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story.lead_photo.caption SMU head coach Chad Morris directs the Mustangs against Central Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Mike Stone)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas Razorbacks didn't land their top target Gus Malzahn to be their head football coach, but they appear on the verge of hiring a Texas-based version of Malzahn.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that SMU Coach Chad Morris was involved in negotiations with University of Arkansas, Fayetteville officials and on the brink of an agreement Tuesday evening.

Morris, who turned 49 on Monday, became a top target for Arkansas after Malzahn spurned an offer from the Razorbacks on Sunday to return to his old stomping grounds. Malzahn had been on Arkansas' radar since interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples fired fifth-year coach Bret Bielema on Nov. 24.

Morris, a proponent of the up-tempo Spread offense, shot through the high school ranks in Texas much like Malzahn did in Arkansas in roughly the same time period. He won three state championships in his 16 years as a head coach in Texas, including back-to-back crowns at Lake Travis in 2008 and 2009. He held a 169-38 record in high school.

Negotiations with Morris came the day after Arkansas secured Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek to lead the department. He had held the position of vice president of athletics at the University of Houston prior to his appointment by UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz.

Yurachek and Steinmetz will participate in an introductory news conference today on the UA campus.

Yurachek replaced Jeff Long, who was fired by Steinmetz on Nov. 15, a month and a half shy of completing his 10th season after succeeding Frank Broyles.

Long sent a congratulatory tweet to Yurachek on Tuesday, writing "Congratulations @HunterYurachek, hope you grow to love UA, Fay/NWA/ & Arkansas as much as our family. Wishing you the best! Go Hogs!"

A native of Edgewood, Texas, Morris has a three-year record of 14-22 at SMU, his first head coaching job.

Morris took over the Mustangs after they went 1-11 under June Jones and interim coach Tom Mason in 2014.

SMU was 2-10 in his first season and improved to 5-7 in 2016. His current team is 7-5 with a trip to the inaugural Frisco Bowl against Louisiana Tech on tap for Dec. 20.

The Mustangs are ranked No. 13 in the FBS in total offense with 493.8 yards per game and No. 8 in scoring with 40.2 points per game.

Former Arkansas quarterback Rafe Peavey, who transferred in 2016 to SMU to play for Morris, posted a tweet on Tuesday evening that read "Arkansas, y'all are getting a good one."

Morris served as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Tulsa in 2010, two years after Malzahn departed the same position to join Gene Chizik's staff at Auburn.

The 2010 Golden Hurricane went 10-3 under Todd Graham with Morris' unit ranking No. 5 in total offense with 505.6 yards per game and No. 6 in scoring with 41.4 points per game.

Morris joined Dabo Swinney's Clemson staff in 2011 and produced the nation's No. 26 total offense (440.8 ypg), which ranked No. 24 in scoring (33.6) and No. 21 in passing (282.3).

The Tigers went 11-2 in 2012, finishing No. 9 in total offense (512.7) and No. 6 in scoring (41.0).

Clemson capped its 2013 season with a 40-35 victory over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Morris' offense ranked No. 10 in total offense (507.7) and tied for No. 8 in scoring (40.2).

In his final year with the Tigers, his unit was No. 58 in offense (408.3) and No. 51 in scoring (30.8) with sophomore quarterback DeShaun Watson at the reins.

Memphis Coach Mike Norvell, who was among Arkansas' list of candidates, signed a contract extension with the No. 20 Tigers on Tuesday after leading the team to a 10-2 record. Norvell, 36, a former standout receiver at the University of Central Arkansas, led the Tigers to a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game where Memphis lost 62-55 in overtime to unbeaten No. 12 Central Florida on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

Morris’ career

Chad Morris’ collegiate coaching career:



2015 2-10 1-7 (t-5th AAC West)

2016 5-7 3-5 (5th AAC West)

2017 7-5 4-4 (4th AAC West)

TOTALS 14-22 8-16

NOTE Morris was 169-38 in 16 seasons as a high school coach in Texas at Eustace, Elysian Fields, Bay City, Stephenville and Lake Travis.


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Sports on 12/06/2017

Print Headline: UA closing in on deal with Morris, sources say

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  • JerryC2011
    December 6, 2017 at 5:39 a.m.

    I think we are getting a good coach. Go Hogs!

  • mloydcaingmailcom
    December 6, 2017 at 7:39 a.m.

    Certainly hope they aren't offering 4 mil a year to a mid major HC with a losing record.

  • hah406
    December 6, 2017 at 7:44 a.m.

    He went from 1 win to 7 wins in two years at SMU. He has an awesome record as an OC at Tulsa and Clemson. 500 yards and 40 points per game! Hire him! Make sure he gets a good defensive coordinator, and we will be back in business by 2019.

  • Thalf1948
    December 6, 2017 at 8:20 a.m.

    I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Here’s what I've been doing>>. w­w­w.T­a­g­3­0.c­o­m

  • drs01
    December 6, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.

    I must ask why two coaches with Arkansas ties (Memphis-Auburn) declined? If this guy can recruit in the fertile Texas soil, then maybe it's a good thing. He ought to know many of the HS coaches there. And Texas is our only hope as a recruiting ground. His style of play will help recruiting there.
    But it still takes defense to win in the SEC. Ask Gus, Nick, Kirby.

  • HenryP
    December 6, 2017 at 9:54 a.m.

    Bleacher Reports lists teams that will improve dramatically in 2018 under new coaches. Teams like Nebraska, Tenn, Florida even UNLV. Arkansas is not one of them. Nuff' said?

  • BCG
    December 6, 2017 at 10:37 a.m.

    Where did the SMU defenses rank nationally? You only list the offensive rankings.

  • LRDawg
    December 6, 2017 at 10:57 a.m.

    121st ranked defense in the country. Without a top DC this could be worse than Bielema. I don't understand why the Razorbacks negate the defensive side of the football....until Arkansas can stop someone we'll always be an up and down program, with more downs than ups. Wrong conference for offensive juggernauts....defense rules the SEC. See Alabama, Auburn, Georgia