. With a completely winnable non-conference schedule and an improved culture, that should be doable.

Don’t ask me now where those six wins will be because this is truly a season to take one game at a time. Nobody can predict injuries, the twists and turns or how quickly newcomers will get the hang of things.

Morris isn’t going to overcome the problems created in the previous decade in a year or two. It’s going to take a little bit of time.

Whether you like it or not.

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