COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Let the purge begin. And maybe it began long ago before we realized it was a purge.
Checking the 70-man Arkansas travel roster before the Missouri game it became obvious that another batch of players had left the Chad Morris ship.
So far, I haven't deleted any from the roster that's in my head that would have helped in the rebuild. Expect a handful to raise their hand to confirm their exit next week.
Reserve quarterback Cole Kelley -- the starter to open the season and for the loss to North Texas -- did not make the trip after moving to tight end on the scout team this week.
It's as it should be. The new coach will reload with the maximum allowed 29 scholarships -- 25 for the next class and the four left from the number left unsigned last winter.
The Razorbacks didn't provide much resistance on a cold, rainy Faurot Field. It seemed like Black Friday both before, during and after the 38-0 loss to Missouri.
The Razorbacks completed a school-worst 2-10 season without one touchdown in the last two games.
There was a goal-line stand by the defense that thwarted Mizzou at the UA 2-yard line with 2:38 left in the first half, but the lead still went to 28-0 at intermission when the black-clad Tigers zoomed 43 yards in 1:04 to easily get their third offensive touchdown of the half.
Junior quarterback Ty Storey fumbled twice and threw an interception as the Hogs finished the first half with just 41 yards on 33 snaps. They had nine total yards when he gave way to backup Connor Noland for the final 9:54 of the second quarter.
Back to the purge. It was needed. This is the least-talented roster of the 21st Century, most notably in the offensive line.
Asked in pregame to think of a UA roster that compared, I was at a loss. I finally pointed to the first Jack Crowe team. The 1990 Hogs went 3-8 overall, 1-8 in the SWC. They had lost seven straight before Quinn Grovey willed them to a 42-29 victory at SMU.
Oddly, that team opened the year in the rankings and stayed there until losing to TCU, 54-26.
No one ever gave the 2018 Hogs a vote for anything but the bottom of the SEC. There were times they tried hard. The most noteworthy efforts in the 2-10 debacle had to be a pair of 24-17 losses to Texas A&M and LSU.
The offensive line woes were painfully obvious in August camp when the Hogs could put only eight healthy offensive line on the field to start a practice. Eventually, they would open the season with two redshirt freshmen, Kirby Adcock and Shane Clenin, at left guard and tackle, respectively. True freshman Noah Gatlin would start at left tackle the following week.
Things never sorted themselves out in the offensive line. Colton Jackson eventually returned from summer back surgery to play left tackle. Hjalte Froholdt, the best of the linemen, opened the season at center. That's where he finished it when Ty Clary still had not mastered the center snap in the finale.
Missouri's defensive front found holes in the blocking early and often. There were five sacks and eight lost-yardage plays. The UA stat sheet totaled 129 rushing yards gained, 77 lost for a net of 52.
"I did not think we played well up front," said Morris, the first-year coach.
"We had some guys who had played that position (in the offensive line) for nine games, but there was an inability to sustain blocks. (Missouri) played a lot of man coverage and brought pressure."
Froholdt had been the rock in the O-line all season, the best player and the leader of the group. The senior from Denmark manned up in the post-game interviews, as he's done all year.
"The O-line did not play up to par," Froholdt said. "Our quarterbacks kept a positive mindset and told us that they had to make better calls or do some things better. But it takes the other guys executing to help them.
"Our offense made it tough on the defense. We put them in bad situations. We shuffled it around in the offensive line trying to help."
For much of the game, the Hogs went with Froholdt at center, senior Johnny Gibson at right guard, junior Austin Capps at left guard, redshirt freshman Daulton Wagner at right tackle and Gatlin at left tackle. Only Froholdt and Gibson started.
Froholdt said he'll remember the season for the way the O-line had to patch things together week to week. And, he won't forget the August practices when there were only eight available in the line.
"You need a break on those days, but there just weren't enough," he said. "We had injuries, and we had to sometimes just keep going because there were no (substitutes). And, then we played nine straight weeks without an open date. It was tough, just not enough depth."
The Hogs had to reboot in the secondary for the Missouri game, too. Starters Ryan Pulley and Kamren Curl did not make the trip, suspended after taking pictures with the Mississippi State dance team during the pregame at Starkville, Miss., last weekend. True freshman Joe Foucha and redshirt freshman Montaric Brown took those spots.
The Tigers didn't really try to test the secondary until all doubt was erased. They dominated with defense and a solid running game. They rushed for a net of 181, plenty good enough with great field position all day.
Senior quarterback Drew Lock scored the first two touchdowns on keepers. It seemed appropriate to hear their coach brag on his offensive line, a five-man group that had been pretty much intact since the opener.
After Fayetteville product Akial Byers recovered a Storey fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, Lock passed to Emanuel Hall on a 6-yard slant with 35 seconds left in the half.
The Tigers muffed a short punt to give the Hogs a field position break midway through the third quarter but stuffed a fourth-down pass play to end that threat. Noland threw incomplete on a play that would have been negated by offensive pass interference, a pick play with tight end C. J. O'Grady on the inside move judged illegal.
The irony there is that it was the only time the Hogs had a chance to score in the last two games of the season. Storey's touchdown throw to Deon Stewart was wiped off the scoreboard the week before in Starkville.
Asked about those plays, Morris wouldn't argue the calls. Concerning the one Friday, Morris said, "The flag came quickly. He obviously saw something."
That's the way recruiting will resume. Morris said he'll be in homes Sunday night and throughout the contact period. The commitment list, now at 23, will grow, not slide.
"Our class is strong right now," Morris said.
Asked about the message, he said, "We have to sell who we are, a vision and what is coming. It's the opportunity to play early. (Recruits) have to make an impact."
There was no dancing around what is needed, which is just about everything. That was the message when Morris was asked what he learned in his first time through the SEC. The Hogs went 0-8.
"I knew it was a tough league," Morris said. "It definitely did not disappoint. We have to get more depth, and you better have speed."
Morris addressed the fans at a couple of points..
"I've been in this exact spot before, and I know what it looks like," he said. "I know what it takes to move forward."
Later when asked specifically what he'd tell fans, he said, "First of all, I know their passion. It inspires me and our staff to work tirelessly. We want to match their passion with our effort.
"I can tell you that 4-8 or 2-10 is not acceptable. But we are moving in the right direction."
Froholdt believes the right coaches are in charge.
"I very much do," he said. "Their message has stayed the same. They preach the same words. In the end, I firmly believe they are the right ones."
Of course, Froholdt won't be able to stand with them as things sort out on personnel in the coming days.
Morris said he couldn't say who would be around but knows some will depart.
"We still have to sit down and go through things," Morris said.
It starts with a team meeting at 7 a.m. Monday. Offseason workouts begin at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
On his post-game radio show, Morris said he's looking for an "all-in" mentality. It does not seem likely that it will be unanimous, and that may be a good thing.
Sports on 11/24/2018
Print Headline: As Razorbacks' season ends, it's time to let the purge begin