Scouting report: Struggling Arkansas still in rebuilding mode

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By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a 12-part series on each of Kentucky 12 opponents this season. 

GAME 6: Arkansas at Kentucky, Saturday, Oct. 12, TBA

LAST YEAR: Arkansas 49, Kentucky 7.

COACH: Chad Morris, second season. Record at school: 2-10. Overall, 16-32.

LOOKING BACK: The Razorbacks have fallen on tough times during the past few years and the rebuilding project continues for Morris. The Razorbacks went winless in the Southeastern Conference last season and the lone victories were wins over Eastern Illinois in the opener and Tulsa, which ended a six-game losing streak. Arkansas closed out the season with four consecutive setbacks. The two teams haven’t played since 2012, when the Razorbacks rolled to a 42-point victory in Fayetteville.  The Wildcats will honor late quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who was part of the team’s 71-61, seven-overtime loss to Arkansas in 2003. 

LOOKING AHEAD: Arkansas ranked in the bottom the league in most offensive and defense categories and the Hogs will have plenty of work to do to reach the pinnacle of the SEC West again. The team’s two quarterbacks from last year transferred, but Morris has an experienced signal caller in Southern Methodist University transfer Ben Hicks, who threw for 9,081 yards and 71 touchdowns in his career at SMU. He will be counted on heavily to lead an offense that averaged just 21.7 points per game last season. Running backs Chase Hayden and junior college transfer Rakeem Boyd will handle carrying duties in the backfield. Boyd rushed for more than 100 yards in three conference games and averaged six yards per attempt. The defense will be led by defensive tackle Mctelvin Agim and linebacker De’Jon Harris, who collected 118 tackles last season and was a second-team All-SEC performer last year, Montaric Brown and Joe Foucha are future stars within the program and will led the team’s secondary unit.  “We’re excited about this opportunity. 235 days ago we walked off the field and started a year two journey,” Morris said. “We learned a lot last year. And most important, we learned that one play has no bearing on the next. And one season has no bearing on the next. Every play and every season has a life and a history of its own.”

CONFERENCE: The Razorbacks are projected to finish last in the SEC East.

COACH QUOTE: “When you take a head football coaching job, you know that establishing and enhancing a culture is your top priority, and it takes time, and it takes consistency, and there’s a certain process to follow to develop the results that you’re looking for. You can look at examples for guys that I worked for. Coach (Dabo) Swinney, guys in this league, Dan Mullen and Mark Stoops. It didn’t happen overnight. The process has gone from being a coach-fed team to a player-led culture follows three steps that we always talk about. I know it. I do it. And I own it. And my focus as a head football coach at the University of Arkansas is about building a program that’s a consistent winner. Year in, year out, we want to compete for championships, but to win championships first, you got to develop champions and our staff is doing a tremendous job of doing that and recruiting that way and turning young men into champions. But it doesn’t happen overnight.”

SCHEDULE:

August

Aug. 31 Portland State

September

Sept. 7 at Mississippi

Sept. 14 Colorado State

Sept. 21 San Jose State

Sept. 28 Texas A&M at Arlington, Texas

October

Oct. 12 at Kentucky

Oct. 19 Auburn

Oct. 26 At Alabama

November

Nov. 2 Mississippi State

Nov. 9 Western Kentucky

Nov. 23 at LSU

Nov. 30 Missouri at Little Rock

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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