Morris trusts offense to OC

This article was published January 14, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

New Arkansas Razorbacks football coach Chad Morris recently hired coordinators spanning generations.

John Chavis, 61, is a defensive coaching icon after coordinating Southeastern Conference defenses at Tennessee, LSU and Texas A&M. He began his coaching career at Alabama A&M in 1980, five years before 31-year-old offensive coordinator Joe Craddock was born. When Chavis began coordinating Tennessee's defense in 1995, Craddock was 10 years old.

Morris was so impressed as the offensive coordinator for Clemson by Craddock, a graduate assistant, he took Craddock with him to SMU when he became the Mustangs' head coach in December 2014. Craddock was Morris' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and was given playcalling duties the last two season.

What is it going to be like calling the Arkansas offensive side of the ball when the defensive coordinator coached collegians before you were born?

"It's going to be awesome," Craddock replied when asked at the Jan. 10 press conference. "His knowledge of the game and of this league, I'm going to rely heavily upon to lean on coach Chavis."

Regarding working for Morris, Craddock actually could teach Chavis. Morris coached high school football in Texas for 16 years before entering the college ranks to coordinate the offense at Tulsa in 2010. He was the offensive coordinator for Dabo Swinney at Clemson from 2011-14. Morris said he appreciated Craddock's 2012 Clemson administrative arrival in player development.

Craddock was a high school offensive coordinator in Birmingham, Ala., at Briarwood Christian. He is an Alabama native and a former quarterback for Middle Tennessee.

By 2013, Swinney and Morris promoted Craddock to an on the field graduate assistant to coach the scout team, along with graduate assistant Dustin Fry, Morris' offensive line coach at SMU and now offensive line coach for the Razorbacks.

"Coach Morris saw something in me and Coach Fry," Craddock said. "He said, 'I want to make you my offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach,' and I was like, 'Wow, coach!' So, I guess coach believed in me and I'm forever grateful for that."

Craddock and the rest of Morris' new staff were officially announced on Wednesday. The coaches have actually recruited for Arkansas since Morris arrived in December.

"Joe is one of the bright, young minds in all of college football," and was "very instrumental in our (Clemson) success," Morris said Wednesday. "I took him with me to SMU and I saw him grow both as a person and as a coordinator."

Morris called the offensive plays at Tulsa and Clemson, as well as his first year as head coach at SMU. He explained on Wednesday the assignment of playcalling duties to Craddock.

"While I am a offensive coordinator by heart and by trait, I am the head football coach," Morris said. "I just felt like that I couldn't be quite the head coach that I needed to be still being the 100 percent play-caller like I was at SMU our first year. I felt like there were some areas, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that we were being deficient because my attention wasn't on that side of the ball."

Being named the playcaller must have gratified Craddock almost as much as vaulting from Clemson grad assistant to SMU offensive coordinator.

"It meant a whole lot that he trusted me enough to get that done" Craddock said. "I know that was very, very tough for him to do, because he's an offensive-minded coach by trade but he's got a lot of things on his plate and for me to be able to pick up that slack is very important to me."

Of course, head coach Morris still has a final playcalling say when compelled to say it.

"He is calling the plays," Morris said. "But if I say 'Hey, Joe, let's take a shot right here' or 'I want to run the football right here' or 'I want split flow zone' or 'run the power right here' or 'let's get in 12 personnel,' that is how this whole thing works."

Game prep is an entire offensive staff effort, Morris and Craddock said. Fry was the run-game coordinator at SMU and now assumes the same role at Arkansas. Receivers coach Justin Stepp, also accompanying Morris from SMU to Arkansas, is involved on the perimeter.

"Justin Stepp will focus on the shots and formations, and Dustin Fry will focus on run game and short yardage," Morris said of game weeks, also noting tight ends coach Barry Lunney's involvement. "We all come back in together on a Sunday night and start tying it all together. At the end of the day, the guy that is held accountable is our offensive coordinator and it falls on to the head coach."

Sports on 01/14/2018
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